Body Hair

Posted by on June 18, 2013 in Gender roles, Mormon Life | 12 comments

by Kelly Ann

Several weeks ago I had the following somewhat awkward maybe minute conversation at a game night with some single Mormon friends:

Guy [to three girls present]: Do you think chest hair is attractive on men or not?

[After dead silence] – Me [knowing this will stir more tension]: I like it.

[Followed by more dead silence and weird looks in my direction by others]

Guy: Well what if it isn’t uniform?

Me: I say let it be.  (Noting I have never paid that much attention to hair on guys at the beach.)

Others comment about benefits of hair removal in swimming. Conversation goes five different directions.  Awkwardness is palpable.  Somehow it comes back to me saying a guy shouldn’t feel the need to shave if they are comfortable with it.

Girl [looking back and forth between guy and me]:  Girls aren’t really the ones who should be commenting on hair removal …

[Exchange ends, either someone walked in the room or the game progressed]

Me [thinking to myself but censored]: “You probably don’t want to see my legs…”

 

I am actually not a true hippie.  I tame my eyebrows (mostly the stragglers), pluck a few random chin whiskers I get, and shave my armpits.  But I go through phases in which I don’t shave my legs.  Since I live in 60 degree year round weather for the most part, it really isn’t an issue.  I wear dark tights so no one even notices when I wear a skirt.  And truth be told, I really don’t have that much hair on my legs except for down the middle of the front of one of them.

But as it has gotten warmer, and I have gone the longest I have ever gone without shaving my legs (nine months), I have become more conscious of it.  I have confidently rode my bike with my right leg rolled up but then quickly pulled by pant leg down before getting to work.  There have been weekends when I have been unphased, if not somewhat proud of my hippiness, and worn capris – albeit mostly at home.  But as I thought about wearing a swimsuit this past weekend, I caved and I shaved my legs.

I have to admit that although I say that one should be comfortable whether or not they shave, that I am only to a certain extent.

Knowing that the question of body hair is oft debated between feminists, I am curious what this group thinks about body hair and what they personally shave or don’t shave?

 

Noting I really truly do like hairy guys – particularly guys with well trimmed beards. And hate that as a society we have a double standard of what is acceptable for women.

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12 Comments

  1. I had a friend who refused to kiss her husband in the evening until after he’d shaved because she hated facial hair so much. This same friend berated me for 45 minutes for getting a wax because I was conforming to some patriarchal blah blah blah. Double standard, much? I personally like a bit of scruff on men (from 3 days unshaven to a full beard) and I also have kept up waxing because I like the way it makes my skin silky and it reduces the number of ingrown hairs. Is that a double standard? No. Because I don’t insist my husband (or anyone else) have any particular style of facial hair and I don’t let anyone but myself contribute a opinion as to if, when, and what I wax. Isn’t that kind of the point of feminism? Women (and men) being encouraged to make the decisions that THEY want without fearing backlash from a conservative wingnut or receiving scorn from a liberal bleeding heart? I really don’t understand why body hair is a hot topic issue at all. It’s just hair. Some people like it, others don’t, and why can’t that be fine?

    xox

  2. I’ve occasionally wondered what our foremothers think of the 20th century, North Western quartersphere(?) obsession with female shaving. Course, we’ll also get to deal with forefathers who wonder why we don’t all have good beards. I’m sure if we still had to use straight razors (rather than safety razors) there’d be a whole lot less shaving all around.

    Being one of those who can’t grow a beard, it’s been kind of nice to work for the Church in downtown SLC and not have to shave but once a week. I find shaving to be an annoying chore, and can’t imagine being competitive enough in something where I’d want to shave it all to gain a fraction of a second in speed.

    For women, I don’t really have a preference. I enjoy kissing my wife’s legs, no matter what their condition since the last shave) as much as her arms, which are never shaved (do women shave their arms?).

    Anyway. For me, this is just another one of those things about bodies that I just don’t get the big concern over.

    • Re: Do women shave their arms?

      Like most things, I’m pretty sure this is a personal preference. I do not, but my cousin does. So, it just depends on the person involved. :D

  3. I completely share this frustration over societal expectations for male/female body hair and completely agree with Heidikins’s and Frank’s statements that this shouldn’t be an issue—that personal preference should be respected and concerns should stop there. Both my sisters are more often hairy than not (one stopped shaving in high school, over 15 years ago), and their decisions to not shave have been (to my knowledge) received largely as a non-issue. Which is great.

    At the same time, I can’t help but remember experiences I had as a preteen and teen that forcefully and rather shamefully reinforced the expectation for hairless legs …. starting with, as a 10 year old, having my body hair called out by older boys at the pool and the piercing feelings of embarrassment over my own body’s natural mechanics. As an adult, these incidents seem silly, largely a non-issue. But to my teenage self, controlling body hair was huge. And unfortunately for me, I immediately recognized and really took to heart the peer pressure for hairlessness, which, combined with my general anxiety, OCD tendencies, and emotional difficulties eventually lead to more serious issues with compulsive hair pulling, skin picking, and other body-focused repetitive behaviors that I still struggle to control, decades later. Yes, body hair (whether shaved or not) shouldn’t be an issue. I hope it’s never an issue. But that’s not necessarily the message that advertising, teenage peers, and greater American society will be sending to any future teenage daughters of mine. And that’s what I think we need to be concerned about.

