Vintage Sexism: ‘Hair’ Comes Stubble!

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Images via Gallery of Graphic Design

It’s almost summertime – the season for sunshine, swimsuits, and stubble. When the weather gets hotter, the skirts and sleeves get shorter, and the pressure is on to keep the hair off of our legs, underarms, and elsewhere. We know that body hair is a natural part of womanhood, but we’ve also been bombarded with the notion that removing it through shaving, plucking, waxing, lasers, or depilatory creams is a proper part of the everyday grooming process.

Take a look at the ads in this edition of Vintage Sexism, and you’ll see adjectives like ‘unsightly,’ ‘unwanted,’ and ‘ugly,’ used to describe feminine body hair.

At what point did the notion of naturally occurring hair become so unbecoming in our culture?

Image via Wikimedia

In 1982, Christine Hope wrote an article titled “Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture” and cited the above 1915 print ad as one of the very first occurrences of propaganda promoting the idea that body hair on women was ‘objectionable.’ From that point forward, it was considered to be out of fashion and unfeminine, and a Western cultural female beauty standard was set. Have a look at these happy-go-lucky ladies in this 1980′s Nair commercial to see how having soft, smooth, and silky skin became a requirement to look and feel beautiful and confident. You can see how things just got hairy from there!

Images via Gallery of Graphic Design

Certainly, nowadays, whether we choose to shave or go au natural is our own personal choice, regardless of preexisting cultural pressures. We own the right to do what we please with our own bodies. In some ways, modern society is a little more accepting of female body hair. But, in some ways, it isn’t. Last year, comedienne and actress Mo’Nique faced criticism for showing off her unshaven legs at the Golden Globes. It seems the stereotype still exists that being hairy goes against femininity, is unsightly, and is downright lazy.

Check out this current, retro-style ad for Bic’s Soleil razors that was pulled from Toronto’s subway system last fall for being overly objectifying and sexist:

Image via Adweek

The modern woman has ownership of whatever she wants to do with her own body, so it’s nobody else’s business if she chooses to refrain from hair removal. Conversely, if she prefers to shave as a personal choice, she shouldn’t feel judged, less empowered, or guilty for conforming to something perceived to be a societal norm. She has the freedom to do what she wants to attain her own comfortable and positive body image.

So, we ask you, ModLovers, what do you think about how women’s body hair is portrayed in this day and age? Do you feel pressured to shave, wax, etc.? For those of you who refrain from shaving, do you defend a woman’s choice to decide whether or not she wants to? Let’s ‘wax’ philosophical on this topic!

About Cindy

Pun intended. Cindy loves dreaming up witty quips and groan-worthy wordplay. In fact, you could say this girl just wants to have puns. As an avid fan of the written word and a librarian at heart, she also loves used bookstores, especially ones that harbor cats. Vintage clothing, cocktails, and ephemera are a few of her favorite things.

90 Responses to Vintage Sexism: ‘Hair’ Comes Stubble!

  1. heidi 06/07/2011 at 4:46 pm #

    I haven’t shaved in years. I feel bad for my friends that do. And as for the people who think it’s disgusting, well, for the most part they keep their mouth shut. And the ones who don’t – they’re not the type of people I want in my life.

    • Chaz 06/15/2011 at 7:04 pm #

      Best comment ever. (:

    • BurlyQLady 06/16/2011 at 12:03 pm #

      I love you.

    • Adrienne 10/23/2011 at 8:54 am #

      I’ve shaved for years. And as for people who think that’s ridiculous, well, those are the types of people I don’t want in my life.

      True, shaving is a choice and one that many women feel pressured to make because of culture and the male preference. But the real issue is, What do you prefer and is your partner happy with your choice? Other than that, who gives a flying flip?

  2. erniebufflo 06/07/2011 at 5:14 pm #

    I’m all for women choosing what they wish when it comes to their body hair. Many enjoy the feeling of smooth legs, and more power to them, but it’s disturbing the way our society acts like shaving/waxing ourselves into hairless “perfection” is mandatory. Remember the fuss when Amanda Palmer dared to show some hair on the red carpet?

  3. Lauren 06/07/2011 at 5:56 pm #

    I shave my legs because, like erniebufflo said, I enjoy the feeling of smooth legs. I do feel like shaving and waxing all body hair not on our heads is required by society, though. Few people I’ve met have been very understanding or supportive of NOT shaving when it arose in conversation. Does anyone know if guys have any pressure to shave or wax at all? I know swimmers do, but it seems like most male celebrities opt for waxing their chests for show – has that influenced guys?

  4. Kate 06/07/2011 at 6:12 pm #

    I definitely believe it’s up to each individual woman, but I can tell you that even if it was 100% completely socially acceptable to go au natural in our society, I would likely still choose to remove my body hair. I feel so much cleaner without it, and love the smooth feeling. To each their own though!

  5. Dina 06/07/2011 at 6:16 pm #

    Thanks for the article! This has become such a taboo topic in the US and it’s quite disturbing. This should absolutely be up to each individual and it makes me sad that young women are growing up ashamed of their natural bodies.

  6. Katie 06/07/2011 at 6:19 pm #

    I hate hate hate body hair on women. Why hasn’t evolution taken care of this for us already?! I don’t care what other people do with themselves – but I wish I could get rid of every last one (other than on my head – obviously).

  7. JJ 06/07/2011 at 6:24 pm #

    For me it’s more that I like the feel of smoothness. Still I don’t shave anymore then once a week and sometimes less. Honestly if the guys can have hairy armpits, I can too!

