I’ve officially made it halfway through No Shave November. My initial urges to shave have more or less dissipated, and I’ve become noticeably more comfortable with my (super, super) hairy legs and pits.
Of course, it’s easy to be comfortable with your body hair when it’s not really being shown off much to the public en masse. Women’s revealing fashion seems to be the historical root of all shaving.
Short sleeves for women first became stylish and socially acceptable in the 1910s, and ad campaigns were launched to pressure women into shaving their armpits accordingly. In the 30s and 40s, the dropping of hemlines (especially where pinups were concerned) led advertisers to push women to shave their legs.
Most of our mothers are young enough to see shaving as a necessity, but for their mothers, shaving their legs was probably something they consciously chose to do. As icky and utterly mortifying as it is to think about it, shaving pubic hair wasn’t something most of our mothers did at our age. Now there are ads for razors (I’m looking at you, Schick Quattro TrimStyle for women) that use a literal bush as a metaphor for what needs to be shaved.
There’s nothing wrong with young women removing the hair from our bits as well as our pits, but our generation is making the choice to shave our “bikini area.” I don’t plan on having children soon or probably ever, but what if for my incredibly hypothetical daughter, shaving her pubes isn’t a choice? And what if for her daughter, boob jobs and face lifts aren’t a choice, but just another measure society expects women to take to be considered not-gross?
My purpose in doing this experiment and in writing this column is not to condemn any woman who chooses to remove hair from her legs, pits or any other part of her body; I myself choose to do that, too. My purpose, however, is to prove to myself that it really is something I choose to do, and not just something I feel pressured into in order to feel like a normal human being. And perhaps my more important purpose is to try to convince others (women and men) that choosing not to do these things does not make you disgusting and aberrant.