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.