  8. DCM 06/07/2011 at 6:26 pm #

    The ads have nothing to do with the woman’s prefference to shave or not. The ad is designed to create fear, or anxiety about one’s appearance. Create a problem where there once was none, in order to SELL you products you may or may not need/use. Sure, you knew abou razors, and you may by them or other shaving products. But ads like this employ tactics that have become an epidemic in our culture. Assuming all women all want to look and weight a certain way. Hijacking the independent messaging of the women’s lib movement, simply for profit. You might think that this is silly, and it doesn’t work on you, but they don’t pay ad execs the big bucks for designs that don’t really increase sales. And if there’s a horrible fear of being imperfect or thinking you’re nothing if you’re not conventionally beautiful by corporations standards, then OMG I NEED THAT PRODUCT. $$$$

    It’s just that now, in our time of over-dosing on media, it’s having a terrible impact on the health of girls, and boys. It’s not just this ad or that other ads. It’s all these horrible ads together designed to make us give up money in order to feel better. It’s not just aimed at women either. Men get tons of terrible messages all the time in ads and TV.

    Join us at SPARK: http://www.sparksummit.com/

    • Teresa 06/15/2011 at 7:27 pm #

      I agree. The media and marketing have a whole generation of psychologically ploying us with their mantras that we are not good enough unless we buy into the new cultural norms.

    • Vlvitblit 06/15/2011 at 8:23 pm #

      So nice to hear this long overdue discussion!! Brava!!! Sounds as though you’ve (wisely) given up the hypnotic trance of the round peg needing to fit into the square hole!!!

    • Vlvitblit 06/15/2011 at 8:25 pm #

      Also, not these women are a drawing from some (probably) male ad artist!!! Don’t get me wrong, I love males, but they don’t get to define me…

  9. Haley 06/07/2011 at 7:00 pm #

    I hate shaving–I feel like it’s a waste of time–but I feel pressured to do it anyway. Even when I decide not to shave, I cover up with tights or socks so people don’t know. I wish I could feel more confident on just doing whatever I want with my own hair, but I don’t think many people I know would be accepting of that if I did. =\

    • Dana 06/08/2011 at 1:34 pm #

      I couldn’t agree with you more, Haley. I wore capris today, and the first thing I did when I left my house was look down at my legs, which are rocking some five-day stubble. And even though I tell myself I do not have to shave, and I shouldn’t feel pressured to, I still feel embarrassed of my stubble and wish I had worn jeans, despite the high of 92 that’s called for today. I completely understand where you’re coming from. =(

    • Kayla 06/15/2011 at 8:08 pm #

      I agree– I hate shaving– it’s expensive and time-consuming, plus I have ultra sensitive skin that cannot handle more than shaving once a week. I also have very thick and very dark hair, which makes my leg hair extremely noticeable. It’s like man hair, seriously.

      I stopped shaving for about a year and felt great about it, except for the fact that many people stared at my legs with confusion. Some asked me about it, and I was happy to explain. I work with kids, though, and while I want to be an example to them in breaking this unfair gender requirement, it puts a damper on my self- esteem to have to be asked a million and one times a day why I have hair on my legs. As a teacher, it is also viewed as unprofessional (although in the winter, no one knows :D).

      It’s tough for us, ladies, to feel accepted in breaking this social norm, but we should feel empowered and encouraged to do it! It’s pretty standard for men to have beards nowadays, even in the professional world, so why can’t we skip shaving, too?

      I’d also like to mention that my boyfriend was very supportive of my decision to be au naturale, so don’t think you have to shave to be attractive to men!

  10. Carambola 06/07/2011 at 8:05 pm #

    It’s things like this that make the show “Mad Men” so interesting. Marketing has changed societal standards so that we must wear deodorant and shave our legs (which really sucks for me as I’m allergic to deodorant and only the most expensive razors work on my skin!). Even companies like Dove, who claim to promote real beauty, are just as guilty– who ever worried about how their armpits looked before their advertising campaign?

    That said, I do prefer the way I smell when I wear aluminum-free deodorant, and I do prefer the way I look and feel when I shave (especially when swimming!), so even though I do both of those things because of society… I’ll keep doing them :).

  11. Ciara 06/07/2011 at 8:28 pm #

    I just had a terrible waxing experience prepping for a vacation. I hate my body hair, and I hate all the stuff I have to do and buy to take care of it. It’s such a pain, but I wouldn’t like growing it out either. I hate this kind of marketing too, but it is my choice. Too much hate, I know, but it’s frustrating. I think I am fortunate that my friends and my boyfriend don’t really care either way, though.

  12. Abigail 06/07/2011 at 10:37 pm #

    I was so excited to see this post! I am a writer and have been toying with the idea of exploring this subject. Personally, I believe that body hair is beautiful. It is sad that we have reached a point, as a society, where children are brought up believing that they need to shave as soon as hair appears. I faced pressure as early as 4th grade. However, I still shave my thick hair on a daily basis because I am not confident enough to go au naturale. I have faced extreme self-consciousness about my hairiness, but I have hope that society as a whole can become more tolerant. It will just take more brave people who are willing to break the mold and remind us that body hair is natural. And natural–believe it or not–is beautiful.

    • Dana 06/08/2011 at 1:40 pm #

      Well said! I, too, was teased for my exceptionally dark leg hair (German genes cannot be helped, haha) in elementary school by boys AND girls. Rather than seeing it for the fact that I was maturing faster than everyone else, I became ashamed of it, and that self-consciousness has carried over, nearly 20 years later. Maybe we will both soon have the courage and self-assurance that we can do whatever the hell we want our body hair! I agree, natural is beautiful! \m/

  13. Sydney 06/07/2011 at 11:08 pm #

    I always, ALWAYS shave my legs and underarms. I just prefer everything to be nice and smooth. On the other hand, however, I rarely every wear makeup. So, there’s that.

