By Michal Shvimer
Most women in the Western world choose to practice hair removal on their legs, armpits, upper lip, eyebrows, arms, back and bikini zone — just to name some of the common areas.
But this wasn’t always the norm. In the United States, women’s shaving began in 1915, as Gillette, the renowned shaving company, essentially pushed a razor into women’s hands. Gillette, which was founded right here in Boston, fashioned a safety razor in 1901 that would make shaving easier and safer for men, until they realized they could double their profits by tapping into a new market: women. The Gillette Milady Decollete emerged, the delicate razor for women.
Initially, women expressed reservations to buying a razor, as shaving was seen as a masculine practice. But then, sleeveless dresses became a fad, exposing women’s armpits more publicly than before. As one industry framed body hair as an insecurity and another industry provided a cheap and easy fix to this insecurity — a beautiful symphony of industry, capitalism and patriarchy shaped the foundations of shaving today.
But there’s an opportunity to reverse this practice and become the hairy women we were meant to be. Here are a few good reasons to stop shaving your body hair.
1. Save money
I’ll start with the same reason women’s shaving started in the first place: cold, hard cash. Although shaving isn’t ridiculously expensive, you do save yourself the money you spend buying razors, shaving cream, anti-irritant cream, hair remover cream and, over time, you’ll have some extra cash in your pocket for hygiene products that are actually necessary. Not only will you be saving yourself money, you wouldn’t be giving money to businesses that perpetuate and profit off of women’s insecurities.
2. Reduce resources
You wouldn’t just be saving yourself money, you’d be helping the environment in small steps. Imagine how many cans of shaving cream you’ve gone through since you started shaving as an insecure pubescent. Count the razors you’ve thrown out and any other products that went into creating that perfect, hairless cat look. All that waste would be reduced, and we’d save water cutting some time out of our shower routine, too.
3. Subvert the patriarchy
This is the most obvious reason for me. For a practice that was invented to profit men, shaving is so deeply internalized among women. The first time I shaved was in 7th grade, and it was because a girl in my class told me I should after glancing at my legs. I hear women convince themselves that they like smooth legs and bikini zones because they like the way they feel, and yet, most women I know shave most when they have a date or are showing some skin in public. We do not register the adjustments we make to our body to fit beauty norms in the public eye. Proudly raising your arms to reveal a hairy armpit can be really empowering and doesn’t take away from femininity or beauty, because it shouldn’t have to. It may be shocking at first because we’re not used to seeing it, but it’s a great “f–k you” to the capitalist/patriarchy brotherhood that started the trend, until enough women reverse it.
4. Hair is natural
Why do we care so much about hair and where it’s OK for hair to be? We all grow it! Men typically have short buzz cuts on their heads, women typically have longer hair on their heads. It’s considered masculine for men to have body hair on their arms, legs and chest, but women are expected to be hairless. I’ve stopped asking why and just stopped participating in the practice, and it’s saved me a lot of mental energy I can use by asking more important questions like: why is chunky peanut butter so controversial and what’s the deal with fur-lined vans?
5. Hair is beautiful
It’s really beautiful to embrace what’s natural. It’s how women are meant to look, like grown women, not prepubescent girls. Growing body hair should be portrayed as the coming-of-age experience it is for men, because after all, if we’re attracted to hairless women… what does that say about us?
I don’t want to speak for all women. I want to first and foremost respect everyone’s decision on what they choose to do with their body, because that’s their choice to make. I do, however, want to challenge the way we think about gender norms and the way we perpetuate them. The body hair removal industry profits off insecurities that it’s manifested to expand its consumer market. It’d be pretty empowering to not contribute to the business, embrace our natural bodies, reduce our carbon footprint and kick the patriarchy in its (hairy) butt.