Body Hair Removal: History, Development, and Why it’s Wrongly Pressurized in Today’s Society
By: Aarya Arun, Contributing Writer
Edited by: Fatou Yeli Kourouma, Editor; Eve Nevelos, Editor in Chief
“Just close your eyes and think about something else, this won’t even hurt.”
I’ve heard this same line (at least 10 different times) while feeling terror and the blasting of Indian music in the background as I got my arms, armpits, legs, mustache, and eyebrows waxed. It wasn’t unusual that my mom took me to get my hair waxed at the young age of 10, I had hairy arms and legs. But I never thought I should be ashamed of having these hairy arms and legs, until I reached middle school and classmates would laugh at me. They would call me Bigfoot and while I would laugh with them and just shake it off, I still never understood why having hair was embarrassing. Body hair removal became a standard that was pushed on me early and I obeyed it - as I saw the humiliation of having natural body hair. ‘Beauty is pain’ they would say but after spending so much time, effort and money into the hair removal process, I’m starting to think that ‘conformity is pain’.
Humans are hairy, we are created to be that way. Our body hair provides many benefits such as regulating temperature, protecting our body from dirt, preventing the spread of bacteria and more. So how did the notion of body hair removal start? The tradition dates all the way back to the Stone Age, according to CR Fashion, as a precaution and survival tactic. Shaving prevented enemies in battle from holding and pulling hair violently and it also protected against frostbite as water would get frozen to the skin.
As hundreds of years passed, hair removal took on different, more aesthetic meanings. For example, Ancient Egypt recognized hair removal as hygienic and quickly associated hairy bodies to be uncivilized. Advanced shaving tools and waxing methods became more popular as icons such as Cleopatra would remove their body hair from head-to-toe. Like Ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire made pubic hair a social class divide as they saw the lower classes to have more pubic hair while the higher class opted to have none at all. At this point, hair removal became established as a beauty standard along with being a class standard. The East introduced threading facial hair, Queen Elizabeth I influenced women to pluck facial hair as she did, and the edicts of Catholic Church asserted the modesty of women and their hair removal. In addition, after Darwin’s book “Descent of Man”, male scientists became obsessed with the idea of hair growth and its racial association. But more broadly the idea that men are hairier than women - therefore, to be less “primitive” and more evolved to be the “fittest”, less body hair on women was urged. This can be indicated as one of the biggest initiators to the concept that body hair removal became, as said by the Atlantic, “a form of gendered social control” .
Many women felt and still do feel pressured to remove their facial, pubic and other body hair just to feel worthy and beautiful to society. To combat this notion female celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Emily Ratajkowski send messages of normalizing body hair by embracing their hair during shows, ceremonies, photoshoots and more. Hair removal has been such an established beauty standard that many shame women for exposing their body hair, but that isn't right. The idea of pushing women to be completely hairless gives out a notion that women’s natural bodies are problematic, which is ridiculous. As said before, body hair provides many benefits so you shouldn’t be ashamed to keep that treasure. This article isn’t being written to tell you not to remove your body hair, but rather to make you question your real intentions of removing body hair. Whatever choice you make, don't do it to fit society's expectations - do it for your own self love, health and appreciation.
Link to cover image: https://edit.sundayriley.com/female-body-hair-positivity/