  14. Beth 06/08/2011 at 7:16 am #

    It won’t really be “anyone’s choice” until it is acceptable in an office environment to have body hair. It is mostly not (although I am sure there are exceptions).

  15. Mandi 06/08/2011 at 12:47 pm #

    I have a friend who refuses to shave her armpits. People comment on it, and most girls think it’s rad, but guys think it’s gross. She doesn’t care, and doesn’t have trouble attracting men. The funny thing is, she shaves her arms. I just can’t stand the feeling of hair in my armpits after having gone without it so long.

  16. Charlotte 06/08/2011 at 12:57 pm #

    I’m with Katie here. I’d wish every last stray hair away if I could. Occasionally in the winter I leave it a bit longer (as I’m so blonde it doesn’t really show) but I hate the feel of hairy legs. And armpits just eww.
    I love that retro style Bic’s Soleil razor advert too!

  17. Erin 06/08/2011 at 2:51 pm #

    When I first started shaving, I was in middle school, and being the insecure 13 year old that I was, I caved under pressure. Now though, I shave because I like having smoothy smooth legs haha. However, my mom doesn’t shave because her hair is very sparse, unlike mine. I kind of feel like I need to shave, and she doesn’t. So that’s it. It’s a personal choice, really. But having smooth legs does make me feel more feminine.

  18. Carissa 06/08/2011 at 11:36 pm #

    I always feel pressured to be virtually hairless. I feel so self conscious all the time about underarm and leg hair. If I forget to shave, it’s all I think about if I raise my hand in class or wear shorts. Plus my hair is pretty dark, so the stubble shows. I know no one pays as much attention as I think, but it’s always a matter of me being so hyper aware of it. I personally don’t like a hairier look on me, but more power to a girl’s right to choose to shave :) and to being less self conscious about our every perceived ‘flaw’.

  19. Kristyn 06/09/2011 at 11:13 am #

    They actually started shaving legs in the 40s when the war started. The use for nylon during the war took all nylon stockings. The ladies were left without that shinny smooth feeling.. so they resorted to shaving (like their husbands). Underarm shaving came a little later due to creating a safe razor and help from a popular model. Its a pretty strange history!

  20. Coco 06/10/2011 at 9:54 am #

    As a lady who shaves her legs MAYBE once or twice a week in the summer, and NEVER in the winter, I say, what the hell’s the point? Even in summer, unless I’m going to be wearing a swimsuit, I only shave mid-thigh (my husband calls this “wearing fur shorts”). Growing up, it was my mother who was the biggest proponent of leg shaving. She made sure I wasn’t allowed to shave until I reached puberty, but after that, there was no excuse for leg or pit hair (especially leg hair near the bikini line). “Nobody will want to be seen with you,” she would retort. It didn’t hurt my feelings, I just figured that’s the way the world worked. It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized I’d rather have hairy legs than painful stubble and ingrown hairs. If someone wants to hate me for having hairy legs, let ‘em. There’s got to be a reason we were all made this way. Why fight nature?

  21. Amanda 06/10/2011 at 10:12 am #

    It’s my thighs that are the problem for me. I agree with everything everyone’s said so far – and yea, it’s totally the way we’ve been brainwashed to believe – but I am always conflicted about my thighs, because they are SO FREAKING DIFFICULT to shave. Plus, my mother doesn’t shave her thighs, but then, her hair is very light, although still visible. And besides what’s visible, there is how it feels to the touch- I always wonder if a guy would get grossed out if he feels hair on a girl’s thighs!

    At any rate, I usually don’t end up shaving my thighs until I absolutely have to – like when I’m finally going to be wearing a bathing suit – but then I always feel self-conscious if a little thigh slips out from a skirt I’m wearing….What’s the standard, here? I hate all these rules for something that’s supposed to be natural…..

  22. Elise 06/10/2011 at 10:32 am #

    I don’t really mind the concept of shaving my legs and armpits, mainly because I love the feeling of having smooth skin in those places. And I think (at least where I live), it’s okay to go out with a little leg stubble, so slightly less pressure… What bothers me these days is the bikini hair removal.
    It seems as though society has made not shaving ‘down-there’ something to be frowned upon, which is ridiculous. As far as I know, most men think woman who don’t shave/wax are ‘gross’ or at least prefer a woman who do. Why?! Pubic hair on women has become such a taboo, it seems…

  23. Elle 06/11/2011 at 12:41 pm #

    This is an issue I struggle with. As a feminist, I feel like I should be able to do what I feel is right for me, which is to not shave. I really hate doing it. However, I feel extreme pressure from society (parents, friends, television, ads) to do so. I wish I had the courage to not shave!

  24. Kelly 06/14/2011 at 11:35 pm #

    Honestly it really doesn’t matter if I shave or not. My hair is so sparse. I shave my arms and legs when I feel like it. (Yes I shave my arms some people think it’s weird but I do it anyway) The only thing I shave regularly is my armpits and “down there’” because they are the only parts that get hairy and I don’t like hairy, on me! How a girl cares for her body is her decision and nobody else’s decision.
    I don’t know why I shave, I’ve never thought about it. I just do it without thinking. Guess I’ve been brainwashed.

