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Learn about societal norms by violating them and seeing how people react
July 10, 2014 7:03 AM   Subscribe

Since 2010, Breanne Fahs, associate professor of women and gender studies in ASU's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, has offered her students extra credit to personally challenge body hair norms, and document their experiences for the ten weeks during the class: men shave all their body hair from the neck down, while women don't shave. Comments from the public at large are mixed, as you might expect. But if you want to read something with more content, Fahs recently published a research article on imagined experiences of women compared to the documented experiences of her female students, titled Perilous Patches and Pitstaches: Imagined Versus Lived Experiences of Women’s Body Hair Growth (PDF)
posted by filthy light thief (203 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 
The article mentions this, but the social consequences of this fall substantially more on women than men.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:12 AM on July 10 [9 favorites]


That article was so depressing. But also hilarious! The interviews which boil down to "Oh, everyone should make their own choices and we are all free to do that, but I would never do that because I think it's gross and unfeminine and I think women should shave everything except their heads, and I would stand ten feet away from a woman who didn't shave!" The whole "I am a special snowflake who makes all of her own decisions from pure personal desire, and luckily my pure personal desires just happen to line up with social requirements and I naturally find anything but the most commodified, high-maintenance kind of femininity gross and unacceptable naturally" business used to upset me more when I was younger because it's such self-indulgent bullshit, but now that I am an Old, it's just funny.

I haven't shaved my legs in years and years, but I'm fat and gender-non-conforming and so I'm pretty much a sexual non-starter anyway and no one hassles me about it. A good way to escape from body-policing: join [or be forced into] the ranks of the unfuckable, and people will climb over each other to look away from you.
posted by Frowner at 7:15 AM on July 10 [78 favorites]


I think lots of people are going to get caught up in sensationalizing this (that HuffPost article is basically exactly what you'd expect: OMG extra credit if you don't shave your pits) and miss the larger point: that once these students experienced it themselves they had a different view on both the obsessive maintenance expected of women AND how pervasive the norm-policing is on women's body hair.

I shave what I do because I like the look and feel (legs, most of the time) and I don't shave what I don't shave because I like the look and feel (underarms). It took a very long time to be comfortable with going out in public like this, even in Austin. There's still an incredibly deep and shaming connection between hairiness and dirtiness, even if I have just stepped out of the shower.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:16 AM on July 10 [14 favorites]


Also: kitten pits rock.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:17 AM on July 10 [7 favorites]



The article mentions this, but the social consequences of this fall substantially more on women than men.


I don't doubt it, but I've sat in a performance review where the fact that I didn't shave my face every day was an actual point of concern. And I've been fired from a job for letting my hair grow below my earlobes.

and remember when men with pierced ears had to remove them and wear a band aid over the hole ? If they didn't fire you outright for it. Also, only left ear. a pierced right ear means you are gay.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:19 AM on July 10 [13 favorites]


[Post wording fixed, carry on.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:20 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


I'm a professor and, although I'm sure my politics are aligned with Fahs, these sorts of 'performance art for extra credit' things always sketch me out a bit.
posted by jmccw at 7:22 AM on July 10 [24 favorites]


I've never understood why we're all supposed to pretend that women don't have hair.
posted by memebake at 7:27 AM on July 10 [13 favorites]


Meh, I like weird extra credit assignments. It's extra, if you did the coursework you can skip it.

Pogo, gender policing sucks for everyone, but when it comes from homophobia, it is particularly terrible. People used to get beaten for violating hair length norms. I am sorry you got fired, but they sound like people you wouldn't want to work with.
posted by domo at 7:27 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Robinson says part of her motivation for deciding to participate in the exercise was that in previous semesters she felt left out of the sense of the camaraderie of the students who were all bonding over their body hair, or lack thereof for males in the class.

“It’s interesting how peer pressure within the class can create a new norm,” Fahs said. “When practically all of the students are participating, they develop a sense of community and enjoy engaging in an act of rebellion together.”


I expected the negative reactions, but didn't think about this part. So neat (or hairy, as the case may be.)
posted by mantecol at 7:28 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


Marina (a White bisexual woman) recounted her boyfriend’s adamant resistance to the assignment: When I brought up the idea of doing the project, he was automatically opposed. First I got, ‘‘Ew, no. I won’t let you do that.’’ Then I got a joking but upsetting ‘‘I will not engage in any sexual acts with you until you shave.’’.... Liz (a White heterosexual woman) recalled that her boyfriend became angry and hostile when she first mentioned the assignment: My boyfriend started yelling when I first told him, not at me but he was upset that my teacher was trying to interfere with my life in this way. He is really attracted to legs and that is a big part of our sex life. His anger made me cry.

Ugh. "I won't let you do that?" The hell?
posted by emjaybee at 7:28 AM on July 10 [54 favorites]


Wait, I shaved my balls for THIS??
posted by ReeMonster at 7:29 AM on July 10 [9 favorites]


It's extra, if you did the coursework you can skip it.

If you read the article, you'll discover it's not quite so simple.
posted by cribcage at 7:31 AM on July 10


I think it's good to get kids outside of their comfort zone and questioning cultural norms in a really physical, non-theoretical way like this. College is expensive and this is one of those things that makes it worth it, I think. If one guy comes away from this realizing how absurdly difficult, expensive, and time consuming it is to keep all the hair off your legs, arms, face, pits, belly, and crotch at all times, as opposed to the 10 minutes it takes to slather your face in luxury, then that's a net good.

I'm 30 and I've struggled with this since I was a young teen, even though no one seems to notice or care. This summer I'm trying not to shave my legs at all. But I probably will cave at some point.
posted by bleep at 7:33 AM on July 10 [9 favorites]


jmccw: I'm a professor and, although I'm sure my politics are aligned with Fahs, these sorts of 'performance art for extra credit' things always sketch me out a bit.

I think the research article covers that pretty well: women have expectations about the cultural backlash they would face if they didn't shave, but the reality was worse than they expected.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:34 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the women's partners' anger about the assignment was kind of shocking, and their assumption that they owned/controlled the women and their choices. Reminds me of the body policing my abusive ex did: you have to cut your hair, you can't wear that color nail polish.

Who says to someone they love "I will not engage in any sexual acts with you until you shave"?
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:34 AM on July 10 [7 favorites]


memebake: I've never understood why we're all supposed to pretend that women don't have hair.

I was going to blame Harper's Bazaar from 1915, but full the history goes back much farther than that.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:35 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


The article didn't mention how the men shaved their backs. I have no idea how, without new shaving instruments, I would be able to have from the neck down.
posted by bswinburn at 7:37 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


I've never understood why we're all supposed to pretend that women don't have hair.


Is it that, or is it women have hair, and girls do not? It's a bit skeevy, tbh.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 7:39 AM on July 10 [12 favorites]


I was going to blame Harper's Bazaar from 1915, but full the history goes back much farther than that.

That line in the Huffington Post article was pretty weird since it seemed to imply that female shaving is the product of the Gillette Company or something, rather than acknowledge the much weirder and more interesting history of hair removal.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:40 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Speaking as a man who has been slowly cocooned by his own body hair since puberty (I suspect around age 65 I will emerge as a beautiful, hirsute butterfly) this assignment is abjectly terrifying. I recently had to shave a 4-sq. inch quadrant of my chest in order to get tattooed and the amount of work it took to not only do that, but also take care of it in such a way that I didn't end up with a chestful of ingrown hair was staggering.

While I understand that the social aspect of this experiment falls almost entirely on women, if there were any dudes that resemble me in that class and went for it, I salute them in what will very likely be the first and last time they ever decide to shave their bodies.
posted by griphus at 7:41 AM on July 10 [19 favorites]


domo: Meh, I like weird extra credit assignments. It's extra, if you did the coursework you can skip it.

cribcage: If you read the article, you'll discover it's not quite so simple.

You make it sound so ominous (or at least that's the way I read it :) ). Are you referring to this comment:
“It’s interesting how peer pressure within the class can create a new norm,” Fahs said. “When practically all of the students are participating, they develop a sense of community and enjoy engaging in an act of rebellion together.”
In theory, people who decline to participate could feel ostracized from their class-mates, but it would be something of a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation, because people who aren't in the class could criticize you, too.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:41 AM on July 10


Weirdly, this reminds me of my thoughts yesterday about the "I smack my partner lightly when he tells a racist joke" askme.

[Naturally, I have no knowledge of the actual experience of that poster.]

I was thinking about how women are socialized to respond to stuff like sexist jokes or inappropriate behavior with a sort of "oh, you bad boy, stop that, tee-hee!" response, like a light smack on the arm or something. (Picture this in sit-coms.) Women are not supposed to say "that's sexist bullshit, stop it" - if you do that, you're being a humorless bitch. The only protest women are supposed to make is a weak one which can be passed off as a joke.

Nominally, women can "object" to stuff like sexist jokes, but only in a socially acceptable, non-challenging way that doesn't have to be taken seriously.

Basically, there's this whole structure of violence which we're not supposed to talk about - we all learn to behave as if it isn't there, to feel like it's totally normal to respond cozeningly and lightly to sexist creepery. "But that's just how I feel!" Of course, if you're not allowed to feel any other way.

