Posted by: webbhouston | October 6, 2009

The politics of hair

This might seem like it has little to do with parenting but trust me. It does.

As a growing girl I was told by my peers that having hair on my body was considered gross. Boys told me about it and girls mocked me for not wanting to shave. Of course being an impressionable young thing I did give in and started shaving my legs, armpits, and other regions which I had been told needed it.

The older I got the more I realized that I really did not have a reason to shave.  It seems like people have been removing body hair for many reasons through out the years. The Egyptians apparently did it for “cleanliness” and to avoid mites, lice and to keep cool. It seems that they are credited for having invented body sugaring which is still used today by many who are seeking depilation treatments. Some people remove their hair for religious reasons at different points in their life, and I know that in biblical times hair removal was used for many reasons.

In Deutoronomy 21: 12 hair removal is used as a mean to control and humble women. In 1st Corinthians 11: 5 and 6 it speaks of women who have not been humble enough to cover their heads when necessary and how they must be shorn. This gives a really interesting view as to how shaving is used today in my eyes. Is shaving being used as a way to keep women humble? I could go on… but I wont.

Removal of hair is not really convenient, can be downright painful, and is quite expensive.  Marketers spend millions of dollars advertising razors that dont leave bumps, waxes that promise longer lasting results, and showing us pictures of long cellulite free legs in short shorts without a single stray hair present.  These pictures promise us that we too can reach that level of happiness with our lives and with the way that our bodies look in teeny weeny bikinis. The perfectly manicured toes and tanned legs tell us that we too can look this good…. if we just shave our legs with their products. Hair removal is quite serious business folks.

How did this all start?

1915_armpit_ad

It seems like history likes to point at this ad as the start of all of the ruckus.  One day this ad showed up in Harper’s Bazaar in May of 1915… and the sales of razors grew. They havent looked back since. The advertisers haven’t looked back either…

lrg_yodora

With ads that say things like “for faultless grooming” and that make underarm hair seem like it is a disease they we hope nobody gets, it is no wonder that shaving has become the important part of grooming in women’s lives that it currently is. It is said that women spend 60 days of their life removing unwanted body hair and that is a great deal of time.  Too much time if you ask me… especially since we have no real reason to have to remove our body hair other than marketers and society telling us that we should.

If someone wants to remove their body hair by all means, do so… but my job as a mother is to make sure that my children know that it is their choice. It is not mandated by some higher power that body hair be removed and it is not something that they should do to fit into society… it is just an expectation, and a flawed one at that. While I understand that it is not some new idea that hairless = beautiful it doesnt make it ok to keep the flawed expectation up.

Even questions like these on a popular website for Q&A when it is asked if women should shave their armpits the answer is

I think it is good hygiene for women to shave their armpits

But is there really any proof that it is not good hygene to leave hair alone?

As a parent, how will this discussion be brought up in your household? Iwill fully disclose my history of shaving and how I phased certain parts of it own. I still chose to shave on occassion but this summer I basically spent it razor free and quite enjoyed it. I go back and forth depending on how I feel but hope to one day really just not ever go back.  I sometimes do fall prey to peer pressure and feeling like I have to shave to be feminine and womanly.  We are constantly bombarded with the informationt hat it is necessary. I saw an ad recently that showed how shaving their legs was a rite of passage that women needed to go through when they hit puberty and how it was a bonding thing between mother and daughter. I can think of a lot of things that I can use to bond with my daughter and I do not believe that in our family starting my daughter off in a ritual that has no business existing in the first place will be one of them.

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