The Culture Surrounding Shaving

Charlotte Hoffman, Staff Reporter

A few days ago, my sister and I were commenting on No-Shave November. If you are not familiar with the trend, it is when people – mostly men with facial hair – do not shave for all of November. The month itself is mostly just a publicity stunt, made popular by social media. But when you get to the premise of it, through the joking appearance, you see it is a ‘month’ rooted in toxic masculinity. The whole point of not shaving for an entire month is to compare how much hair you have grown to other men, therefore competing to outdo one another’s testosterone, and by default, masculinity. 

But my sister and I weren’t talking about the toxic roots or meaning of this competition. Rather, we were joking about how I was going to participate in it – with my leg hair. It started as a joke because I never take the time to shave, but then my mom stepped in. She questioned – half-concerned and half-jokingly, if I was still going to at least shave my underarms, indicating that it would not be hygienic if I didn’t. 

This seemingly light-hearted conversation made me realize that, despite how much the world has progressed gender-equality wise, traditional and outdated standards of feminism remain stamped into the foundations of society. It was not my mom’s intention to put me down or make me doubt myself with her comment; she was simply trying to look out for me. And what’s worse is that she didn’t know any better. The people my mom grew up around, as a Sixties Baby, influenced what she perceived as masculine and feminine. On her television shows and in the magazines she read, my mom was bombarded with images of hypersexualized female bodies, edited to emphasize the model’s curves and physique. Naturally, before my mom could even understand the notions of gender stereotypes, she was comparing herself to these flawless women. And it would make sense that none of them ever had any leg hair. 

Ultimately, society taught my mom that body hair – a natural part of a woman’s body and hilariously insignificant – is unnatural and something to be ashamed of. And now, society is teaching the same sexist principles to the next generation of impressionable young girls, including myself. What makes things worse is that there is such a double standard; an armpit full of thick, curly hair after a month of not shaving on a man would be applauded, or at the very least considered a normal expression of masculinity. Meanwhile, on a woman, even just a few long strands of body hair ignite stares from strangers and vulgar comments.

Maybe my mom does just think that body hair is generally gross – my sister certainly avoids any tiny strands she knows aren’t hers. Or maybe she views shaving as a valid form of self care. But there are so many women who subconsciously believe that the reason they must hide parts of themselves is because it is not feminine enough or not beautiful enough; even if it is a natural part of the human body. Too many women feel as if they need to change themselves in order to be of value. And apparently, even something as insignificant as body hair can serve as a great reminder of how much more work needs to be done to rebuild our society as truly free.