Similarly, there's this whole structure of threats and violence which underlies many straight relationships. Women quickly learn to naturalize policing the body, words, behavior, because it is incredibly terrifying and depressing and love-killing to have to confront the fact that if you fail to shave your legs, for example, your male partner will stop acting like he loves and respects you. That his "love" and "respect" are conditional on an intense, constant, life-long conformity to really restrictive gender norms. It's hugely tempting to pretend that there's no pressure to conform, because it helps you to forget that it's your mortal shell which is "loved", not anything more complex.
posted by Frowner at 7:42 AM on July 10 [70 favorites]


I haven't had a chance to delve into the articles fully yet (I will), but I'm definitely fascinated by this. I think I've been very fortunate in the company I keep, because having been an intermittent shaver (sometimes going years at a time without) for over a decade, I can only recall two overt negative comments, one from a friend and one from a partner. I can't remember ever getting any flack from strangers. On the flipside, I've had partners basically coo over my pit hair, and friends comment about the softness of my leg hair. My husband is pretty indifferent to my body hair, which is nice.

One thing that's interesting, being an occasionally shaver, is that I kind of feel like I'm betraying something when I shave (e.g., for a fancy dress occasion). I consider shaving to be part of my outfit - sometimes I dress up, sometimes I don't, sometimes I wear makeup, sometimes I don't. It's an accessory I choose to wear or not depending on whether it matches the rest of my outfit. But I always feel a little disappointed I can't instantly go back to my previous level of fuzziness.
posted by obfuscation at 7:43 AM on July 10 [13 favorites]


It's hugely tempting to pretend that there's no pressure to conform, because it helps you to forget that it's your mortal shell which is "loved", not anything more complex.

This is so true and painful.
posted by winna at 7:45 AM on July 10 [18 favorites]


Pitstaches? Really?
posted by Sophie1 at 7:46 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


I once saw someone on okcupid whose profile specifically mentioned that she didn't shave her armpits as a way of filtering out people that were unlikely to be good matches.

Four years later, we're expecting a baby.
posted by memebake at 7:47 AM on July 10 [110 favorites]


I have a friend with a female relative who has slight beard-like facial hair. It throws me off, and I've spent some time asking myself why. I am annoyed with myself that I even notice. I think it's that in my world it's so unusual, and that I grew up with such sharp gender based dividing lines.

From my me-centric view of the world though, I'm glad I've had the chance to examine my own notions of comfort and social norms. It's amazing how hard it is to move my apple away from the tree where it fell. But I'm trying.

What a great assignment.
posted by cccorlew at 7:52 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]


Who says to someone they love "I will not engage in any sexual acts with you until you shave"?

Several of my exes ? Am I the only one who has dated women who hate facial hair ?

Similarly, there's this whole structure of threats and violence which underlies many straight relationships.


And the fact that female violence is ignored or downplayed and men aren't allowed to complain about it because "what, they can't take it" and "they probably deserved it".

But times are a changin - not that long ago, it used to be just having a single ear piercing meant you couldn't get a job - especially at a big place with an Actual Policy. The guy who rang me up at Target last week had more metal in his face than my last chainsaw.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:55 AM on July 10 [11 favorites]


For the grad seminar it's bra burning and codpieces.
posted by notyou at 7:56 AM on July 10


Those open expressions of ownership of their girlfriends quoted above are really stark commentaries on what are normally more hidden attitudes.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:56 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


Pitstaches? Really?

From the research article:
Whenever a body norm becomes this pervasive, questions arise about the reasons for its compulsory status. Deborah Aronin’s forthcoming documentary, Pitstache, from which the title of my article is derived, addresses the compulsory aspects of underarm hair removal.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:57 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Who says to someone they love "I will not engage in any sexual acts with you until you shave"?

Someone who is going to go a long time without sex if they were with my partner.

(sorry, flippant answer - obviously it's a horrible controlling thing to say. But I couldn't help but think that it could backfire.)
posted by jb at 7:59 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


"I will not engage in any sexual acts with you until you shave."

Eh, my husband tried to pull that when I first got lazy about shaving, but it turns out that my laziness can outlast his tolerance of celibacy. :D
posted by Jacqueline at 8:00 AM on July 10 [17 favorites]


I've never understood why we're all supposed to pretend that women don't have hair.

I believe that it's all about emphasizing gender differences, even though we're really not nearly as different as all that, biologically speaking. Men are generally hairier, therefore hair must be a masculine trait, even if we've all got it to some degree. Since it's a masculine thing, to do being a woman correctly, you've gotta remove it.
posted by asperity at 8:01 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]


Am I the only one who has dated women who hate facial hair ?

The stuff about female violence is too silly to even quote, but isn't it obvious how preferences for (or control over) the entirety of someone's body hair, including genitals, is not the same as a man's face, for all the reasons of structure and society and history?
posted by Dip Flash at 8:01 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


Speaking as a pale-skinned, dark-haired, borderline-hirsute woman, I've always kind of wondered if there are differences between women in how people react to body hair. My body hair is super noticeable, and I've got it in places where women aren't supposed to have hair. I definitely think I would get a lot of negative reaction if I went out in public without removing hair, but I sort of assume things to be different for women with fairer hair or less hair. But that might just be my own perception.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:01 AM on July 10 [7 favorites]


The article didn't mention how the men shaved their backs. I have no idea how, without new shaving instruments, I would be able to have from the neck down.

Philips has you covered. Terribly useful ad here.
posted by asperity at 8:03 AM on July 10


Shave below the neck? There's part of me that would have to be mowed.
posted by jonmc at 8:03 AM on July 10 [8 favorites]


remember when men with pierced ears had to remove them and wear a band aid over the hole

How did they stop their glasses falling off?
posted by biffa at 8:04 AM on July 10 [70 favorites]


It's an accessory I choose to wear or not depending on whether it matches the rest of my outfit. But I always feel a little disappointed I can't instantly go back to my previous level of fuzziness.

Ruefully pondering how quickly my body hair grows...I can pretty much return to status quo within 24ish hours of any shaving event.

Historically my partners have been pretty blase about any hair in any place. But I wonder if their aplomb would hold up were I to announce "I Am No Longer Shaving, At All," versus my lifelong practice of "well, I'm certainly not going to shave every 12 hours, which is what I'd have to do to meet social requirements, so you get what you get, and sometimes it's a little fuzzy, and sometimes not." I find all too often that people who are comfortable with a practical solution become far less comfortable with a political one, even if they are the same solution.
posted by like_a_friend at 8:05 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


While an interesting premise for educating everyone, I think going about violating cultural norms isn't the best idea for learning .. What's next, chew with your mouth open and elbows on the tables .. Man, that'd burn granny up, make the already bad going-home-for-thanksgiving even worse.
posted by k5.user at 8:05 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


shaving at the table, elbows on granny
posted by griphus at 8:07 AM on July 10 [17 favorites]


I think going about violating cultural norms isn't the best idea for learning

Did you RTFA or any of this thread? Because you seem to be entirely missing the point.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:09 AM on July 10 [13 favorites]


shaving granny's elbows
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:09 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]


I've always thought the whole "what do you mean, women have hair on their bodies unless they go out of their way to take it off?!" thing was covered really well by the lyrics to Pedro the Lion's "When They Really Get to Know You They Will Run," which has the added bonus of being a total jam.

From pp. 2-3 of the PDF, citations removed for brevity:
Women "do gender" both to manage their own (dis)comfort with their bodies and to manage others' anxieties and expectations about their bodies, particularly along racial lines. Women learn to pass as heterosexual to escape workplace discrimination, violence, and negative judgments from others, restrict their eating, hide or pathologize their menstruation, straighten and lighten their hair and skin, medicate their sadness and anger, and minimize sexual violence. They also disguise and conceal their "natural" bodies by "maintaining" their bodies in a way that conforms to social norms.

These trends deserve serious empirical and theoretical analysis, for "by refusing to trivialize women's 'beauty' practices, then, we question the narrow definition of 'acceptable' feminine embodiment, which maintains—at the most 'mundane,' and, hence, insidious level—the message that a woman's body is unacceptable if left unaltered."
HELL YES.

I probably get involved in conversations about the political repercussions of body hair more often than your average Jane, but I'm also one of those from-the-neck-down people (preach!), which means when I do get involved in these conversations, there's always at least a handful of people -- men and women alike -- who will start yammering about how women who shave their body hair are just trying to look like prepubescent girls because they've internalized the tools of the patriarchy, etc. etc. without realizing they are talking about me while I'm sitting right there. It stings more than a little to be told by my peers that I'm a bad feminist because I pick up a razor in the shower every morning.

With that said, a ton of dudes are very happy to say they're A-OK with body hair on women and then refuse to date anyone who doesn't shave. These are usually the same dudes who loudly and repeatedly insist that us ladyfolk are much more attractive without makeup, as they stare longingly at a woman who had to take an hour and change out of her day to make herself look adequately 'natural.' Fuck those dudes -- rather, don't, ever. They're terrible in bed.
posted by divined by radio at 8:09 AM on July 10 [37 favorites]


I shave my pits because they, you know, get smelly, and hair has a way of clinging to deodorant. And the sweat and ugh...I just hate the feeling of having hair there. There's a difference between wanting to and being pressured into it, of course, but my point is that personal grooming choices are exactly that: personal.

As for body policing within a relationship, telling your partner, "Ugh, go shave," can be super hurtful. You wouldn't say, "Ugh, go lose weight," would you?

While we're sharing shaving stories, I've also shaved my legs on occasion. I'm a pretty hairy guy, though, so it takes an hour and leaves them a razor-burnt mess. Plus, it's horribly prickly when growing back, and the skin is still too raw to shave again. It's just not worth the pain for me.
posted by WCWedin at 8:14 AM on July 10


This might not be the takeaway intended but reading all these shaving stories has convinced me that getting my back hair lasered off is now a priority.
posted by The Whelk at 8:16 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


not totally off topic but for those with sensitive skin: quit using cartridges and get a legit double edge razor. Long story short but the razor itself will barely touch your skin and the blade will only cut hair, not hurt your face/crotch/legs/armpits/nipples/asshole. This applies to all sexes.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:16 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


I shave my pits because they, you know, get smelly,

Does shaving your pits help with sweat and smell? I had no idea. I think there's a Roseanne episode about that.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:17 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


I'm male, and naturally a bit less hairy than average, but not smooth. I've shaved everything below the neck for several years.