  25. Mary J. 06/15/2011 at 1:57 am #

    Oh boy, Modcloth…I love you, but are we really going to pretend that this is some kind of feminist blog? Why?? Because everyone who shops here is so ‘against the mainstream’ and probably a vegan? You guys are great, but I don’t think this website is capable of talking about ALL women’s issues (yes, including women of color, LGBT women, non- and able bodied women, etc., and issues a little more serious than hair removal in the ’50s) in an all-encompassing and intelligent manner, so let’s not even go there.

    • Amanda 06/15/2011 at 9:17 am #

      Funny, I don’t see the word “Feminism” (or “Feminist”) used once in the above article. But obviously a lot of Modcloth patrons are interested in its content and feel strongly enough about it to keep the discussion going for over a week. So far the discussion has been civil and muiti-faceted – not to mention relevant – so I’m not sure what your gripe is…

      I say kudos to a fashion site for focusing on such a counter-cultural topic.

    • kirsty 06/15/2011 at 5:38 pm #

      thank you, my thoughts exactly.
      lets deal with fashion and fun, forget all this feminist nonsense.

    • Haley 06/16/2011 at 12:19 am #

      Along with “fashion and fun” comes with body issues and feminine care. Just because this is a blog about fashion does not mean the authors can’t delve into other topics! Grow up people…live and let live. It’s not feminism….it’s what people choose to do with themselves.

  26. sylvia 06/15/2011 at 6:10 pm #

    I would choose not to shave, but hairy legs look silly next to cute heels. I just can’t do it. The contrast is just rude. Haha. Shave for yourself, ladies. Also, it’s interesting that a lot of these ads don’t show legs, but arms. Hm.

  27. susan 06/15/2011 at 6:34 pm #

    I stopped shaving for about four years when I was younger. My family hated it and thought it was gross, and I’m sure some of my peers thought so too. However, it never prevented me from finding a boyfriend (oddly) and everyone I associated with was fine with it. I started shaving again just because I like the smooth feeling and look, especially in the hot summer, but I only shave maybe once a week or so. It should be a personal choice, but unless you associate only with other feminists or hippies who would tolerate it, you cannot. You will always receive odd stares in society if your body hair is public.

  28. Bea 06/15/2011 at 6:58 pm #

    Thanks for raising a great conversation thread. I stopped shaving (everything) about 8 years ago, when I was in college, just to try it out. I haven’t shaved since! Now I am proud to show people that a woman can be cute and stylish WITH her natural body hair. So many people associate hair with dirty hippies that I really enjoy making a statement to the contrary.

    However, I have to agree with Beth. I am fortunate to have a work environment where natural hair is OK. For many women, that is simply not an option. Our society expects women to be hairless, and there are still many environments where body hair is completely unacceptable. Period. I knew many women with natural hair in college, but now that I work in DC I hardly know any.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve never had any trouble attracting men. Everyone I have dated in the past 8 years is either indifferent or actually prefers body hair. I won’t go into the details, but trust me – some guys really like it.

    As for aesthetics, I think it depends on the person and I totally understand that some ladies like the look and feel of shaved legs. I did too – I just like having my hairy legs even more. And I especially like them more than stubbley legs, which, let’s be realistic, was the case more often than I would like to admit. :)

  29. Clara 06/15/2011 at 6:58 pm #

    I was really pretty oblivious to these societal pressures for the longest time, though (and perhaps BECAUSE) my body developed much sooner than that of my fellow elementary schoolers. Girls were cruel and I was helplessly naive, but I will never forget the way everyone looked at me when I wore a pretty dress to school at age 11, leg and armpit hair fully grown, brown, and completely intact. The disgusted reactions I received were a harsh wake-up call that caused me to shave for the first time that night. I suppose I can say that it’s a free choice and I enjoy the smooth feeling, which is true, but to ignore this element of my choice to keep myself shaven would be to ignore what is probably the most deciding factor.

  30. JelliaJ. 06/15/2011 at 7:33 pm #

    An item of note: The first Neet ad listed boasted that the product would make the skin “white, smooth, and pleasantly scented.” The ad was not only targeted at women, it was targeted at Caucasian women.

    • Joy 06/15/2011 at 11:50 pm #

      Yes! Good to know I’m not alone. It was easier to just look for you name. :-) I also noticed a comment above by Mary J. that called out the exclusion of women of color, lesbians, etc. Glad to know we all shop here! :-)

  31. Sherry - Girls Day Out 06/15/2011 at 7:48 pm #

    I do shave all of my hair except for my eyebrows and my head. I like the feel of the softer skin underneath. I don’t have a LOT of hair so shaving 2 times MAX a week is enough. If I have stubble I don’t worry about it. I have friends that don’t shave and those that do – either is fine with me as long as they feel good about themselves. I have NEVER felt pressure to shave. As a matter of fact my mom recommended against it when I was 13. But I really wanted to – I think THAT was peer pressure. For my legs – I have never shaved above my knees. I don’t know why but there is hardly any hair there and I am perfectly happy shaving only up to my knees. I think the bigger controversy these days is the private area. That is my decision and I don’t really care what other people think! Cheers!

  32. Chalice 06/15/2011 at 8:44 pm #

    As young as primary school age, I had to deal with having noticable arm hair. My teachers didn’t mind pointing it out and I felt to ugly and gross in kindergarten. As a teen, I’m fumbling through shaving my body hair and I like the results enough to continue the ritual. Since my past has molded my thinking, I don’t feel dirty like I have conformed or given up some kind of strength because I care about the hair.

