Have you ever wondered why we shave? I constantly question why I am doing this tedious task everyday or every other day of my life, and while I myself, will probably never be ready to let go of my razor, I am flabbergasted as to why not. Why do I find the appearance of extensive body hair repulsive and if I saw a hairy lady walking down the street, why would I find it strange? Surely this is natural, right? It happens to everyone… So why do so many of us try to go against being ‘au naturel’ in order to be socially accepted?
Now contrary to what I had believed, after research, I found that we have been shaving for far longer than I had ever imagined. However, it has evolved and been shaped into the social norm, something that if you do not conform to, you are a disgusting, smelly, laughing stock. You may think that I am horribly hypocritical, as I, like most other girls of my age conform to this social norm, but there is a depth to the question of WHY we do it that I find fascinating. Why do we go through the pain of a bikini wax, shaving rashes and inverted hairs? Is it for us or for everyone else?
Fashion is a big part of this change in attitude. With the introduction of short hemlines and sleeveless numbers for women, like the flappers for example, a smooth, hairless woman was the desired sight. In the 1900’s, the infamous Gilette introduced the safe shaver for men and a clean shave was seen as the fashionable thing to do. The introduction of advertising these shavers for men and women, which has evolved now into wax strips, hair removal cream, laser treatment and more, made it and still makes it impossible to get away from the fact that we must not have hair on our bodies apart from our eyebrows (even then with a need to be tamed) and our heads. Why? Because popular culture makes it so.
Starting in 2011, Emer O’Toole conducted an experiment, where she stopped any body hair removal for 18 months, regarding shaving as ‘the necessary and important work of challenging stupid, arbitrary, gendered bullshit’, and then presented the results to the Guardian and This Morning. The reaction was that of disgust and a complete lack of understanding. I admit, I grimaced at the sight of her extensively hairy armpits and legs but afterwards I felt ashamed at my initial reaction. I should not have judged this brave woman but admired her. You should read her article or watch her on youtube. Even if, like me, you would not choose to partake in such an experiment yourself, it’s a real eye opener. She addresses the questions that we all want to know regarding things such as her scent, how it affects relationships and how people respond to her. She stated that ‘Randomers point and laugh at my legs and armpits in public sometimes. But the problem isn’t my legs or armpits’… The problem is, of course, our judgemental, socially conditioned, 21st century brains.
Although I do not particularly consider myself a feminist, simply a strong willed person who happens to be female, I do find the feminist argument in relation to this topic highly interesting. It has been suggested by some feminists that to be a feminist a woman must not shave, out of principle. However, plenty of women who consider themselves feminists do… because they want and choose to. For themselves. This, I believe is the key. Making a choice, for yourself. We all have a choice and not one choice is better than the other, and sometimes it is important to recognise that. Not only in regards to body hair but in relation to everything in life.
Now, the point of this was not me trying to urge you all to put down your razors and embrace your inner hermit, I just want you to question WHEN did you start shaving? And more importantly WHY did you?
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I was around 12, at first I thought the hair was cool as I didnt have it before, but then one day in school I was wearing a t-shirt and this guy friend I had saw my armpit…he said “ew dont you shave?” I dont remember my reaction but I did go home and startind using hair removal cream. Now I find it interesting how a boy that age already judges a female because of her hair. I really liked your article and I do agree with you on how it is popular culture that impacts us. Personally I prefer wax, shaving , etc because I feel better and clean, and as you said it is a choice for each person. I actually have an underarm waxing apoinement now …