Out in the world, nobody has said a word and I don't think many people have noticed, nor would I care much if they did say something.

So, yeah, totally more of an issue for women.

I do it because it feels good, both to me and to people I touch. My main sex partner likes it, and no others have objected.

And, for whatever it's worth, if I'm gonna have sex with them, I prefer both women and men shaved. It looks better, feels better, and smells better. Sorry if that messes with anybody's politics.
posted by Hizonner at 8:18 AM on July 10 [11 favorites]


I read a little of the report on the research on differences between imagined vs. lived experiences. I was disappointed that the "imagined" group sample was quite, quite different from the "lived" group sample. The "imagined" group was recruited from an ad in an alt weekly, and deliberately cultivated to get a mix of gender identifications and races; the "lived" group was students in a class, and the study deliberately excluded five students who already "did not depilate".

Maybe both studies in the paper had something to say, but the entire thing is framed as a comparison of the two groups' experiences. It seems like the groups aren't equivalent at all, though.
posted by amtho at 8:19 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


A combination of not-shaving and being butch has gotten me harassed in the past - some men have definitely seen it as a challenge to their territory (being hairy and wearing shorts, I guess?), which always struck me as peculiar.
posted by rtha at 8:19 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


Does shaving your pits help with sweat and smell?

For me, no difference the amount of sweat, but a noticeable but not huge difference in smell.
posted by obfuscation at 8:21 AM on July 10


It looks better, feels better, and smells better.

Hair retains so much of a person's scent, though! If you like the way they Snell,

Hold on I had a thought and now I'm laughing at my autocorrect
posted by Greg Nog at 8:22 AM on July 10 [9 favorites]


The author does point out the difference between the samples, amtho. But interestingly, one of her findings was that the women in the class found the experiment to be harder than they thought it would be. Like the women in the focus group, they initially framed their decision to shave as a personal choice, and they became more aware of the social pressure once they stopped shaving. So the findings from the class confirm the findings from the focus group.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:27 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


I'm a straight guy. About four months ago I got waxed for the first time. Not legs or chest or back; a "manzillian" - or "back, sack and crack" as the place referred to it. I had played around with trimming and shaving in the past and was mostly just curious about waxing. And nervous; I had a couple of drinks and took some ibuprofen before the appointment. Turned out it wasn't such a big deal - some un-fun bits, sure, but it's over quick and not as crazy painful as the stories you hear, at least for me.

I love it. I love being smooth; I love how it looks and how it feels. I love that I'm violating gender norms in ways no one at my kind of conservative workplace knows about. It actually makes me feel more masculine and virile, in a good healthy-feeling way. And along the lines of obfuscation's comment, hairiness or not to me has always been something that ought to be the kind of thing you can play with - like nail polish or makeup or jewelry or clothing; just try out what you like and see what suits your mood and play with it.

But it's not. I'm pretty used to ignoring strangers and pretty good at not caring what they think about me, but showering at the gym I've found myself incredibly self-conscious now. I have no idea if people are even noticing - I'm certainly not in the habit of noticing other men's pubic hairstyles in the gym shower - but in my head they are and they're wondering what the deal is. Not that that bothers me, not that I care what they might be wondering, but they never used to be in my head at all.

And then there's my wife. She doesn't know I've started waxing, or at least I don't think she does (if she does, she hasn't mentioned it). We're not really in the habit of seeing each other naked; we've only had sex a couple times this year. Part of that is down to having two young kids and part of it is just us - our sex life has always gone through phases, and was never incredibly robust. But now I'm kinda terrified to initiate sex or even tell her about me waxing. I know she has a general preference for hairiness, but it's a weak preference. I'm more worried about the gender role violation and how she'll react to that - that she'll see it as an indication that I'm realizing I'm gay, or (more likely) that she'll just reject it aesthetically and take the "it's like having sex with a pre-pubescent boy" attitude. I don't care if she shaves, but I'm terrified of her rejecting the idea of me playing with this purely and privately cosmetic thing. Policing it, I guess.

It's been a very educational experience, being smooth.
posted by thick in the middle at 8:28 AM on July 10 [19 favorites]


Does shaving your pits help with sweat and smell? I had no idea. I think there's a Roseanne episode about that.

Like I said, I'm pretty hairy, so for me, it's a huge difference, I think for a few reasons. Ventilation matters, and wearing a carpet under your arm is bad for ventilation. In addition to preventing airflow, my hair seems to hold on to sweat and prevent evaporation (or at least dripping in the worst case), and it stops my clothing from even attempting to wick the sweat away. Being able to apply antiperspirant to your skin instead of your hair also seems to help a lot. Certainly not everyone's story, but I'm sure some people can relate.
posted by WCWedin at 8:30 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Does shaving your pits help with sweat and smell?

It definitely does for me. Even when I let my legs reacquire their natural furry pelt in the winter, I still shave my armpits because they get noticeably stinkier and sweatier the more the hair grows back. I don't know if it's just because all the deodorant/antiperspirant gets stuck in the hair or what. Also, maybe I wouldn't have had this problem if I hadn't started shaving my pits in the first place, but they get itchier the longer I go without shaving them.

So, y'know, down with the patriarchy, but I'm still gonna be shaving my armpits for the foreseeable future.
posted by yasaman at 8:31 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Now that I have found a gel that doesn't dry white and gets down to the skin, I have no issues with sweat or smell while keeping underarm hair. (And I promise I have people who would tell me if I smell!) White flecks of deodorant are pretty gross whether you have hair there or not.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:32 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


If it's just a stinkyness thing, though, then shouldn't more guys feel pressure to shave their pits? It's not like it's any more acceptable for guys to be stinky.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:34 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]


The joy of being an English major was reading and writing, not stunts, got me extra credit. Do professor dream up these things just to get publicity?

No, they dream these things up to further their academic research and learn more about the world - you know, what 80% of their job is.

This whole "why is this extra credit" line is a pointless derail, and sorry to continue it, but maybe this can end it. Students participating in experiments as subjects is completely standard in the social sciences. It's not even optional for a lot of psychology undergrads - it's required for their participation grade. (Thus the sad reality that the most well understood psyche on the planet is the 18-22 year old American). This was an optional assignment, in an optional course for people who have a strong interest in gender studies and issues just like this.

And it produced good qualitative research which furthers our understanding of the social pressures faced by women in contemporary American culture (and others, but the study is American) regarding hair grooming and other aspects of gender performance. Which - to reiterate again - is the professor's job.
posted by jb at 8:34 AM on July 10 [20 favorites]


It stings more than a little to be told by my peers that I'm a bad feminist because I pick up a razor in the shower every morning.

I once shut up someone in a discussion about "is it possible to be a feminist who shaves" by asking, "so, wait, are you saying that a woman couldn't have possibly come to the decision to shave independently of cultural norms, and the reason why she can't is because women are all brainwashed by the patriarchy and cannot think for themselves?" She didn't have anything to say to that.

I pretty much only shave when there's a chance of my getting laid in the immediate future because it helps make things a bit more aerodynamic. (Not the junk - that just gets a trim with scissors, but only to stave off any "whoops, I got hair in my mouth" moments.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:39 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]


Does shaving your pits help with sweat and smell?

There's a big difference in sweat smell for me. Which is usually why I cave and shave my pits, just to feel a little cleaner.
posted by dabitch at 8:43 AM on July 10


If it's just a stinkyness thing, though, then shouldn't more guys feel pressure to shave their pits? It's not like it's any more acceptable for guys to be stinky.

It is fully more acceptable for guys to be stinky. Not highway-underpass stinky, but I cannot imagine a woman going into a deli to pick up lunch smelling the way I do after I've been at the gym without getting a lot more guff.
posted by psoas at 8:43 AM on July 10 [16 favorites]


I've now had a beard continuously for a long time, so it's been well over a decade since I have shaved anything, much less what the FPP experiment covers. Not doing any shaving/waxing/etc is a luxury in a way, given the trouble and expense. It should be a choice (a real choice, not a get hassled on the street choice) available to everyone, just like non-judgemental hair removal should be a choice for everyone. Hair is fun and it's a weird thing for us to hang all of our judginess on.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:46 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


The author does point out the difference between the samples, amtho. But interestingly, one of her findings was that the women in the class found the experiment to be harder than they thought it would be. Like the women in the focus group, they initially framed their decision to shave as a personal choice, and they became more aware of the social pressure once they stopped shaving. So the findings from the class confirm the findings from the focus group.

more interestingly: it didn't fully confirm the findings from the focus group. The focus group data showed that participants believed shaving was simply a personal choice, though they (unconsciously) also demonstrated strong feelings against other women making the choice not to shave. The experiential data showed clearly that there is strong social pressure on women to shave, even on women who are gender studies majors (and who might be expected to socialise in a more gender-liberal environment).

Experiential data like this is really important in social and cultural studies. Due to both academic fashion and the difficulty in obtaining data about experience, I've seen a lot of cultural studies (especially in history) head towards what I'll call "narrative sources": the stories that we tell about ourselves. Our narratives are important, but they are only one kind of source - and lived experience can be very different from what narrative sources like texts (in history) or focus groups/interviews (in social sciences) provide. People say one thing, but do (or experience) another.
posted by jb at 8:46 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


telling your partner, "Ugh, go shave," can be super hurtful. You wouldn't say, "Ugh, go lose weight," would you?


Unsurprisingly the sort of people who would say the former do not shrink from saying the latter.