    • Chalice 06/15/2011 at 8:47 pm #

      On another note, I love to look at vintage ads ^^ The entire feel of the ads appeal to me.

  33. Laura 06/15/2011 at 8:52 pm #

    “The modern woman has ownership of whatever she wants to do with her own body, so it’s nobody else’s business if she chooses to refrain from hair removal. Conversely, if she prefers to shave as a personal choice, she shouldn’t feel judged, less empowered, or guilty for conforming to something perceived to be a societal norm. She has the freedom to do what she wants to attain her own comfortable and positive body image.”

    In a perfect world, this would be true, but the fact is there still is a great deal of societal and interpersonal pressure to confirm to beauty norms, and that’s not something to be taken lightly. It may be the 21st century, but a woman’s worth is still judged heavily on her appearance, and thus in order to get a job or be respected within mainstream culture, she often must conform to body hair removal standards. To talk about “choice” as if everyone is free to choose without consequence is an utter simplification of the issue.

  34. Raiza 06/15/2011 at 9:17 pm #

    As a track runner I’ll be honest, I don’t always have time to shave and have grown to not care if I walk around in shorts with my hairy legs showing. Personally, I do prefer to shave because (especially my armpits) it’s more comfortable to me, but when I do it’s only my armpits and legs. I don’t do bikini waxing and all that crap. I leave my “womanhood” in tact, if you will. :D

  35. Kailee 06/15/2011 at 9:19 pm #

    I shave on average about once a month in the summer. I am very blonde and no matter how hairy my legs get, you can’t actually see it. The hair on my legs is also soft, not coarse like a couple of my friends. I don’t shave at all i the winter either because there is no point. I don’t see this as unfeminine or less than perfection, I just see it as a personal choice.

  36. tiffany 06/15/2011 at 9:26 pm #

    I feel as if hair shaving should be up to the individual. Personally, during the hot months I will shave my body hair but during the winter, I’m Au’ natural… People should do what’s comfortable for them.

  37. jenn 06/15/2011 at 9:47 pm #

    I can’t help but note that body hair removal in certain societies has been occurring much much longer than just 1915. It has happened for cleanliness and beauty. Caesar used to have every one of his body hairs removed after a bout of lice!

    • Lara 07/03/2011 at 6:14 am #

      Which Caesar?

  38. Joy 06/15/2011 at 9:56 pm #

    Not sure if this has been mentioned as I didn’t read all of the comments, but I could not help but notice how race is being neglected from this woman’s conversation (as per usual). It struck me that the first ad states that “skin is left white, smooth, and pleasantly-scented…” which is just symbolic of how even the most trivial of women’s issues are whitewashed. Women of color face similar pressures, but have to fight that much harder to even be considered feminine. And looking at advertisements today, not much has changed.

    • Mandy 06/15/2011 at 10:54 pm #

      Actually, none of that is surprising, but what to do? Let’s just stick to fashion and fun!

    • JelliaJ. 06/15/2011 at 11:09 pm #

      Thank you, Joy. I mentioned race earlier, but knew that it might get buried in the thread. I subscribed to the discussion in the hopes that someone else would notice it, too. So, thank you.

  39. Katie 06/15/2011 at 10:27 pm #

    This is an interesting article, because I’m always the odd one out in my friend group. I do have light hair, so I suppose that works in my favor, but I don’t shave unless I really want to.
    I stopped for the whole winter, because seriously, what’s the point? Now that summer’s coming around, I shave my armpits if I feel like it’s getting long and I want to wear a short sleeved shirt, and I will shave my legs when Nova Scotia finally gets weather for shorts and dresses.
    My leg hair is 1/4 of an inch long, and not coarse, just like everyone else’s would be if they gave it up for a time.
    I’m contemplating getting my legs waxed before I got on a trip, but I’m not packing a razor. it’s about how it feels, now how it looks. My boyfriend doesn’t care, and I don’t feel up my own legs too often!

  40. DeeDee 06/15/2011 at 10:47 pm #

    I usually shave weekly, but when I don’t feel like it and/or don’t have time I don’t. However there is a personal hygene issue that comes with that and that is the reason I shave. And if I happen to not, the people in society who do see whatever hair I have neglected to shave will get over it.

  41. katherine 06/15/2011 at 10:56 pm #

    I hate shaving, but I feel so much pressure to do it. I am very grateful for living in a tropical country (Colombia) city, that is typically cold, so I don’t have to shave very often, not my legs or bikini line, but my armpits are a whole different story. If I use sleeveless shirts I have to. And I hate it. And it hurts. But the pressure is tremendous. So, thanks for the article, and for the comments. Now I know I’m not the only one who thinks is very unnatural, and that its ok for me to take a different choice.

  42. Brittany 06/16/2011 at 12:12 am #

    So, I was thinking that I would totally buy that Neet stuff until I read, “The skin is left WHITE…” That sort of ticked me off, because I am not white, but that is a totally different issue.

    I think it would be a lot easier if women weren’t forced to shave. I hate using razors, and waxing hurts, and some of the hair removing creams burns my skin. But I will still keep doing it, because hairy skin seems rather unattractive to me, and I always feel awkward when I do not shave my legs and armpits. I just feel a lot more comfortable and confident when I am smooth, like I don’t have to hide my skin. My brother always makes fun of my armpit hair when I start to grow stubble.

    I don’t shave my legs in the winter and fall though because I know I will be wearing tights most of the time. So anytime I can get away with not shaving is great.

