Ever heard of No Shave November? It's that thing where all the men in your life revert back to furry cavemen and some actually donate to cancer treatments, specifically testicular cancer. There’s a running joke online that if girls participate in No Shave November, they’re going to get stuck with No Dick December — meaning that if a girl doesn’t shave, no one would be romantically or sexually interested in her. But like, who wants to sleep with someone who cares about how often you shave? Women’s shaving has been a huge market, but for not that long of a time, surprisingly. We all know women’s personal hygiene products can cost up to 50% more compared to the same product marketed to men. Given that women already can lose almost $10,000 in a lifetime buying shaving products, and we already don’t get paid enough (literally), why would I spend the few good coins I have on a razor? Here are some wild and cool reasons I reconsidered my shaving regimen:
1. The History of Women Shaving Is Wild AF
As The Atlantic reports, shaving all started with Darwin, who categorized species by newly developed evolutionary standards and concluded that species with thinner and sparser hair were more evolved. This became popularized and applied to economic classes of people: high-class people (somehow more evolved) should be hairless, and low-class people (somehow less evolved) are naturally hairy. This eventually went a step further to apply to the genders as evidence of male superiority and dominance. Surprise, surprise — women started shaving because men needed to feel more superior.
Back in the day, women who refused to remove their body hair were considered insane — an 1893 study of 271 cases of “insane” women connected the existence of facial hair in women to insanity...because that seems like sound science.
2. Shaving Can Be Dangerous
Cosmopolitan reports that shaving can lead to “irritation and microscopic tears in the skin that can be an entry for infection” — ingrown hairs are bad enough, but an MRSA infection is no joke. Specifically, regarding shaving your vulva, “freshly shaved pubic areas and genitals are also more vulnerable to herpes infections due to the microscopic wounds being exposed to the virus carried by [your partner’s] mouth or genitals,” Cosmo reported.
3. It’s Like, So Cool And Hip To Not Shave Right Now
The New York Post published an article called “Armpit Hair is Getting Its Moment,” which besides being hilarious phrasing, is totally true. Trends like dying your underarm hair, showing off your natural facial hair, and basking in the fun of not having razor burn are totally *in* right now.
It’s so hip, a Chinese women’s rights activist Xiao Meili started an “Armpit Hair Competition” to combat the societal pressure women feel to shave — and any competition where you could win a vibrator is clearly feminist AF. Celebrities aren’t shaving too — celebs including Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Paris Jackson, Miley Cyrus, Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore have all shown off unshaven pits. In case you needed more of a reason to idealize Britney Spears or Drew Barrymore, whoop there it is.
Not shaving is so freakin’ popular right now that women in the UK have started “Armpits for August,” when you specifically grow out your luxurious armpit hair during the height of tank top season; and in France #LesPrincessesOntDesPolis (translating to #PrincessesHaveHair) is popular amongst the hairy lady crowds.
4. Whether We Admit It Or Not, We’re Worried We Won’t Get Laid While Hairy
It’s not like we care about other peoples’ opinions, at all, but like, sometimes we do? Teen Vogue published a great piece interviewing young women who are loud and proud about their body hair, and most importantly, they’re honest about their own previous misconceptions and fears about it. Kiara Mae Beatrice Sloan, a badass 17-year-old freelance artist, is quoted in the piece explaining, “you do not have to be delicate...to be a woman or be beautiful in general. I decide for myself what is feminine.” Nothing says femininity more than neon pink armpit hair, just sayin’.
Shelby Riner, a 22-year-old cookie decorator also quoted in the Teen Vogue article, admitted in high school she had a boyfriend who “would refuse to perform sexual acts if [she] refused to shave” and “that really hurt [her] confidence.” But then she started dating a woman, someone who also had hair on her legs and faced the same societal pressure to wax/shave/or melt it off. That girlfriend “told [her] it was all natural (and there for a reason) so [she] let it grow!” Changing your beauty habits for any intimate partner is severely ill-advised, but if dating a feminist who supports your natural body is the inspiration for loving your natural self more — go for it.
When I went away to college, I became feminist AF practically overnight — one of the biggest changes I made was no longer shaving. I was newly single, free from my parents’ supervision, and diving deep into feminist theory — stopping shaving just seemed like the most natural, and badass, thing I could do. My personal decision to stop shaving made me feel empowered, badass, and authentically beautiful in a way I never felt before. But, as a cisgendered, middle-class, conventionally attractive white woman, my relationship with shaving is different than it is for a lot of others.
Trans people have a big stake in the game of body hair, and the decision to remove it or not. Many trans women opt for a baby-smooth face and zero visible body hair besides immaculate eyebrows and perfectly flowing locks on their head, and many trans men develop more facial hair and embrace having hairy armpits and legs (and backs and ears and who knows what else). Because unfortunately, not "passing" can be extremely dangerous for trans people. In the discussion of whether or not to shave, it would be remis to not take into account how seriously gender-normative our societal understanding of body hair is. Whether someone shaves their legs, face, arms, genitals etc. can be part of their gender expression and an expression of their authentic selves.
Given the danger involved in living as a trans person, the decision to fit into the gendered categories our society has about hair is complicated, to say the least. Ullman, a trans woman, was interviewed by Bustle, and she explained her personal dilemma with body hair: “In order to pass, you’d have to be able to fit yourself comfortably in those beauty standards that constantly push at us...Women aren’t supposed to have body hair: I was pretty hirsute...[managing] my body to conform to [beauty standards] is expensive...at the end of the day, it’s all just a balancing act between what I can afford and what will make me pass as a regular woman the most.” Most everyone is hairy to some extent, but the decision about what to do with that hair can become complicated quickly and like Ullman said, acn be expensive! The danger and disrespect of being misgendered based on body hair is abhorrent, but unfortunately, that misgendering happens all too often.
All in all, the personal decision to shave or not is just that, personal. The long history of understanding body hair, understanding feminism, and understanding ourselves involves a larger conversation about beauty standards, gender expression, and safety. Next time you pick up your razor or make an appointment with that fancy waxing place in town, remember, you’re hot stuff whether you’re hairy or not.
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big haired nerd who likes to talk about books, politics, coffee and anything else you can think of. Be warned of shennanigans: follow me on twitter @BRIawesome