I too have found that pit shaving absolutely makes a difference in odor. Also the unfortunate problem of antiperspirant clumping in pit hair is made even worse when you are a lady as the sleeves of our short sleeved shirts are usually ridiculously high-cut for supposed cuteness or whatever instead of for usefulness, as with men's short sleeved shirt sleeves.

sleeves sleeves sleeves it doesnt even look like a word now wooooo sleeveysleeves

Anyway if I was alone on a desert island free from all social constraints I would still do my best to find a way to remove body hair from areas where normal body movements produce chafing. This is because to me personally, body hair in those areas is extremely uncomfortable, unpleasant, and unwanted. I get rashes and irritated skin and it drives me insane, enough so that I will claw at it until it bleeds in my sleep. (and yes, this happened long before shaving was even a thought in my mind, i am not a tragic victim of the patriarchy/societal expectations, save it for someone who cares.)

I haven't a single fuck to give re: what anyone else wants to do with their body hair and expect the same consideration from partners of any gender.
posted by elizardbits at 8:48 AM on July 10 [13 favorites]


I remember losing two female friends who clearly didn't wear deodorant, let alone shave during a museum visit. It was really easy to tell that I've found them before I even saw them.

Anyway they seem to manage. Some folks can hang.
posted by deathmaven at 8:48 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Somewhat off-topic, but an interesting anecdote from the dark ages.

One of my first jobs was working in a sterile lab that manufactured poultry vaccines by growing the viruses in fertilized chicken eggs. The supervisor of a certain department was an extremely closeted and misogynistic grumpy old gay man, and all of his workers were women.

He frequently would yell at the ladies to "keep their legs crossed" so that bacteria would not magically exit their crotch and contaminate the product. He claimed he could smell when any of his workers were menstruating, and several times blamed specific women for having "ruined" batches of vaccine in this manner.

At some point in the 1970s, someone had all they could take and went to the personnel manager with what a presumptuous asshole he was being. He got demoted and exiled to a place where he had little or no contact with any women, today he would likely be dealt with more harshly.

And amazingly, once the women didn't have to keep their legs crossed anymore, the quality of the finished product went up! Who'da thunk it.
posted by ackptui at 8:51 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]


sleeves sleeves sleeves it doesnt even look like a word now wooooo sleeveysleeves

Where does elizardbits keep her armies?

Up her sleevies!

HAHAHA just kidding she masses nefarious hordes on tumblr then unleashes them on an unsuspecting world.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:52 AM on July 10 [23 favorites]


challenge body hair norms ... : men shave all their body hair from the neck down

How is this challenging a body hair norm? This sounds like almost every shirtless man depicted in popular culture for the past two decades.
posted by exogenous at 8:53 AM on July 10 [7 favorites]


yeah for reals, man of steel was the first movie in a long time that featured a guy in his natural gloriously bepelted state and did not have glistening waxed chest/abs

basically the only good thing about the entire film too
posted by elizardbits at 8:55 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


This article crystallized something that's been bothering me for weeks. I recently passed a store called "The Art of Shaving," which was obviously set up as a very masculine thing. (Google tells me its a national chain.) My first reaction was to laugh at the absurdity of all those products and kits and the hyper-masculinity of it all simply because of the amount of time and effort women spend in hair removal compared to men.

But it's bothered me ever since, because it's frustrating that women DO spend more time and body space in hair removal, yet men's products seem so superior, and because the store was set up to emphasize the masculinity of men doing this. It made this activity for gender identity seem very noble for men - which has its own set of problematic expectations - but it's hard to think of a similar example for women. You'd never find a store for women where it's so blatantly called out in a similar noble way. (Instead we have "spa days" or something.) The point that we're not supposed to acknowledge women as people who shave, yet our societal norms demand it, is a home run.

But going along with that, it would have been interesting for the author to also delve into the economics of it all, not just in terms of jobs as pointed out earlier in the thread, but how much time and money it takes for women to groom their body hair versus men. (Frustrated is the mind of any woman who, working on time intensive project with men, still has to shave her legs & pits while the guys decide to grow out beards as a sign of their commitment. Oh yeah, that 8 minutes is going to make a HUGE difference! Give me a break.)

It's an investment both sexes make, but what happens when you can't afford all those grooming materials? How much judgment is applied not just for gender identity but socio-economically? Maybe the prof will explore that more in the future.
posted by barchan at 9:01 AM on July 10 [28 favorites]


Some years I shave my legs, some years I don't. I like the way legs look with hair. It's summer, I have bug bites, scratches and bruises on my legs, and shaved, they look white and skinned. Wearing nylon stockings seems to be out of fashion, nice, because hair pressed down by nylon looks ugly. Armpits, yeah, I like mine shaved, not a fan of pit hair. If you like yours, fine.

People do freak out about shaving, as if it's a hygiene issue; it's not. Legs, with or without hair, aren't smelly, don't transmit germs, whatever. Conformity is the big thing. As son as you show a willingness to ignore norms, you've outed yourself as dangerous. Next thing, you'll want equal pay, control of your own body, that shit.
posted by theora55 at 9:02 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]


Probably a comparable experiment for guys would be to have them wear makeup every day, and you probably couldn't do that without exposing them to the threat of violence.
I once shut up someone in a discussion about "is it possible to be a feminist who shaves" by asking, "so, wait, are you saying that a woman couldn't have possibly come to the decision to shave independently of cultural norms, and the reason why she can't is because women are all brainwashed by the patriarchy and cannot think for themselves?" She didn't have anything to say to that.
Well, look: I am a feminist who shaves, so of course I think it's possible. But I think it's really naive to think that anyone comes to any decision independently of cultural norms. We don't ever exist independently of cultural norms. Women who choose not to shave aren't doing it independently of cultural norms, either. Every thing we do is conditioned in some way by cultural norms.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:04 AM on July 10 [38 favorites]


I remember losing two female friends who clearly didn't wear deodorant, let alone shave during a museum visit. It was really easy to tell that I've found them before I even saw them.

I do not wish to be trackable by scent to any but the most advanced of predators.
posted by maryr at 9:05 AM on July 10 [7 favorites]


Several of my exes ? Am I the only one who has dated women who hate facial hair ?

Never dated a woman who liked my face stubble. Wife hates it and asks me to shave before kissing her. But that's because my beard is scratchy and irritates her face, not because she thinks I look dirty or ugly with it. Not the same thing as a guy asking his girlfriend to shave her pits because he thinks the hair's unattractive.
posted by qi at 9:06 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the women's partners' anger about the assignment was kind of shocking, and their assumption that they owned/controlled the women and their choices.

Relatedly: I'm fascinated by the ways that men rationalize engaging in this sort of coercion and ownership behavior by framing the feelings behind them as "just a personal preference." It's to the point where I've heard guys borrow the "born this way" rhetoric of the LGBT movement to claim that it's pure inexplicable, uncontrollable coincidence that they're exclusively into skinny, hairless white women or whatever.

It's a nice mirror image of the thing that Frowner and others have pointed out, where women feel the need to frame their own compliance with their partners' "preferences" as itself being "just a personal preference." So you get this dance where both parties in a relationship are saying "Isn't it convenient that our preferences are so similar" and that absolves both of them from examining what's going on more closely.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:06 AM on July 10 [26 favorites]


On the armpit-hair-to-smell-ratio detour, it's commonly held that pit hair reduces odor by wicking away moisture. My personal experience is pretty much the opposite, with the noticeable but not huge difference. I suspect it probably is one of those things that varies based on individual biochemistry and personal pit-bacteria ecosystems; my theory's always been that since it's primarily apocrine-eating bacteria that generate armpit funk, that more hair in the pits give the flora responsible more surface area to work their smelly byproducts.

I can only imagine and sympathize with what a tremendous pain in the ass it is to shave legs routinely. If I could just selectively shut off my face follicles, I'd be happy to do so.
posted by Drastic at 9:06 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


From the research article:

Men in the class were asked to shave their underarms and legs

students were given a small number of points (the equivalent of 1% of their overall grade) for successful completion of the assignment

There were no requirements about making the hair visible or discussing the assignment with others; students could choose if/when to disclose to others about this assignment

posted by hooray at 9:06 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


elizarddbits, but only as an example among many:
I haven't a single fuck to give re: what anyone else wants to do with their body hair and expect the same consideration from partners of any gender.
It seems to be a very common view in this discussion that there's something wrong with having a preference about your sex partners' shaving, and also something wrong with shaving (or I guess not shaving) partly or wholly to please a sex partner.

I don't see how that makes sense. Is something only valid as a "personal choice" if the "personal" reasons for it pass some kind of purity test? Does that only apply for shaving, or for all appearance and grooming decisions, or for manners and behavior, or what?

It seems to me that there's a big difference between
  1. Throwing attitude at random people in public about stuff that is 100 percent not your business and doesn't affect you. Or being forced to knuckle under because of harassment.
  2. Making somebody you supposedly care about feel like crap, or threatening to dump them, over a relatively minor issue. Or ordering your whole life to please a romantic partner, especially one who's being a jerk.
  3. Letting somebody who cares about you, and who might care about your preferences, know what those preferences are. Or taking into account the preferences of somebody who's a major part of your life if something isn't a big deal to you otherwise.
  4. Choosing your relatively casual sex partners based on casual factors that might have less overall weight in choosing "life partners"... up to and including something like shaving being a "deal breaker".
So which are OK and which aren't? I think that the first two are not OK, the second two are fine, and the dividing line between 2 and 3 and 3 and 4 are, like so many such lines, a bit on the fuzzy side.
posted by Hizonner at 9:10 AM on July 10 [13 favorites]


I don't particularly feel inspired to explain myself to you any further than repeating that I don't care what anyone I fuck does with their body hair and that I expect the same consideration from them.
posted by elizardbits at 9:15 AM on July 10 [9 favorites]


It stings more than a little to be told by my peers that I'm a bad feminist because I pick up a razor in the shower every morning.