    • I’m sorry, Georgi, that sounds truly awful! As if there weren’t already enough cultural expectations piled on women when it comes to food. I didn’t even realize body hair removal could become compulsive, but it totally makes sense how it happens. I’m sorry you’ve had to suffer through this.

  4. I caught myself in the reverse double standard the other day – I bristle (pun intended) any time anyone gets after me for my own shaving habits, citing the strains of pedophilia that run through our cultural expectations of women (“Grown-ups have body hair! Get used to it!”), but then I get totally grossed out by men’s body hair at the pool or gym. So I’m just as guilty of double standards as anyone else.

    Or maybe I’m just too exhausted (read: “lazy”) to shave.

  5. If it is any assurance, you have me sporting my own not-shaved-since-month-7-of-pregnancy-now-5-months-postpartum legs with one leg rolled up on my bike. And I usually forget it’s up- spent the whole afternoon with my hairy ankle out in public today. My chiro usually adjusts me while I’m shoeless, so he’s seen my hairy ankles, too.

    I am also sporting not-shaved-in-probably-a-month underarms. I had a sore under one, so I took time off to let it heal without being attacked by a razor. It’s still a bit pink, so I haven’t shaved it quite yet. Also, I’m out of blades, so I couldn’t if I wanted to.

    I still found time to do minor eyebrow and chin hair plucking the other day, so I don’t know. Where does that put me?

    I learned which way underarm hair grows: up and towards your front. It dawned on me the other day that I’ve always shaved and so I never knew that basic fact about my body. Then I asked my husband if I could examine his underarm hair growth: same-ish direction. I’m curious if it’s possible to have random cowlicks on your body like some people have on their heads… I have way too much time if I think up stuff like that!

    My husband prefers my underarms shaved, but doesn’t mind my legs (though I think he wouldn’t mind if I did). But underarms is a huge cultural attractiveness issue- more so than legs I would think. I believe it’s because of sweat. Bodily fluids are “unclean.” And women just have lots of fluids: menstruation, lactation, sweat. But it’s somehow infeminine to have fluids.

    Re: hairy men- I think we’re heading towards a more hairy-friendly time for men’s appearance. I’ve noticed a lot of movies with chest-haired-men lately, most recently Man of Steel.

  6. The longest I’ve gone without shaving is 6 months. The reasons I went this long were similar to TopHat’s thought. I had no clue what my body hair actually looked like and I was curious. Honestly, if there wasn’t pressure from society to shave I wouldn’t. I appreciate the feeling of silky smooth legs, but for me, it only lasts for a few hours, and the feeling isn’t worth the inconvenience. I shave only because I’m worried about what others think. I’m trying to get over that feeling, but it’s really hard to! As for fluids and ingrown hairs, I actually found I sweat less when I didn’t shave my armpits. I don’t shave my pubic hair because when I do, it itches like crazy and I get lots of ingrown hairs. I’d love to be in a society where women could freely choose to shave or not to shave, but we aren’t there yet. Those who enjoy shaving enjoy the privilege of having their personal preference deemed “acceptable” by society at large.

  7. I don’t mind hairiness in men, but I suppose I am glad my husband does not have a hairy back.

    I shave my legs about once a week, but my body hair is fine and blonde so you can’t actually see even if I go a month or more. I just like the feel. I occasionally give my eyebrows a prune here and there, but not in any regimented fashion. When I was a missionary I had a companion who did not speak English as her first language. After about three months together she asked me if I ever planned to pluck my eyebrows. I said I didn’t know, did it bother her? She said sweetly (not realizing how it sounded in English) “oh no, only when I look at you.” Of course we were never allowed to be apart from each other, so that was a lot of being bothered. So I gave tweezing a try to please her, only to accidentally remove a good chunk of my eyebrow, looking even funnier than before. I still laugh about that when I see my poorly maintained eyebrows.

  8. I have been pondering this question over the last couple of months, trying to figure out at what point in history and what the origins were of the cultural expectation for women to shave their legs, armpits, etc. This is one tactic that I have found helpful in determining if perpetuating a cultural norm makes sense or not (for a good example that can lead one to reject a current norm, look into the modern origins of circumcision among “Gentiles.”) The information of female shaving is sparse on the internet but I did find some suggestion that the ancient Greeks valued hairlessness in both women and men.

    I also ran across some articles on pubic hair removal which includes evidence that STIs as well as just infections in general are more common. The evidence, in addition to my own personal experiences, was convincing enough to me that there are good health reasons to not remove pubic hair. We are meant to have it and that’s why it grows. So if that is the case for pubic hair, then maybe health/biological reasons exist for underarm and leg hair?

    Still looking for that info though. It seems that even among feminists that this is a topic that many avoid, maybe because of wanting to avoid the stereotype?

    At this point it has been so long since I’ve shaved my legs that I don’t want to have to go through the short lived smooth, nice and pretty stage followed by the stinging hurting prickly stage to get back to soft and silky. And then when I remember the scars I have inflicted upon myself over the years from shaving, I’m just not convinced the discomfort is worth it for the few hours to 2 days where I enjoy the pretty conforming feeling.

  9. I detest managing body and facial hair but I do it since I’m not one to buck the beauty culture I live in. I don’t see it as much of a feminist issue, though, since men have cultural norms about hair, too, just different ones.

  10. I love hairy guys. I resent that women are expected to shave, yet at most times in my life, I have remained arm-pit-and-leg-hair-free out of a desire to conform. Not now. I’m on a shaving “fast.” I’ll let you know how it goes.

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