A number of women are throwing out their razors, canceling their wax appointments and rejecting traditional body hair standards.
Body hair positivity is gaining momentum as women are increasingly shrugging off the need to follow beauty standards, but the global hair removal market is still a lucrative industry. The market size was valued at 2.2 billion in 2018 and is expected to expand from 2019 to 2025, due to rising consciousness of personal grooming and enhancing aesthetic appeal, according to a 2019 study by Grand View Research.
Harper’s Bazaar was the first women’s magazine to run hair removal advertisements in 1914. One year later, Gillette created the Milady Decolletée, the first razor specifically for women, launching an anti-underarm hair campaign, according to the Women’s Museum of California.
But some female students at Temple are defying these set standards and stereotypes.
Lizy Pierson, a senior public health major, stopped shaving her legs in 2015.
“I’m 6-foot-1, so it takes a lot of time and then the hair grows back right away,” Pierson said. “I have blonde hair, so it just seems pointless.”
In high school, Pierson said she would get negative reactions to her body hair from male peers, which made her self conscious, but she refused to shave for other people’s happiness.
“I was on the water polo team and there were a lot of guys … who were like, ‘You’re so disgusting. That’s so gross,’” Pierson said. “My comeback for a lot of guys who say things like this to me is, ‘When was the last time you shaved your legs?’”
Pierson hasn’t had many people judge her decision not to shave at Temple. A majority of students don’t care, while others are supportive, she said.
“Most people are indifferent because what are they going to do? Tell me to shave my legs?” Pierson added.
After deciding not to shave, Pierson started to look into body hair standards for women. She believes it’s due to the razor industry and media platforms pushing the idea that women are more beautiful without body hair.
“It’s the same for any beauty standard. If you see these beautiful women on TV or on billboards and they have this perfect hairless skin, why wouldn’t you want to look like that?” Pierson said. “But that’s not what women look like.”
The depiction of body hair on women is becoming more mainstream. Billie became the first razor company to show body hair in its campaign “Project Body Hair.” The campaign uses a variety of models with hair on different parts of their bodies and notes that for the past 100 years, women’s razor brands haven’t acknowledged female body hair. In April, Nike Women also posted an image of a model on Instagram with underarm hair, which received mixed reactions, Allure reported.
Maria Murphy, an adjunct professor in the gender, sexuality and women’s studies program, said being inclusivity in mainstream media is important, but consumers should be skeptical of advertising motives.
“Representation does matter because those materials are what is often immediately accessible to young people in general, but the inclusion of more diverse bodies is often a barometer of what’s acceptable,” Murphy said. “It’s being leveraged under marketing campaigns and basically under capitalism.”
Grace Whittemore, a senior theater major, said there have been times she has not shaved because of convenience.
Although there are “trendy feminists” showing off underarm hair on social media, Whittemore said people need to consider women of different identities might not feel as comfortable making a statement about body hair.
“If you’re going to not shave as a particular feminist statement, then you also need to analyze how people who are more marginalized often have the greater pressure to uphold beauty standards than people who are already more Eurocentric and privileged,” she said.
Rejecting beauty standards that correlate body hair to gender is especially important when considering how it affects transgender and non-binary people, Murphy said.
“Denaturalizing bodies from understandings of gender or using bodies as proof as gender is a huge problem that I think society is moving away from but the inertia is real and it’s brutal,” she added.
Whittemore believes shaving is a double standard for women.
“When you think about it at all, clearly, it’s not a hygiene thing because men aren’t seen as unclean when they don’t shave their bodies,” Whittemore said.