Feminists have been fighting each other about the correct way to be feminist since first wave feminism. Every feminist is always going to be a bad feminist to someone as Wikipedia tells me there are at least 20 different feminist ideologies.

The way I think about it is that no one can be 100% feminist all day, every day. People are always going to be a slacking on something, so if you are a "bad feminist" in one area, it doesn't mean you are not awesome in others.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:18 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


that there's something wrong with having a preference about your sex partners' shaving

You can have a preference, but you can't compel someone to do something to their body because you want them to. Also: it's disrespectful and childish to set an ultimatum like "we're not having sex unless you shave."
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:20 AM on July 10 [7 favorites]


I would still do my best to find a way to remove body hair from areas where normal body movements produce chafing. This is because to me personally, body hair in those areas is extremely uncomfortable, unpleasant, and unwanted.

Interestingly, my very different experience (as a man, tho) is that removing hair from areas when skin rubs against skin is that without hair to, uh, grease the contact, it quickly turns into skin-sticking-to-skin and chafeapalooza.

Also, I have "heard" from "friends" that shaving the crack leads to gas slipping out more easily.
posted by psoas at 9:21 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


The 'bad feminist' thing seems to me to be just another way in which women are always damned if they do, damned if they don't. They get to either make the wrong choice or the wrong choice. Sweet!

Also, someone wanting to get naked and touch you is such an exciting event I hardly understand how one has the capacity to concern oneself with their body hair.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:22 AM on July 10 [7 favorites]


I have a friend with a female relative who has slight beard-like facial hair.

One of the joys of hitting my 30s was realizing that if I didn't do anything about it, I'd be sporting a 14-year-old-boy type mustache. We're all primates, and the variety of hairiness among women is greater than you'd ever suspect. And of course some women do have actual full-on beards and serious body hair.

Sometimes I fantasize about a world where women getting their middle-age facial hair was a mark of distinction, like greying temples on men.
posted by emjaybee at 9:22 AM on July 10 [17 favorites]


Metafilter: Not highway-underpass stinky
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:22 AM on July 10


Well, look: I am a feminist who shaves, so of course I think it's possible. But I think it's really naive to think that anyone comes to any decision independently of cultural norms. We don't ever exist independently of cultural norms. Women who choose not to shave aren't doing it independently of cultural norms, either. Every thing we do is conditioned in some way by cultural norms.

Exactly. Shaving is a personal choice, and I believe strongly that whatever people do or do not shave should not invite comment by anyone else. But it's disingenuous to think that we make these choices in a vacuum and that our perceptions as women of what "feels clean" or what's "tidy" or what we "like the sensation of" are completely uninfluenced by growing up in cultures where it's likely that every single image of female beauty we've been presented with has featured hairless women, and when body hair on women is often portrayed as grotesque.
posted by northernish at 9:24 AM on July 10 [20 favorites]


Also, I have "heard" from "friends" that shaving the crack leads to gas slipping out more easily.

Hahaha! Oh my god, it's true. Why is that? It's so funny and weird. Shaving your crack totally changes the entire nature of your farts. Why aren't we talking about this? What is this mad science!?
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:24 AM on July 10 [8 favorites]


I mean, fine, if body appearance demands are an integral part of the ritualized sexual activities of your mutually-agreed-upon D/s relationship then go wild, be appallingly demanding, safe and secure in the knowledge that your partner is passionately aroused both by the demands themselves and the fulfillment thereof.

outside of this extremely narrow subset of humanity there is no reason to rules-lawyer this any further.
posted by elizardbits at 9:25 AM on July 10 [8 favorites]


But it's bothered me ever since, because it's frustrating that women DO spend more time and body space in hair removal, yet men's products seem so superior, and because the store was set up to emphasize the masculinity of men doing this. It made this activity for gender identity seem very noble for men - which has its own set of problematic expectations - but it's hard to think of a similar example for women. You'd never find a store for women where it's so blatantly called out in a similar noble way. (Instead we have "spa days" or something.) The point that we're not supposed to acknowledge women as people who shave, yet our societal norms demand it, is a home run.

Yes! And! There's a related difference in how information is disseminated, and how much skill and experience people are allowed to claim!

If you're a guy who's into old-fashioned safety-razor or straight-razor shaving, there's this whole discourse you're allowed to adopt about how doing it this way is Difficult but also Totally Worth It. You get social credit for acquiring expertise, and further social credit if you're also sharing that expertise with other men on a forum like /r/wicked_edge. If you find that your body is somehow idiosyncratic, like you have a weird hair texture or weird skin reactions to shaving products, then you get even more social credit for talking about that stuff — you can position yourself as A Citizen Scientist, breaking new ground in shaving technique for the common good.

Where for women the whole conversation about shaving technique is dominated by advertisers. So the predominant message is "Ladies, this is sooooo easy!" — when, of course, it isn't easy for most of us either, it's just convenient from an advertiser's point of view for us to expect it to be easy.

And women work around that whenever they can. Most women get most of their actual information on how to shave in private, either learning from other women they know personally or discovering it by trial and error. But there's a strong taboo against claiming credit in public for what you've learned or discovered. A woman isn't supposed to say "Yeah, it turns out I have fascinatingly weird armpit hair and an unusually-shaped armpit and it took me until I was 30 to figure out the technique I use now." If she does say that, it's seen as self-deprecating humor about her weird creepy gross lady body, and not as justifiable bragging about her cleverness, hard work and technical mindset.

This is changing, some, in places. The online brafitting community is a good example of a space where women are openly taking the Citizen Scientist stance towards working out how to care for their bodies, and where social credit is available for learning and disseminating information about this stuff. But that's still decidedly outside the mainstream. You get mainstream masculinity points for shaving with a straight razor, and you definitely Do Not get mainstream femininity points for being into brafitting.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:26 AM on July 10 [49 favorites]


I really dislike the either/or "bad feminist!" framing in talking about these decisions. I feel like it's facile & defensive in a way that shuts down deeper exploration of the issues.

People who are feminists make not-feminist choices all the time in this society because it is impossible not to. I think the important thing is not to try to live up to some "pure" level of feminism - can't be done! - but to be aware of why choices are feminist or not-feminist and why we are making the decisions we make.

That goes both ways, of course - it is easy to run down other people's not-feminist choices that we ourselves are not having to make, and a lot harder to understand why another person might pick the not-feminist choice. I kept my name - that was a very easy choice for me. It's not an easy choice for a lot of other women in different situations than mine, with different families, different pressures & expectations. I don't shave my legs, because I don't want to - but it's an easy choice for me because my leg hair is very sparse and pale so very rarely is it noticed at all. That's not an easy choice for more visibly-hairy women. I don't wear makeup, which is an easy choice for me - my skin is mostly clear, and I don't work outside the home. It's not an easy choice for other women who feel that they are not considered "professional enough" (and are treated accordingly, not taken seriously, possible loss of promotions, etc.) if they don't wear makeup.

I know what I consider to be the feminist choice in all these situations - "advancing the cause of women's equality", and I will discuss it in the abstract & general way for sure - but just because those are easy choices for me personally, I'd be a jerk to extrapolate that it's an easy choice for everyone and women who don't make the personal choices I do are just not trying hard enough or don't care enough - or aren't feminist enough; that's rank bullshit. Making people feel bad doesn't convince them; it doesn't get them to listen or think about the issues, it's just divisive.

When it's flipped on me, I could easily get defensive about being a stay-at-home mother, or being dependent on my husband's income, or having a lot of children. I don't think those are feminist choices, and someone running them down could easily make me feel bad or defensive. I'm not any less of a feminist for the not-feminist choices I've made, however - I know why I made them, and I own the choices I've made. No one has to live my life but me, and I'm not living any other woman's life either.
posted by flex at 9:35 AM on July 10 [19 favorites]



Exactly. Shaving is a personal choice, and I believe strongly that whatever people do or do not shave should not invite comment by anyone else. But it's disingenuous to think that we make these choices in a vacuum and that our perceptions as women of what "feels clean" or what's "tidy" or what we "like the sensation of" are completely uninfluenced by growing up in cultures where it's likely that every single image of female beauty we've been presented with has featured hairless women, and when body hair on women is often portrayed as grotesque.


I have very little interest in what any given individual does with her body hair. I find it nauseating and frustrating to hear endless blather about how it's "choice" and "nothing to do with social norms" and "just a personal preference".

I also find it frustrating that women whose choices are in line with mainstream values seem oblivious to how much harder it is to live in contravention of those values, and how "all the other women [shave their legs/grow their head hair/wear make-up]" does in fact mean that people who don't* do those things seem even more like freakish weirdos who just don't know how to behave.

I feel really conflicted about this, because while I have very little interest in the whole "real feminists don't wear lipstick" situation, I also recognize that if more women didn't wear makeup, I would be less of a weirdo and would not have to worry about "looking professional**" and so on. It's easy to say that if people like me just [do some kind of unspecified feminist-enough thing] then a sufficient quantity of other women will feel free to [not wear make-up or whatever] and then we will not be so alone, but it's also difficult to envision just what that unspecified thing is, especially if one is reluctant to actually criticize the practice of wearing make-up.

I mostly cope with this by pretending that I have a robot body and no feelings, actually.

*See, I feel weird about this whole kind of conversation, because I don't identify as a woman, I am always read as gender non-conforming, but I am seldom read as a man - which means that my body is usually read as "failed female". On the one hand I feel like "why am I talking about what women do, is that even appropriate", on the other hand I feel like my entire fucking life is about negotiating what women are supposed to do, and short of going on testosterone, this is likely always to be the case.

