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Female Body Hair: It’s Not as Scary as You Think

A dangerous concept present throughout human history are societal norms. Most of the time, these norms are simply decided on one day by a random person (usually someone with power and/or money) and no one questions them! People need to begin questioning societal norms more and opening themselves up to the possibilities of what they really can and cannot do. The first of these societal norms I decided to face was body hair, specifically body hair on women. Ever since the luxurious days of puberty, I’ve been shaving every part of my body imaginable. I remember in Elementary School being made fun of by a few ignorant boys because of my leg hair and since then, I never let my body hair become too out of control. This fear of body hair dug itself deep into my psyche and I never questioned why I needed to constantly rid myself of this natural bodily function. Well, today, I question it. 

Have women always shaved their body hair? No, actually. Up until the early 20th century, American women typically did not remove body hair, specifically leg, arm, and armpit hair. So why the sudden shift? You guessed it, capitalism. In 1903, the disposable razor was introduced for men and became a big hit, but razor companies were not satisfied. They simply “needed” to make more money, but how? Their answer was expanding their market to women. What’s better for business than expanding your market to the other half of the world’s population? So, in 1915, the first razor marketed towards women was released, targeting under arm hair exclusively until almost the 1940s when leg hair also became a target. Initially, women didn’t understand the need to shave and companies had to thoroughly persuade them to buy their product. Their feeble excuse for why women “needed” razors was the new, up incoming fashion trends which were beginning to reveal more and more of women’s bodies. With big and rich companies shoving the idea down their throat and influential women’s magazines reinforcing this agenda, women blindly accepted this new societal norm. 

Why is body hair seen as gross on women, but perfectly fine on men? The short answer? Misogyny. The Patriarchy. In the 1930s when shorts began making their way into the fashion world, where was the ad campaign for men telling them it’s time to start shaving their legs? I guess shaving companies had already roped men in with the shaving of beards, so why convince them to shave anything else? With some quick research online, it’s easy to discover why women began shaving, but it is much harder to learn why men don’t shave their body hair. With no clear answer, I simply assume that society is okay with telling women what to do, but would never imagine telling a man what to do. 

So, as a woman, should I stop shaving? That’s not what I’m getting at with this discussion. What I want for women is the benefits that men have. A man has hairy legs or armpits, and the world sits in silence. A man shaves his legs or armpits and a select few may speak up to question his manliness, but not enough to cause a stir. The very moment a woman lets an inch of hair grow on her body where society has deemed it unfit, all hell breaks loose. I simply ask for women to have the freedom to do with their body hair what they please. If you like your legs to be smooth, shave! If you like the natural state of your legs, don’t shave! For a majority of my life, I never even considered not shaving. Then, a few months ago, I decided to try it out. I loved it! I realized I only hated my body hair when other people would judge me for it. Once you let go of this fear of society judging you for feeling comfortable, life gets much better. Thus, I encourage you to do a few things. First, question things taken for truth. Sometimes you’ll discover there’s no real logic in the argument. Second, continue bringing up the sad truth of misogyny that is constantly apparent in societal norms and fight for change. Finally, if you’re comfortable, experiment with breaking norms such as shaving. If you’re a woman, try not shaving and if you’re man, try shaving. Discover what you’re most comfortable with and embrace it! 

University of Indianapolis Professional Writing and Creative Writing Major
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