Unshaming the Unshaven

You probably remember your first kiss, but do you remember the first time you shaved your legs or armpits? I bet it was years earlier. I wonder what went on in your mind, and mine, when we decided we had to get rid of those hints of fuzz and make sure no one saw them ever again. A soft, hardly noticeable layer of hair that we collectively somehow perceived as wrong. Dirty, even. Something to be ashamed of. And this wasn’t a delusion of our, in most cases, pre-teen brain; so many of us still shave our legs and armpits and pubic area multiple times a week. But why? And why shouldn’t you?

First of all, I want to make it clear that this article is not about shaming women for removing their body hair, but about how we should stop stigmatizing women for having body hair in the first place. Everyone should be able to freely choose whether to remove or keep it without facing social pressure, as is usually the case now. If you like shaving, that is completely fine. But I wonder whether you like it because it makes you feel good, or because a socially-constructed gender ‘norm’ tells you that having a hairless body with Barbie-like skin makes you feel good.

Maybe you shave because you feel dirty with some stubble in your armpits? But think about it, we don’t perceive body hair of men as particularly gross or unpleasant. Not to the same extent anyway – they’re allowed to show it off in public, for one thing. So why would we look at female body hair differently? Having hair on your legs doesn’t in any way prove that you’re unclean or that you don’t care about hygiene. You just picked up some shower gel instead of shaving cream. And by doing that, you’ve saved a whole lot of time and money (and water, not to be forgotten), so why is it a bad thing?

The worst bit for me is the way in which women shame other women for not removing their body hair. Because if we can shame each other, then surely the rest of society can. So – whether you’re male or female – the next time you wince at the sight of a woman’s hairy legs, unshaven armpits or hint of pubic hair, ask yourself why it makes you feel so uncomfortable. What is it that you find so offensive or unattractive, and why do you feel that way? Because I don’t believe there’s a justifiable, rational reason for an opinion like that.

Frankly, there might be more important battles to fight than whether or not you should shave. But it’s an important piece in the bigger picture of double standards towards women. Whatever you do in the bathroom, do it because it’s your own personal choice, and not because others make you feel like you should behave in this way. And have an accepting attitude towards personal choices of others. Body hair isn’t gross. It’s completely natural, just like the lovely locks on your head, and we shouldn’t let a social construct control our point of view.

[Aike Jansen]


1 Comment

  1. I do mainly agree with this – I shave, but know/believe this to be mainly because of the societal pressure (originally, anyway). However, I think armpit hair is quite gross on men too, and I am smellier when I have armpit hair (as obviously they sweat more and are on show and the hair traps the sweat, which is all a bit grim). I also know a friend who shaves his legs in the summer. I found it strange, but then, he has the right to, just as women have the right not to! And men shave more and more parts of their body, to be fair. Also, I don’t do it multiple times a week, that’s just weird in my opinion – have better things to do with my time!

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