**It's easy to say that you'll just wear make-up for job interviews or whatever, but that just means that you're applying make-up once every two years and aren't good at it, plus you have to buy it on the fly. To really "look professional" in make-up, you need to invest time and money in getting good at it.
posted by Frowner at 9:39 AM on July 10 [26 favorites]


I once saw someone on okcupid whose profile specifically mentioned that she didn't shave her armpits as a way of filtering out people that were unlikely to be good matches.

Four years later, we're expecting a baby.


memebake, I did that too! I'm a woman, and I posted on my OK Cupid profile that I trim but don't otherwise mess with my pubic hair. No waxing, no shaving. Ever. I suppose I should have been shocked SHOCKED at the volume and vehemence of the responses. It's too depressing to think of how entitled certain guys felt to respond negatively, so I prefer to be amused by it. I figured they'd just pass me by, but apparently it's super important to tell a girl--a total stranger--who doesn't turn you on to tell her all the ways that's true.

Apparently I am gross, not fit to be seen in public, a traitor to my sex, a baboon, disgusting, and also a dog.

I did it as a filter. Anyone who responded positively already knew where I stand. A little over a year later, I married one of the respondents who passed through the filter.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:41 AM on July 10 [9 favorites]


Children are hairless. Adults have body hair (with certain accommodations to various body types). In this manifestation, hair may be equated to status. Hair length in men and hairless body parts on women have been a political issue, not simple a sexual preference, for as long as I can remember. It's frightening to realize that we are not in complete control of our images: we are gregarious, and value what people think of us.

Personal choice? Yeah, but you are presented with the choices you are allowed to take. Your tasted is groomed long before you are old enough to grow body hair. It's as much a product of your value system as the uniform you wear to the office.

I saw bra-burning in the 60's as an act signifying personal liberation. Many women also stopped shaving pits and legs, because, as I understood the rhetoric of the day, hairless skin in those areas was a male issue, and refusing to shave established several flavors of an elevated awareness. I liked the bra-burning for several reasons. For example, aside from the implication that we were lowering the power base, I liked looking at braless women. Still do.

I also liked looking at women's legs. Still do. But the mini-skirt seemed to me to be the opposite of the burned bra. Playboy magazine is a sample of this notion: feminine beauty cut both ways, one negating the other because of the confusion. Playgirls were attractive women (to men), who, when they were not being posed in kittenish ways that appealed to men, liked to read. Playboy's editorial bent did much to further civil rights issues, without delving into the division of social classes (the poor were ignored or trivialized) or women's issues--feminists were interviewed, but their views were politicized to match up with general anti-establishment themes. Okay, that's my take on that.

I was able to recalibrate my notions (of what made a woman attractive to me) without much trouble, probably because I was in my 20's, and I didn't have to intellectualize very much the prospect of getting laid. We were awash in the intense roils of the "Sexual Revolution." In context, sex wasn't the only thing that was revolving. It seemed to be all good. Hindsight has disabused me of certain things that went on in that era, but most things about men/women relationships that emerged from the Women's Liberation Movement seem to me to be worth hanging on to.

I was looking forward to the day when a hairy-legged woman would no longer be admired for being a strong, enlightened, militant feminist, and would be seen as being simply an attractive human being. Oh well. The revolution failed, but I hope we provided some valid shoulders for our grandchildren to stand on.
posted by mule98J at 9:42 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


You can have a preference, but you can't compel someone to do something to their body because you want them to.
Well, I definitely agree with that, but I often find that when people talk about "compulsion" or "coercion" in an argument like this, they have different ideas about what those words mean. And of course, the "childish and disrespectful" threshold is probably different from the "compulsion" threshold, but a lot of people might not agree on where that lies, either.

Which of the following are compulsion?
  1. Physically tying somebody down and shaving them, or credibly threatening to do so
  2. Threatening bodily harm if they don't shave
  3. Threatening to hound and harass them if they don't shave
  4. Threatening to end a relationship if they don't shave
  5. Threatening to not have sex with them if they don't shave
  6. Whining and moaning all the time
  7. Whining and moaning a little
  8. Mentioning, once, that you find the not-shaving "gross" or something like that
  9. Mentioning, once, in neutral terms, that you would prefer they shave
  10. Whatever else you can come up with
The devil is in the details.

And, frankly, I'm not sure that I buy that it's in every conceivable circumstance "childish and disrespectful" to tell somebody you won't have sex with them until they shave. In fact, I could turn that right back around and claim it was "childish and disrespectful" to assume that anybody was ever obligated to be willing to have sex with you.

I don't know. It would depend on the case, the strength and nature of everybody's feelings, what could be worked out, etc. A big part of not being childish is recognizing that things are complicated.
posted by Hizonner at 9:44 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


What's funny about makeup is that I haven't worn it for years, but people always assume I do. Despite my obvious visible skin pores/occasional blemish and lack of giant eyelashes/lipstick. I think they assume it's just worn off since I put it on that morning.

Which makes me angry, when I think about all the money I spent wearing that stuff.
posted by emjaybee at 9:44 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


I'm a professor and, although I'm sure my politics are aligned with Fahs, these sorts of 'performance art for extra credit' things always sketch me out a bit.

I didn't think it was only performance - weren't they aso required to observe other people's reactions and write a journal?

Yeah, the women's partners' anger about the assignment was kind of shocking, and their assumption that they owned/controlled the women and their choices. Reminds me of the body policing my abusive ex did: you have to cut your hair, you can't wear that color nail polish.

I'll never forget what my father used to say to my mother when she'd occasionally defy his order that she not wear pierced earrings: "Why don't you just put a bone through your nose while you're at it?"

Most women get most of their actual information on how to shave in private, either learning from other women they know personally or discovering it by trial and error. But there's a strong taboo against claiming credit in public for what you've learned or discovered.

It's because we're supposed to pretend that we don't have body hair in the first place.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:47 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


A traitorous baboon-dog who finally finds the love of their life sounds like a smash hit anime tbh.
posted by elizardbits at 9:47 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


i mean it can't possibly be any sillier than Free!
posted by elizardbits at 9:47 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


I'm a guy and I hate having to trim and shave my beard. It's incredibly annoying and I'd rather be doing almost anything else in the world.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:53 AM on July 10


... I did it as a filter. Anyone who responded positively already knew where I stand. A little over a year later, I married one of the respondents who passed through the filter.

Hey ImproviseOrDie, I think we're onto something here. That's a 100% success rate from our sample of two. Anyone else?
posted by memebake at 9:54 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Oh, and as someone who refuses to shave or otherwise depilate the bikini line, let me just say -

1) it *is* possible to get away with hairy armpits, but you can't get away with visible female pubes, even around the most enlightened people (it looks "wrong", it looks "messy"; it is too distracting; it is "dirty" b/c pubes are gross - I suppose female pubes are distinctly genital, unlike hairy men whose pubes sort of blend down into their leg hair)

2) how hard it is to find women's bathing suits that cover the bikini line (I favorited this recent AskMe question so hard)

3) yes, I am resentful that my natural state is kneejerk-offensive to so many others
posted by flex at 9:55 AM on July 10 [13 favorites]


Which of the following are compulsion?

Physically tying somebody down and shaving them, or credibly threatening to do so
Threatening bodily harm if they don't shave
Threatening to hound and harass them if they don't shave
Threatening to end a relationship if they don't shave
Threatening to not have sex with them if they don't shave
Whining and moaning all the time
Whining and moaning a little
Mentioning, once, that you find the not-shaving "gross" or something like that
Mentioning, once, in neutral terms, that you would prefer they shave
Whatever else you can come up with

The devil is in the details.


The answer here is that all of these constitute pressure of some sort (let's take the word "compulsion" out of it) — and that different women have different degrees of tolerance for this sort of pressure. Some women would consider all of these to be grounds for dumping your ass. Some wouldn't.

But it's also important to note that individual acts of pressure like this don't happen in a vacuum. If a guy tells his girlfriend "It's really up to you, but I'd prefer it if you shaved more often," he needs to recognize that she has heard that same message in much more threatening and forceful terms from a lot of other people in her life — and that she may not be sure, at first, that he isn't going to escalate from the low-pressure version to some higher-pressure version if she doesn't go along with it.

So it's possible to end up with this vaguely Rashomonoid situation, where from his point of view it's "I mentioned a preference and she said she was fine with it and there's no pressure at all here" and from her point of view it's "Ugh, okay, he's another one of these 'you need to shave' dudes and if I don't go along with it he'll just throw a bigger tantrum later."

It's possible for couples to have honest conversations about this stuff. But it's important to acknowledge how much work that is, and how personal and specific those conversations are.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:57 AM on July 10 [15 favorites]


But I think it's really naive to think that anyone comes to any decision independently of cultural norms. We don't ever exist independently of cultural norms. Women who choose not to shave aren't doing it independently of cultural norms, either. Every thing we do is conditioned in some way by cultural norms.

That read on my story is probably due to conversational clumsiness on my part, so my apologies. In the conversation I was talking about, I was responding more to the sort of "you're only shaving your legs because you're a brainwashed sheeple who doesn't know any better" vibe the person I snarked at was giving off. What I said was more coming from a place of - it's possible to be fully aware that our culture frowns on body hair on women, and that this is one of a thousand ways in which our culture holds women up to an impossible beauty standard - and yet, it is possible to decide that despite that, you want to shave your legs anyway, whether it's because of job pressure or because you like how smooth your legs feel when you do because it gives you some gut-level "man I feel sexy" tingle, or whatever.