  43. elephant 06/16/2011 at 12:30 am #

    I honestly do not feel the pressure. Maybe I’m just an ungrateful little wretch who doesn’t appreciate what my betters have done for me by fighting the sheep and men and their deplorable expectations for our glorious goddess bodies, but whatever. I shave because I want to. That’s all.

  44. Sondra 06/16/2011 at 12:32 am #

    I think it’s interesting how the pressure to shave is spreading to males as well. I have many guy friends who openly admit that they ‘man-scape.’ The mere existence of that word shows there’s been a shift in society. They would also say that if they take the time to be clean, smooth, and hair-free, they expect any female partner to do the same. It’s frustrating for me as a woman with extremely sensitive skin to hear this and feel like everyone is doing it, male or female. I spend my time alternating between body hair insecurities and broken out skin self-consciousness. I wonder how many men are in the same boat but just aren’t talking about it yet.

  45. kitty 06/16/2011 at 3:40 am #

    I shave every other week in the summer, and not at all in the winter. My fiance doesn’t mind it all, and I usually wear long pants all year round anyways. But when I do wear shorts, I like having smooth legs. I don’t care what other people think, and I don’t feel pressured to shave. I just do because I think i t feels nicer.
    I don’t particularly care if other people don’t shave either. In my town appearance seems to be of high importance, so I don’t see a lot of girls with unshaven legs. But, if I did I don’t think id go up to that person and tell them they needed to shave. I figure its your body, you have the right to do with it what you please. You know?
    As to the people calling out the first “neet” ad for the creamy “white” skin… let’s be blunt, that ad is clearly from a pre-civil rights era. I’ll just leave it with that.

  46. Bea 06/16/2011 at 8:16 am #

    One more comment – just an fyi for anyone who hasn’t experienced it. Hair is much more comfortable and pleasant once it has grown all the way out. Stubble is awful, but once it gets longer it’s much softer and nicer! and looks better, I think (than stubble).

  47. Billie 06/16/2011 at 8:50 am #

    I feel so horrible! After reading what you guys have written about your childhood experiences makes me wonder if I’m negatively influencing my daughter to be clean shaven. She’s 11 and started developing early so there’s hair everywhere. We’re people of color but she attends an international school and most of her friends are Caucasian. I don’t remember having any pressure as a little girl but I totally encouraged my daughter to shave. With all the swimming and pool parties, she was so self conscious. She begged me to do it. I did the armpits but refused to do the legs…for now.

    After reading this I’m definitely going to have a chat with her about natural beauty etc. I’m sure she’s thinking that shaving is an absolute must in order to be totally beautiful.

    I didn’t start shaving until well into my 20′s and there was no issue. Now, however, I must say that waxing and shaving are a part of my weekly beauty regime.

    These comments have certainly given me something to think about relative to my daughter.

    Thanks for the insight.

  48. C. 06/16/2011 at 9:37 am #

    I remember seeing that ad all over the subway and being completely bewildered. I kept trying to figure out if it was pointing to these kinds of ads from the 50s in some kind of criticism…nope… Glad to hear it was (eventually) pulled.

  49. Molly 06/16/2011 at 10:07 am #

    I really hope people who haven’t considered that women needing to shave is an “issue” come across this post. Our society’s notion that women need to be hairless has honestly become disturbing, and bordering on pedophilia.

    • BurlyQLady 06/16/2011 at 11:54 am #

      I completely agree with you Molly. It’s creepy and bizarre. It makes me feel like, as a woman with boobs, hips and HAIR, that I’m undesirable unless I’m rail thin and hairless like an underdeveloped teenage girl (or boy for that matter).

  50. halo 06/16/2011 at 11:27 am #

    I have never shaved above my knee even though I normally wear skirts above the knee. In the winter I rarely shave my legs at all (it doesn’t seem to bother my boyfriend). I naturally have blond hair and especially above my knee it’s really fine and hardly noticeable unless the light hits it just right.

    My armpits are a different story. I shave them almost every day because I HATE there being hair there. It feels terrible. I think men should shave their armpits too.

  51. BurlyQLady 06/16/2011 at 11:28 am #

    I’m pleasantly surprised by this article, ModCloth. I thought this blog was just about fashion so I’m glad to see this post.
    I’m not exactly white (Mediterranean gal here) and my hair has always been coarse and dark, unless I’m on the pill. I’ve been struggling with body hair since the 4th grade, which is when puberty hit. My mother almost had a heart attack when she caught me shaving for the first time. In high school all the girls would shave their arms, which I thought was so stupid but due to teasing, I quickly grew to hate my body hair and wished I was as hairless looking as my very white and naturally blonde friends. I’m 25 now and I’m much more lax about it, I don’t shave unless I absolutely have to. I remember once in college a friend (male) spotted my hairy legs and made the biggest fuss over how disgusting it was and told me to go shave right then. Needless to say he wasn’t a friend anymore (and he was very immature, to say the least). In my opinion and experience, if a guy has a problem with your body hair, he’s probably very immature and has been watching too many adult movies, where all the ladies are completely hairless. Men who are a little older and more mature, in my experience, are either indifferent or actually PREFER it.
    I live abroad now, in Israel, and women are much more lax about body hair. You aren’t going to get dirty looks if you’re showing some leg hair. I don’t shave in the winter, except for maybe underarms once a month as I find the longer it is, the more I sweat. In summer, I do struggle a bit with body hair but I honestly don’t care about it as I used to when I was in my teens. I don’t shave my thighs anymore and stopped removing the hair from my arms.
    I used to wax my legs every few months but that resulted in the worst ingrown hairs ever and to this day my legs still haven’t recovered.
    I guess I’m still hung up on getting rid of the hair, I just don’t do it as often and wear pants or leggings A LOT because it’s such a hassle. I never wear shorts out of the house. I do still wish my hair was less noticeable and honestly, ladies, if you have fine and/or blonde hair, I seriously envy you.
    I used to have a roommate that had naturally white blonde hair everywhere and had “peach fuzz” on her belly and she used to wax it off. I didn’t get it then and I still don’t. It’s just sad how we’re brainwashed to hate every little hair on our bodies.

