Artwork by Elizabeth Moody
Do you love to shave? Yah, I didn’t think so. Well, here are two events dedicated to throwing away the razors we all know and hate.
During the month of November, the question on everyone’s mind is this: To shave, or not to shave? Beards and mustaches and sideburns cover the faces of almost every man in the country. People lose the razors and embrace their hair. They raise awareness for a variety of health issues through two different movements, No-Shave November and Movember. The term Movember was coined as a combination of the words “mustache” and “November.” This idea, while it may have seemed catchy and motivational, actually carries an underlying message of exclusion. Women are left out. They, too, grow their hair to get involved with these movements, even though their contribution is hidden beneath tights and long sleeves.
Many disapprove of women’s involvement. They contend that excess body hair on women is distasteful, or even vulgar. A number have gone to social media to voice their opinions. Women have received an exceptional amount of hostility on Twitter regarding their bodies, with countless users claiming that it is unladylike and barbaric for a woman not to shave. One tweet from @aishashareen states, “No, women, you are not allowed to naturally Movember yourselves. Eww.” (November 8, 2012 Tweet). Another from @brandneex reads, “No-Shave November is supposed to be for men. You women are just nasty” (November 1, 2018 Tweet). This sort of body-shaming behavior is rekindling past stereotypes of the perfect woman.
In the United States, the idea of women’s hair removal has a notorious past grounded in a history of misogyny. Shaving grew in popularity around the early 20s as the length of women’s skirts and dresses drew back from ankle to mid-calf, and from mid-calf to knee. Because of the rising hemlines, women’s leg hair became more noticeable. There rose an incessant demand for the removal of this hair, which was hastily deemed unattractive.
Society’s expectation for women to shave contributes to the notion that there is only one true beauty, the “perfect” woman, with that smooth skin and not a hair in sight. Women are constantly pushed into an unattainable mold to be clean-shaven, thin, have clear skin, and countless other challenging physical standards. But the question of who is “beautiful” can be partially answered by defining who or what has been feeding these ideas into the minds of young women. Here is my answer.
The basis of these ideas is multi-faceted. We women are bombarded with stereotypes of beauty and femininity. Take, for example, the advertising industry. Its sole purpose is to sell — sell the product, sell the dream, sell the image. Because of this, advertisements have power over the impressionable minds of young women. The advertisements themselves do not demand that women conform to this concept of the “perfect” woman. Instead, they plant an idea a hundred times more lethal. This idea alters women’s true perceptions of their value, making it seem as if they must conform to society’s standards rather than their own. Social media has exacerbated this issue. With social media, we become our own worst enemies. I know almost everyone can admit to editing at least one of those Instagram posts. And this is not just limited to us. Actors, models, and other celebrities photoshop their pictures to remove imperfections. They spend millions of dollars on cosmetic surgeries, sculpting, waxing, and so much more, all in the name of “beauty.” When we consumers see these celebrities, it reinforces the idea of feminine perfection, and we are pressured even more to live up to its standards.
Yes, we do have a choice. At any time, we could choose to put our razors away if we want to. The problem is, it ultimately feels as if we do not have a choice because of the pressures society imposes on us every single day. Regardless of what month it is, women should not be pressured about shaving. We need to reassure our fellow women that the choice is in our hands, not the hands of any other; in the end, it is up to us to decide: To shave, or not to shave?