I wasn't so much challenging her claims about feminist theory, I was more giving her a "where do you get off thinking you have the right to tell someone what to do with her own body", and just using language I knew she'd understand.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:01 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


men shave all their body hair from the neck down

Gay men have been doing this for decades, for a wide variety of reasons.

I could easily get defensive about being a stay-at-home mother, or being dependent on my husband's income, or having a lot of children. I don't think those are feminist choices

I'm male so maybe I'm wrong, but if you made those choices without coercion, of your own free will, I'd say those are definitely feminist choices, if you read feminism as the right for women to be treated equally and to make their own choices.

I gave up on face-shaving a few years ago; I still have to trim every couple of weeks, and shave my neck when I want to look presentable. That's relatively easy. I've also done the full body shave a few times in the past (when doing drag, out of personal preference, or specific requests--not demands--from partners), and as a pretty hirsute guy oh my god that sucked. When I was really intensely doing drag I had to do that shave at least twice a week and wow, women do I feel sorry that society forces that on you for life. Not sure if I can do anything to help combat that particular social construct (for obvious reasons) but if I can tell me how.

Luckily I've had a series of boyfriends over the past decade or so who told me in more-or-less unambiguous terms that if I shaved or trimmed anything below the neck they would leave me, so I got lucky there. (There are a lot of gay men who will have nothing to do with you if you have much if any hair below the neck, which echoes, I think, what women go through?)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:04 AM on July 10


but you can't get away with visible female pubes

Ugh I was just recounting via email the super gross moment when my childhood BFF was crept upon by an adult male lifeguard at the beach for her visible bathing-suit-exposed pubes, when we were in all of 6th grade, and the subsequent satisfying parking lot beatdown delivered by her older brother later that evening.
posted by elizardbits at 10:05 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


(actual quote from an ex when I mused about shaving my beard: "That's fine. Touch anything else and this is over.")
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:05 AM on July 10


elizardbits you just made me feel gross all over just for being a man and thus tangentially related to that creepy assbag
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:06 AM on July 10


Oddly enough, I stopped shaving because I have dark underarms and the hair was less gross than the weird brown skin situation. Where is the dark pits acceptance?
posted by domo at 10:10 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


>> Speaking as a pale-skinned, dark-haired, borderline-hirsute woman, I've always kind of wondered if there are differences between women in how people react to body hair. My body hair is super noticeable, and I've got it in places where women aren't supposed to have hair. I definitely think I would get a lot of negative reaction if I went out in public without removing hair, but I sort of assume things to be different for women with fairer hair or less hair. But that might just be my own perception.

I'm pretty sure you're right. I've darkened to brunette as I've aged, but I'm pretty fair, and was still blonde going into high school. It would never even occur to me that I would need to bleach or shave my arm hair, and I never even noticed the pressure to do so as a kid. As an adult, in conversation with one of my former classmates, I found out that she'd been told pityingly what a shame it was about her "dirty" arms (that is, having not even an unusual amount of hair, but dark.) Tellingly, this did not come from one of the blonder girls, but from some other darker girls. Who, we realized, had already been indoctrinated into the bleaching and shaving routine by their mothers, but were supposed to pretend they didn't. I took my fair share of body shaming, but nobody ever said any such thing to me, not even a word about my eyebrows, which I didn't maintain at the time and were Brooke Shields bushy.

I know my father took advantage of being blond in the Navy because he could go longer without shaving his face before he'd fail inspection for it.

As far as "no sex until", I'd pretty much limit it to "swap out some activities until the scratchy phase has passed..."
posted by Karmakaze at 10:11 AM on July 10


Huh. I guess I didn't realize this was such a huge thing still, in terms of social pressure. I'm old enough now that I doubt anyone cares, but even when I was younger I only occasionally shaved anywhere, mostly just for swimsuit purposes. But I am northern european descent with very fine and fair body hair, and I was always a geek girl who hung out with fellow geeks who didn't care either.

It's weird getting old enough that you have to occasionally pluck a chin hair, though!
posted by tavella at 10:20 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


if you made those choices without coercion, of your own free will, I'd say those are definitely feminist choices, if you read feminism as the right for women to be treated equally and to make their own choices

I understand why others have that point-of-view, but I can't agree; I don't hold with "choice feminism" - just my personal take.

...Okay, and my little rant about "visible pubes" up there did make me think about why the usual "I choose to shave, don't criticize that" discussions hit a raw nerve for me - because there is already lots of societal support for that POV, but very very little for mine. It does feel like when a woman is talking about how she is down with the no-visible-pubes norm & actually prefers it that way, plus it's completely her own personal choice & not because society is telling her to - she's reinforcing that norm I'm forced to pit myself against.

I absolutely know it is a general societal trend and not on any individual person, and a woman with that POV is often very quick to include that she doesn't care that *I* don't shave and I should get to not-shave if I want; but she does benefit from being in line with what's expected, and her stance does bolster other people who read it & think "see, many women are cool with this of their own volition! So it's totally fine to feel like women need to be pubeless! Anyone who thinks that's oppressive... is just being mean to all the women who are okay with it!"

Which does happen.
posted by flex at 10:27 AM on July 10 [13 favorites]


I understand why others have that point-of-view, but I can't agree; I don't hold with "choice feminism" - just my personal take.

Fair enough.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:34 AM on July 10


Flex, speaking as one of the ones who raised the spectre of "the people who wanna shave anyway don't deserve flak" - for the record, I also support your right to not. And quite frankly, if we were both at a beach sporting bikinis, I doubt I'd even notice the state of your body hair because I'm not on any kind of weird body-hair patrol and couldn't give a shit what other people do. Their body, their choice. (Also because if there's anyone I'd be checking out at a beach it'd probably be the dudes because that's my eye candy flavor.)

So apologies if I inadvertently stepped on toes there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:36 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


It's because we're supposed to pretend that we don't have body hair in the first place.

You hit the nail on the head.

A man might experience pressure to be clean shaven in certain circumstances: because of a dress code at work, because his partner doesn't like facial hair--whether for aesthetic reasons or because it's legitimately irritating...

But a man is not expected to pretend that hair doesn't grow on his face at all. If he gets a 5 o'clock shadow, he doesn't face much social censure.

Women who get 5 o'clock shadow, on the other hand... it takes a lot of work to maintain the fiction that hair was never there. (And for some of us it's impossible without painful hair removal methods, due to coloring, etc.) It's not the same as just having to shave a different portion of your body.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:38 AM on July 10 [8 favorites]


Also: it's disrespectful and childish to set an ultimatum like "we're not having sex unless you shave."

My wife has extremely sensitive skin, especially to stubble (my hair is like a wire brush as well). To the point where my beard painfully abraids her skin.

So is she supposed to go around looking like she has first degree burns just so I don't have to spend a couple minutes with a razor? Is that childish? Really?


In other shaving news, she really hates having leg hair, because it makes wearing stockings itchy and annoying. I tell her that I don't mind gallery lends, and she looks at me with an ankle dropping blood and says "I'm not doing this for YOU."

I know, patriarchy and all that, but I have to wonder, if the situation was different and social norms were for women to not shave their legs, if she would be complaining about the uncomfortable unfairness of it all.
posted by happyroach at 10:38 AM on July 10


Hate to contribute to the patriarchal stuff being foisted on women, but if your wife really really wants smooth legs, waxing is the way to go. It hurts like a hurty thing (personal experience) but there's no blood and it lasts a lot longer.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:40 AM on July 10


happyroach, the point is not "Absolutely nobody should ever shave." We could have a great time with the what-about game here. What about shaving the site of a surgical incision? What about shaving before a tattoo? What about bicyclists who shave their legs to avoid road rash? Yes, clearly there are situations where it is ethically permissible for a person to shave face or body hair, or to request that another person shave their face or body hair.

That said, when a person shaves in a socially normative way, there's a negative effect: it reinforces the social norm.

That doesn't mean "Thou shalt not shave" or "Thou shalt only shave in weird ways." It means that this shit is ethically complicated and you need to balance the positive and negative effects in making your decision. It means that it's a mistake to gloss over the negative effects by saying "It's my choice and feminism says I always get to do what I choose." What we need to do is be aware of the negative effects and take them into account when we're deciding whether the positive effects are worth it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:44 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


I've suggested it in the past. She just shudders and Mumbles something about Brazil. Different pain tolerances, I think.
posted by happyroach at 10:44 AM on July 10


Personally, I've been shaving below the belt since college and can't imagine letting it grow back. And in [most] porn everyone's shaved or trimmed. Also used to be a swinger, and in the swinging community, shaving your pubic region bare is quite common, even for the guys. If not, then a close trim. So I'm accustomed to little-to-no-pubic-hair.

Couple years ago, my then-wife and I went to a spa thing with another couple; and the first part of the spa is a large pool/bath/hottub area, gender specific, and nude. It wasn't until I walked into that room and glanced around that I remembered, like - slap-in-the-face-remembered "ohhhhhhh, right..... there's normally a *lot* of hair down there. Wow."

But to each their own.
posted by ish__ at 10:48 AM on July 10


That said, when a person shaves in a socially normative way, there's a negative effect: it reinforces the social norm. That doesn't mean "Thou shalt not shave" or "Thou shalt only shave in weird ways." It means that this shit is ethically complicated and you need to balance the positive and negative effects in making your decision. It means that it's a mistake to gloss over the negative effects by saying "It's my choice and feminism says I always get to do what I choose." What we need to do is be aware of the negative effects and take them into account when we're deciding whether the positive effects are worth it.

Whoa whoa hold up.

I mean, I hear you that empirically a given individual's choice is part of a cumulative effect, but this is sounding uncomfortably like asking someone to assume personal societal guilt over an individual aesthetic choice. And I refuse to feel guilty about the choices that I have personally made about what to do with my own damn body.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:52 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]


"That said, when a person shaves in a socially normative way, there's a negative effect: it reinforces the social norm.

