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Why do we shave? Social norms examined

By Erica Watkins

In Missy Elliott’s song “Work It,” she sings about the importance of shaving her pubic hair in order to be with her significant other. This and other popular songs bring up the societal pressure to shave. With “No Shave November” in full force, I ask the question: Why is it that women, and men, are pressured into shaving?

Historically, shaving was simply more hygienic. Lice where rampant and the ability to shower was rare. Alexander the Great told his soldiers to shave because it was easier to fight and avoid beard grabbing. Men who did not shave were considered barbarian. In some regions of the world, however, such as ancient Rome, having no body hair was considered disgusting and odd.

On the other hand, women in Western society have become accustomed to shaving at all times of the year. Women who do not shave feel ashamed to wear shorts or tank tops. This practice of shaving feels outdated. We all have hair, and shaving takes up time that could be used in better ways.

According to Northshore.org, the average man spends 3,000 hours of his time shaving, with more than double that for women. In modern times where every second counts and time is money, the practice of shaving seems like a waste of time. Many women do not find a point in shaving. Winter comes as a relief because it means that they will always wear long pants and therefore not have to shave.

We need to shape the culture to accept men and women who do not shave. The matter of cleanliness no longer applies, considering the vast majority of the United States has access to clean water and showers.

The hatred towards body hair has been perpetuated by TV shows such as “South Park,” who recently released an episode about a woman who feels shut-out by society because she does not shave. The idea of not liking a woman because she does not shave is also reflected in many popular songs.

While success in the past might have been defined by the clean-shaven man in a business suit, this is not true anymore. Mark Zuckerburg and Steve Jobs have shown that people with a little bit of scruff can still be well respected and admired.

On the other hand, why is it an unsaid requirement that women shave their legs, but it is okay for men to have hair legs and armpits?

In order to get rid of this outdated philosophy we have to realize that body hair is natural. We all have it. Our hair is there for a reason. We should not all be wasting our time being ashamed of the hair we were all born with.

Hair in our armpits and on our genitals serve a purpose. Our armpits and genitals are both areas of scent-releasing organs called apocrine glands. These glands release chemicals that have unique smells and serve as a way to attract sexual partners.

An aversion to hair is trained and it is always worthwhile to question trained behavior. No matter what the reason is for disliking body hair, from being a waste of time to looking gross to feeling weird, having or not having body hair should not be a decision defined by societal pressures. As a society we should stop laughing at and denouncing people who do not shave and instead embrace their fortitude to not give into a useless societal construct.

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