Sisterhood Blog

The Hairy Issue of Female Hair Removal

By Elissa Strauss

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For the most part, body hair as a political statement has fallen out of favor with third-wave feminists who, unlike their second-wave sisters, seem at home with a shaven armpits and legs.

The New York Times recently had an article about women’s mixed feelings about visible body hair on women. The news hook was Mo’Nique’s leg hair and Amanda Palmer’s hairy underarms at this year’s Golden Globes. In “Unshaven Women: Free Spirits or Unkempt?” Catherine Saint Louis writes:

On the red carpet, if a woman has hairy legs or armpits, it is assumed to be an accidental misstep — a failure of time management, if you will. But that hasn’t been true lately. In January, at the Golden Globes, Mo’Nique, who won for her portrayal of a gruesome mother in “Precious,” lifted her floor-length dress to reveal her unshaved calves, abundant in their hairiness.

For some women interviewed for the article, removing body hair is something they reluctantly do; for others, not removing it is more a personal preference than a political statement. The Times article also discusses how depilation habits have changed with the times, using, as an example, Madonna’s 1979 Playboy spread in which she reveals a very un-Brazilian bikini line.

Body hair is a chance to exaggerate gender differences. Most women are naturally less hairy than men — a fact that becomes even more obvious, once we’re done waxing, tweezing, shaving, threading and the like. And while we have worked hard to show that we are equal to men in a variety of arenas, we seem pretty content to continue emphasizing our differences on the hairiness scale. (Jewish rapper Peaches plays with notions of body hair and sexuality in her video “Set it Off”.)

I happen to be to not be hirsute. So, for the most part, I have not had to battle body hair, nor deal with the feminist implications of battling it. I say “for the most part,” because as a grown woman, I clearly have pubic hair, and have felt uneasy and uncertain about recent grooming trends in that department. Even with my genetic headstart, I still have mixed feelings about bikini waxes, and have long sworn off the take-it-all-off Brazilian wax.

I am curious how Sisterhood readers feel about hair removal. How much effort do you put into it? How much do you spend on it? How much of it is because you feel pressure to? Do you feel the pressure from men? From other women? Please share.


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