Long Hair, Don’t Care: To Shave Or Not To Shave?

November 19, 2012  |  


November is no shave month, or “Movember,” which is suppose to encourage men to not shave and rock the grizzly look for the entire month. There is some minor controversy about how women are being excluded from the celebration, I guess because nobody likes a hairy woman.

A few summers ago, I was standing around after this film screening event, chatting with some folks when a blonde haired white woman in a tank top, raised her arms and revealed what could be best described as two wooly animals coming out of her armpits. If I had pearls on at that moment I would have clutched them. According to social standards, women are not supposed to walk around with that much visible fur underneath their arms – or, at least women are not supposed to want to walk around like that. Yet here she was, talking and wildly gesturing as if she didn’t even care about the cast of Meerkat Mansion filming in her armpits. I went home that night mildly disgusted. Fast forward a few years later, and I now think that it is quite admirable that she had the furry gonads to publicly assert something that I, along with many women, have been feeling for a while: shaving sucks.

I hate shaving. It’s annoying, messy and sometimes a painful experience. I don’t even know why I do it. Maybe because it’s what we as a society tell people is a necessary ritual, and probably also because my mom does it. Through our cultural conditioning, we have been told that long body hair is dirty, repulsive and the sign of unsophistication.  Therefore, shaving has become the rite of passage into both modern womanhood and manhood.  Of course, this is in total contrast to my grandmother, who said of women in her generation that only w***es shave their legs. “Just like stockings. It was just something that a lot of women I knew frowned on.”

So when did the presence of hair on a woman’s face, legs, arm pits, and groin area come to be considered as repulsive?

Although there are some religious and practical reasons behind our obsession with being hairless (i.e. biking, swimming and other sports), there is very little evidence to suggest any real hygienic purposes for our increased interest in going bare. In fact, it was in the ’80s when surgeons began denouncing the practice of shaving patients before operations, due to cited evidence that skin damage from preoperative shaving leads to increased rates of infection after surgery.

And according to one article, entitled Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture, advertising culture in women’s magazines, particularly Harper’s and McCall’s, spurred a hairless revolution to help sell razors to a new demographic – women. That became a slippery slope of body hair conscious movements about the amount of skin to hair ratio that we all of a sudden felt was acceptable.  As the skirts got shorter, so came new places to shave, and the use of different techniques, including Brazilian waxes and eyebrow threading to remove unsightly hair.  Now there is an entire industry created solely around catering to our desire for smooth and bare skin.

Over the years, my own regimen of body hair removal and maintenance has resulted in some redness, bruises, abrasions and painful ingrown hairs. However, I still do it. Sometimes, like in the instance of my eyebrows, I like a more trimmed look. However, other instances of shaving, including bikini and leg areas, is done purely out of social courtesy for others. If it was up to me, I would walk around looking like Harry from “Harry and the Hendersons,” but people aren’t ready. I’m not ready.  I don’t ever want to be in the position of having someone clutch pearls and make faces at me, much like I did that blonde-haired white girl at the film-screening event.

So that’s why I have decided recently to split the difference. I no longer shave my legs. I figure the hair is so light and thin anyway it shouldn’t matter. And I promised myself to never – and I mean never – try to remove the very faint shadow of a mustache above my upper lip.  That decision is based on a cautionary tale inspired by a girlfriend of mine, who made the mistake of going to the electrologist to have her faint five o’ clock shadow removed. Not only did the hair come back, but she said it came back thicker and more pronounced. “Girl, I should have never touched that hair. Now I’m looking like Beanie Sigel,” she told me. Message received.  However, I still take the razor and get the wax on my armpits and bikini area–but only in the warmer months and/or in the chance that I go to the beach.  But as for right now, it’s winter time, and that’s my time for my body to hibernate and relax from the razor.

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  • Shawty

    Being hairy runs in my family on my Mothers side. As a child, in middle school, I used to get teased for having hairy legs. I tried to cover them up with knee high socks (crew type), during P.E. class or wear gym pants. That was b/c my mother wouldn’t let me shave. She said that men like hairy legs. I explained to her that only my ‘father’ liked hairy legs but that was back in the 80’s and times have changed (early 2000’s). I don’t know of any men, now being in my late 20’s, who like women with hairy legs, especially in the genital area. My mom let me shave when I was in HS and I’ve been doing it ever since. During the winter months sometimes I go w/out shaving for a month or so, but if I get too much hair on my legs (any season), they itch very bad, and no lotion will help. I like shaving, because to me, it makes me feel “cleaner”. To each his own, tho.

  • Ms_Sunshine9898

    i still shave my legs in the winter because it keeps my legs soft and takes off some the extra dead skin cells. weren’t for that, I wouldn’t even bother. . .

  • Trisha_B

    I thought no-shave November was to bring awareness to prostate cancer? So why are women complaining? Geezeee, there must always be some type of controversy for the littlest thing. Let men have their thing.

    • Alohilani

      The controversy is over the fact that men were saying that ‘No Shave November’ isn’t something women are supposed to participate in because of the sexist notion that body hair on women is unnatural.

  • Teefer

    Love me or leave me but razors do not touch my legs in the winter. Sorry but I need some hair for warmth with these skinny legs I got. However when the summer comes along everything goes just because I prefer it that way. Power to anyone who refuses to shave their arms but I refuse to look as if I got Don King in a headlock every time I raise my arms.

  • psylocke_2001

    I prefer using Nair or Veet. That way I don’t have to worry about cuts and ingrown hairs.

    • Alohilani

      But that stuff stinks!

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  • RV

    In college, I once went an entire fall/winter of not shaving. I’m talking about Oct-March. I was so stressed with senior year and I had a boat load of management courses that were kicking my butt! But that should have been considered a crime!!! Never again! I definitely shave at least three to four times a week. It’s just cleaner IMO!

  • I grew up in Washington, D.C. and we never shaved our legs. I just wasn’t done in the black community. I really believe it’s a West coast thing because I’d only seen black women in movies doing it. The black men I grew up with never pressured us to do it and we never did. The sexiest thing you could do when I was younger was to wear panty hose with hairy legs. Th guys seemed to really like the look. I also remember the controversy when comedian Monique walked the red carpet with hairy legs. All of us here didn’t know what the big deal was. However, we did and still do, shave our underarm. In the past 10 years fashion has become more relaxed here and women now no longer wear stockings/hose. Now the fashion look is bare shaved legs in the summer, even in business offices.

    • sabrina

      OMG! I dated this guy once who told me he was in DC and met a cute girl. But when he picked her up for a date, she was wearing a skirt with some hairy azz legs! He convinced her to run back to her apt real quick for something, and swerved off as soon as she disappeared. He was so disgusted! Now I understand…

      But we shave up in New York babe…and my friends along the East Coast shave too. The no-shave might just be a DC/DMV thing.

      • Trisha_B

        Most def not a DMV thing lol,, i live in Maryland & a good majority of women shave lol

  • KIR12

    Obviously Charing doesn’t have a man. Licking hair ain’t cool. Yuck!

    • Ms_Sunshine9898

      lol you know you wrong!

  • Lady Diva

    Shave! Everything and just trim and shape up the kitty… That’s my philosophy.

  • Tamz

    I guess I should be lucky I don’t grow hair on my legs…*shrug*


    Funny thing is in the islands, I never worried about shaving legs and men didnt care. There were no waxing, threading, laser or whatever it may be on the island I grew up. Moved to North America and shaving messes up my skin!! Keeping up appearances and the price for the beauty myth!!