Hair There?

Editor's Note: This article is a reflection of the author only and not Her Campus as a whole. 

There is evidence suggesting that back in 3000 BCE, Egyptian and Indian women used copper razors for hair removal. Women of Egypt shaved their heads and removed their pubic hair, believing pubic hair to be uncivilized. In the sixth century BCE, upper-class women of Rome used tools such as tweezers and pumice stones to remove unwanted hair. During the Elizabethan era, women would remove their eyebrows and forehead hair to achieve a longer brow. Additionally, with the publication of Charles Darwin’s 1871 book Descent of Man came the implication that a partner with less hair was more sexually attractive than one with more, ultimately offering an explanation for the lack of hair in humans compared to other mammals. 

Today, hair removal is still popular, if not more so than it has been in the past. Especially among women, body hair is commonly viewed as dirty or unattractive. There are many options for hair removal today, such as shaving, waxing, tweezing, threading, laser hair removal, and depilatory creams. These products and procedures are often advertised to women so that they may somehow optimize their femininity. This makes women, especially young women who are constantly being bombarded by what femininity “should” look like, ashamed of their bodies.  

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Firstly, it is important to recognize why humans have body hair. Pubic hair exists to protect genitalia from friction that may cause skin abrasion and injury. It also prevents bacteria from entering the body. Arm and leg hair help monitor body temperature, keeping the body warm in cold environments. This is why humans have a large amount of hair on their heads; it keeps the brain insulated and warm so that it can be protected and can function properly. Ultimately, body hair is normal and exists to benefit us biologically.

Despite the common knowledge that body hair is natural for humans without regard to gender, it is still a widely held preconception that smooth, hairless skin represents femininity. When young girls reach adolescence, the amount and growth rate of body hair increase significantly, and because of the idea that girls and women are more beautiful without body hair, they are made to feel ashamed of their appearance and thus turn to hair removal techniques. Ironically, hair removal in women is essentially seen as a rite of passage into adulthood, even though hairlessness is a characteristic of preadolescence. Additionally, with the popular viewing of pornography among both men and women, the expectation that a sexually-active woman should have a clean-cut, shaven pubic area is very high. This ultimately causes both men and women to be misinformed of human physiology and, especially among women, more likely to feel ashamed of their body hair. 

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Many studies conducted in college-student populations show that white women in their early 20s engage in hair removal more readily than other identities. Hair removal can also be done in signifying social status, as was practiced historically. However, the modern feminist movement seemingly embraces body hair, with many self-proclaimed feminists deciding against hair removal and encouraging others to do so as well. There exists a privilege for those white women who decide to object against the idea that body hair is dirty or ugly. White women will not be deemed dirty in regards to their race, as many women of color are. Therefore, it may be more difficult for women of color to also protest against the shaming of body hair because people of color are often already seen as less attractive due to their complexion. So it is important to recognize that feminism should also empower women and gender nonconforming people of color, because in addition to gender bias, there also exists racial bias and its ideas conveyed towards people of color.                                                                   Image Credit to Pinterest

This article isn’t to shame those who do participate in hair removal, either. This article is meant to indicate that body hair is natural and shouldn’t be a thing to be ashamed of. People should have agency over their own bodies. Often people remove hair because it is physically more comfortable or gives them confidence, which is perfectly acceptable so long as these same people don’t shame those who embrace their body hair as it is. The absence of body hair doesn’t and shouldn’t embody femininity. Hair protects our bodies and often communicates the beautiful heritage we have.

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