    • BurlyQLady 06/16/2011 at 11:32 am #

      Wow, I unintentionally wrote a novel there! Sorry about that.

  52. Lucy 06/16/2011 at 12:42 pm #

    I prefer not shaving. It makes me feel more connected and comfortable with myself. Part of it is convenience, and part of it is because I do not appreciate advertisers trying to make me feel bad about myself in order to sell a product. I am glad this topic was brought up, and I am glad to hear that other women choose not to shave. I do feel stronger because I’m not conforming to societal pressures, and I do like leading the way for other women to at least realize that they can follow suit if they choose. My husband has never had a problem with body hair, and much prefers it to stubble.

  53. Sarah Adams 06/16/2011 at 1:12 pm #

    I have no problem with women who choose not to shave. My mother has leg hair so fine that she can go 2 weeks without shaving and you can’t even tell.
    I also have many friends who have coarse, dark hair on their legs who feel more comfortable shaving almost every day.
    During the winter, I don’t shave nearly as often, but during the summer I’ll shave about every 4 days. It’s a personal choice, because I like the way my legs feel when their smooth.

  54. Brooke 06/16/2011 at 5:37 pm #

    I Have coarse, dark hair and started shaving in elementary school because I was being teased by my peers. Now I shave my underarms, arms, hands, legs, and even toes. I do like the feeling of smooth, shaven skin, so I don’t mind. What bothers me is the pressure to remove the pubic hair. My husband mentioned that he thinks that it is attractive to be hair-free, so I tried shaving “down there.” we both liked the smooth feeling, but it was painful and left me with a terrible breakout and feeling more self-consious than before. I recently waxed, partly because my husband likes it, and partly because I feel like I would be more beautiful. It is a little better on my skin than shaving, but I wish I could just leave it alone. I like my husband’s body hair and would object to his removal of it, and I wish I could be confident enough to apply the standard to myself.

  55. Sarah 06/16/2011 at 9:04 pm #

    Personally, I like the feeling of smooth legs and underarms, but that’s as far as I go. I think it’s bizarre to shave every last hair, especially considering your palms, lips, and the soles of your feet are the only parts of you WITHOUT hair. What a hassle! I also happen to be lucky enough to be with a man who loves my legs, even if I forget to shave for a week or two. I think it’s important for men to be accepting, only that will cause serious change. In the end, their opinion counts for a lot.

  56. al 06/17/2011 at 12:45 am #

    hii don’t think it’s a personal choice because there is only public pressure to shave. whether i grow the hair on my head short or long, or dye it brown or blond or don’t dye it at all, those are personal choices. whether i wear pants or a skirt is a personal choice. but shaving or not shaving is not.

    i mean, it is, in that you are making a choice. but realistically, if it hadn’t been for the advertising industry and the disposable razor industry, it wouldn’t -occur- to women to shave. it just wouldn’t. you wouldn’t think, oh my skin is so unsmooth (btw, your skin is still smooth when it has hair on it. it doesn’t make your skin rough). yes, maybe some folks might shave, but realistically, that would be a very small number of people.

    that so many folks are shaving only the parts of their bodies others can see is a strong implication that it is societal pressures behind most shaving. if you just like hairlessness (and honestly, hairlessness kind of totally freaks me out, so i am biased), why do you still like hair on your head? why aren’t you waxing your arms?

    the idea that women can or can’t shave as they wish is only half true. if you don’t shave, people -will- think you are masculine or lazy. it’s just that it is more acceptable to be masculine. but a strapless dress and high heels with hairy ankles and pits? you are going to make people uncomfortable.

  57. Evelyn 06/17/2011 at 2:27 am #

    I’m glad this topic was brought up. I’ve always felt the pressure of smooth legs since childhood. I remember shaving in 3th grade! And it was practically invisible!

  58. Vlvitblit 06/17/2011 at 1:54 pm #

    WWKHS
    (what would Katherine Hepburn say)

  59. Annika 06/17/2011 at 2:18 pm #

    For me, shaving is a bother, so I don’t go out of my way to make sure my legs are always perfectly hairless. I shave my underarms and pluck my eyebrows far more often for personal hygiene reasons (I sweat a lot more unshaved, and my eyebrows just look unseemly when they’re neglected). But I know my mom doesn’t believe in body hair removal and I think that there’s nothing wrong with that, nor is there anything wrong with being in favor of it. I just don’t think it’s something girls should feel incredibly self conscious about and obsess over. Body hair is natural and in some cases beautiful. It doesn’t need to be eradicated, just maintained, like the hair on our heads.

  60. Alicia 06/24/2011 at 5:03 pm #

    It’s horrible that women in our society are “required” to do so many things like shave, wear makeup, buy the right clothes, in order to be whatever society portrays as perfect (which is almost always an underweight model…). That being said, I do shave, because I just feel gross when I don’t. I don’t wear makeup. It seems it’s difficult to be a woman; I don’t see men having all of these standards, most of my male friends tell me they throw on whatever they see first in the morning, while my female friends spend at least an hour getting ready in the morning, often more. I know men have their separate problems that they have to deal with, but I don’t doubt that society has molded women into forever trying to become the “perfect woman”, when in reality it would be terrible for us all to look that way. Being healthy is important, but being impossibly thin and having the perfect proportions would be a shame; society needs to learn to celebrate diversity instead of looking down on women, and all people, who are different.

  61. rubi 06/26/2011 at 10:07 pm #

    Thank you for this, I mean, i’d never thought of shaving as something pressured but you actually opened my eyes. I personally HATE shaving but i do it because i feel that i HAVE to. I am Latina and my body hair is very very thick so i think it looks gross.i have hair EVERYWHERE and it has become a big problem for me because i feel ugly with it. i’ve never tried removing my hair, only legs and armpits but i feel pressured to do all my body as soon as possible. And i wish i could be brave enough to not care and not remove all my body hair but i feel unattractive. I admire all those girls who have the girl power to not care what guys might think and not shave.

  62. Annabel 06/28/2011 at 6:47 pm #

    This article most definitely caught my eye! I will admit that I prefer shaving instead of going au natural, because I really like the smooth look on my legs. Also, because I’m a dancer, I have to keep a certain appearance of my legs onstage, and whether I’m wearing tights or not, the hair is still visible. I have really thick, dark hair, and if I don’t shave my underarms for even one day, you can see the hair growing back. The rest of my body is terrible, my upper lip is even worse, and my eyebrows grow back three days after a waxing. It makes me self-conscious to do simple things such as wear a bikini, go without glasses (which cover my eyebrows) and not wax my upper lip. I wish the self-consciousness would go away, but sadly, society has instilled certain norms that don’t seem like they’ll disappear anytime soon.

  63. Emma 07/18/2011 at 6:40 pm #

    I’ve been shaving my legs and armpits since I was 12. It’s a little bit of a hassle, but I only do it once a week. My hair is dark and my skin pale, so I hate the way hair looks on my legs. However, I find it nasty when women shave their arms or “down there”. I tried shaving down there once, and the experience left me itchy and miserable. NOT WORTH IT! Besides, I’m not into the pre-pubescent look.

  64. Becca 07/21/2011 at 11:39 am #

    I use my armpit hair as an accessory. It and adds a beautiful detail to the whole look, just like a necklace or hairstyle. I love the color and shading that it adds to the upper body, far more dynamic than a plain, bland, all-skin look.

  65. Cortney 08/11/2011 at 8:17 pm #

    I am glad to find this post! So many people look at feminism as a manly/ anti-femnine thing. They don’t realize that they couldn’t be more wrong. Feminism is the number one supporter of being feminine! Feminists are just people who fight b.s. like ads telling us we’re ugly/ undesirable/ not good enough… the list goes on and on. Thanks for this ModCloth!

  66. Kay 08/13/2011 at 1:25 pm #

    I have grown up believing that one should keep his or her body in the most natural state possible. I am an African-American woman, so my hairs are pretty dark, but I’ve never had the desire to shave at all. I don’t have a problem with other people shaving, but I do wonder if it’s worth all the fuss and feathers. It isn’t as if the state of the reproduction of mankind depends on whether or not women shave; I have a boyfriend that…well, let’s just say, sometimes he can’t keep his hands off of me. It’s not necessary to shave, and it’s definitely easier if you don’t. So yes, I am forwarding my own agenda. Let’s just be ourselves, inside and out, shall we?

  67. Liz 08/23/2011 at 11:04 pm #

    I find it interesting that society has placed so much importance on hair. Personally, I’d love to be completely hairless from head to toe! I have very short hair currently and I still get teased about it sometimes. Everyone I know would simply flip out if I showed up with a bald head one day! Silky smooth skin is my favorite. Also, because I am extremely pale with darker hair, it’s quite noticable if I don’t shave. I get rid of leg, armpit, and pubic hair, and of course it feels great immediately afterwards and maybe for about a day if I’m lucky. Stubble is terrible of course, but I think maintaining it is worth the effort. I miss the great skin I had before puberty! But I don’t really care what people think about me all that much. I just want to feel comfortable.

  68. Vintagemama 2u 10/25/2011 at 9:00 pm #

    I think the increasing demand to be hairless and pressure to be bare is excessive. There is nothing wrong with hair it means we’re actually women. I personally blame the porn industry…sometime in the 90s they started trimming so we started trimming, then they started waxing and going bare and now we’re all waxing and going bare. When they started bleaching particular areas I said..I’ve had ENOUGH!! Can’t we just have 1 area on our body that doesn’t require a $40 product to maintain!!

  69. Vintagemama 2u 10/25/2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Also, the ancient Romans used to rub pumice stone on their legs in order to remove hair so I guess it isn’t all that modern of an idea to maintain smooth legs…although I doubt they scrubbed their yahoos with a pumice stone…ouch!

  70. Rebecca Kessell 12/04/2012 at 9:12 am #

    I use an epilator, which looks sort of like an electric razor but it has a ton of little tweezers that pull out my hairs. I use it on my lower legs and armpits, as anywhere else is too sensitive for it. My thighs stay hairy, I shave them with an electric razor about once every couple of months as a treat for my hubby (not that he even notices!). I just trim my bikini area, but almost never shave it. That crap itches so bad when it grows back in! Between epilating, my armpits and lower legs get pretty hairy. No one has ever said anything to me about it, and it hasn’t bothered my husband one little bit. I like the feeling of smooth skin, and trimming the bikini area just makes me feel cleaner. I think there is societal pressure to be hairless, but I’ve never been one to pay attention to their crap.

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