That doesn't mean "Thou shalt not shave" or "Thou shalt only shave in weird ways." It means that this shit is ethically complicated and you need to balance the positive and negative effects in making your decision.
"

So the socially normative way is bad for what reason? Just because it's the social norm? Or why?
posted by I-baLL at 10:52 AM on July 10


So the socially normative way is bad for what reason? Just because it's the social norm? Or why?

It's bad because it's sexist.
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:58 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


The socially normative way of dealing with hair removal is bad, not because of anything fundamental to itself, but because of the its strict enforcement.

I think an argument is also being made here that by not going against the norm a person is upholding the norm and making it harder for those who do not adhere to it to do so.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 11:00 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


I always feel really conflicted about stuff like this. On the one hand, I shave my legs and pits. Pits just make sense from a functional ease-of-deodoranting perspective, and I think from what griphus has described he and I share leg hair patterns, and aesthetically I do not like the look or feel of actual monkey* legs, which is what I had until I was 14 and started sneaking my mom's razor since I wasn't technically allowed to shave yet.

On the other hand I don't wear any makeup, and I never have. There are maybe 4 or 5 times in my life that I was forced into makeup by my mom, and those were all for things that I was going to be photographed in the newspaper or on tv for and were back when I was in high school. But literally the only people in my entire life who have ever given me any modicum of shit or judgment for not wearing makeup have been my own family members. I just have never experienced judgment or shaming from boyfriends, members of the public, or anyone else on the subject of my unmakeupedness. A few guys I've dated have said things like "so do you just not wear makeup ever?" to which I've replied "no" and they've replied "huh, interesting" or similar, in the same way that someone would respond when you tell them you happened to pass three different orange cars on your way home from work. It has never been A Thing. Similarly, no guy I've dated has ever cared or mentioned (except in a loving, joking way) when I've gone a couple weeks between shaving my legs either.

But I hear and read all the time about other women who don't want to wear makeup or don't wear a lot of makeup, and how they get shame and crap for it all the time, so I know it must happen. Since I've never experienced it, I've also never felt any sort of societal pressure or concern along the lines of oh dear I'm not wearing makeup, what will they think of me. I've always just been really curious why or how it is that I've somehow managed to be lucky enough to avoid all those people.


*Interesting side note, my hirsute brother shaves his chest, back, arms, and chewbaccabutt because he doesn't like his body hair. And my dad shaves his legs and arms because he cycles competitively. So maybe my family is just a little nonstandard.
posted by phunniemee at 11:01 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


I don't think it is my business to police anyone's body hair grooming practices or preferences, but I have to agree with the notion that someone simply having a "preference" for shaving that is totally removed from any sort of cultural norms and no different than preferring chocolate ice cream to vanilla to be a bit specious.

I first became sexually active ~25 years ago, before pubic grooming was a "thing" to any significant degree (at least in my experience). I suppose it is possible that in the intervening years thousands (millions?) of people have coincidentally just decided, independently of one another and outside any sort of societal pressure, that they simply prefer the look and feel of shaved privates, but it seems rather unlikely.
posted by The Gooch at 11:02 AM on July 10 [12 favorites]


I also find it frustrating that women whose choices are in line with mainstream values seem oblivious to how much harder it is to live in contravention of those values, and how "all the other women [shave their legs/grow their head hair/wear make-up]" does in fact mean that people who don't* do those things seem even more like freakish weirdos who just don't know how to behave.

This is why I stopped shaving and doing a lot of femininity - to make a tiny bit more space for other women to live how they want.
posted by pajamazon at 11:03 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]


But I hear and read all the time about other women who don't want to wear makeup or don't wear a lot of makeup, and how they get shame and crap for it all the time, so I know it must happen.

I've actually heard a lot more shaming recently aimed at women who DO choose to wear makeup, and although it predominantly comes from men, other women definitely get in on it, and it's just bad news all around.

see also: any stupid youtube videos/listicles/whiny rants/magazine articles titled "stuff guys hate" and red lipstick is always somewhere on there
posted by elizardbits at 11:06 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


articles titled "stuff guys hate" and red lipstick is always somewhere on there

Well now I kind of want to figure out how lipstick works so I can wear it and be all fuck the h8ers.
posted by phunniemee at 11:08 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


What's wrong with red lipstick? If you're gonna wear lipstick (I don't wear makeup), then why not go with something bold and noticeable? Ooooh, is that why guys hate it?
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:09 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Well now I kind of want to figure out how lipstick works so I can wear it and be all fuck the h8ers.

I rarely wear makeup but lately I've really taken to purple lipstick. Highly recommended!
posted by troika at 11:12 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


I found a Pintrest of stuff guys hate, and it was full of black wedding dresses and cakes, which I guess is just too fucking metal for your average dude? Not sure.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:13 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


I hate to jokey mansplain but maybe they were just made that there was no corpse paint?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:17 AM on July 10


Wedding stuff is such a creepily enforced gendered thing for hetero couples that even cautiously admitting that the cake might be tasty seems like enough to have a man dragged out into the town square to be drawn and quartered.
posted by elizardbits at 11:17 AM on July 10


What's wrong with red lipstick? If you're gonna wear lipstick (I don't wear makeup), then why not go with something bold and noticeable? Ooooh, is that why guys hate it?

So in a lot of contexts the expectation around women's makeup is "Wear it, but make sure it's careful subtle enough that other people don't recognize it as makeup." The ideal is to give the impression of having just rolled out of bed looking flawless. If you actually just roll out of bed, people see you as looking sloppy and ugly; but if you wear dramatic makeup, you get shit for trying too hard.

So the thing where guys say "I don't like women who wear a lot of makeup" really means "I don't like women who wear a style of makeup that is currently unfashionable," with a side order of "I expect women to conceal from me all the work that they put into their self-presentation, and pretend that it's all just natural and effortless."
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:18 AM on July 10 [36 favorites]


I've actually heard a lot more shaming recently aimed at women who DO choose to wear makeup, and although it predominantly comes from men, other women definitely get in on it

Damned if you don't try... and damned if it's visible that you're trying.

It's this weird idea these days that everything has to look effortless:
*flawless skin, but no makeup
*Be thin, but don't be on a diet or exercise too much
*ladies, why you gotta be shopping all the time? how shallow & materialistic, but BTW, you better be dressed perfect for every occasion
*stubble is gross because it shows that you're just not naturally hairless, I guess?
posted by flex at 11:19 AM on July 10 [15 favorites]


Oh god yes, obviously wedding stuff is what's gendered, my joke was mostly that it was weirdly specific to dark blue/black wedding colors, as if that was somehow what men would hate the most.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:21 AM on July 10


my joke was mostly that it was weirdly specific to dark blue/black wedding colors,

Ah, man, for the longest time I've totally wanted to have a wedding (don't actually need to get married though) just so I can have dark blue and black as my wedding colors. My mother would freak out soooo much. And apparently so would a lot of guys.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:24 AM on July 10


Nominally, women can "object" to stuff like sexist jokes, but only in a socially acceptable, non-challenging way that doesn't have to be taken seriously.

I get a lot of push back, in a lot of settings. I have thought a lot about it and concluded that people find me deeply threatening for reasons I don't entirely fathom. The fact that so many men will get all up in arms about what I say or do is something I have concluded is a kind of power over them. I have worked hard at finding a way to effectively use that power. And it is kind of a "less is more" thing, basically.


it *is* possible to get away with hairy armpits, but you can't get away with visible female pubes, even around the most enlightened people

My suspicion is that hairy armpits are not sexual. Hairy pubes are sexual. I think a lot of stuff boils down to "Don't remind me you have a sexuality." or even "Don't remind me I have a sexuality." Sex messes up a lot of relationships and if it is a friend or coworker or other person that you need to continue a polite and distant-ish social relationship with, yeah, they don't want TMI throwing a monkey wrench in the works.


RE men shaving body hair: They do that for swimming, for cycling, and probably other reasons I am unaware of. Plenty of manly men shave their legs (or everything) and feel fine admitting it. Also, my understanding is that Muslims of both genders shave off most or all body hair.

The article was not really what I was expecting based on the title of the FPP. My oldest son is pretty aspie. I did a lot of explaining of social stuff to him and he routinely violated social norms to verify, via experiment, my statements about how people would react and so forth. It taught him mom was pretty reliable about predicting what would happen and he came to trust my feedback.

Science!
posted by Michele in California at 11:27 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


I refuse to manscape. Not even for science.
posted by zzazazz at 11:31 AM on July 10


The ideal is to give the impression of having just rolled out of bed looking flawless. If you actually just roll out of bed, people see you as looking sloppy and ugly

Ok, this is what I mean. As a person who really does just roll out of bed, never once have I gotten flak for it (except, again, from my family members) as looking sloppy or anything like that. I mean, I had a shit boss a while back who would say things like "man, you look like shit today," but he said the same thing to all of my (male) coworkers, too. In real not-asshat-boss life, it's never come up. Is this actually something people say or is it something we assume people will say to us?
posted by phunniemee at 11:34 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


It's usually "oh sweetie you look so tired" or "oh my are you coming down with something" in the absence of any actual cold symptoms rather than "what the fuck you look like shit you raggedy ass hobo grandma" but yeah, it happens.
posted by elizardbits at 11:37 AM on July 10 [19 favorites]


Metafilter: you raggedy ass hobo grandma
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:51 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: you raggedy ass hobo grandma

Funny: I am sort of a raggedy ass hobo (old enough to be a) grandma.


I get routinely mistaken for a tourist.
posted by Michele in California at 11:54 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


""oh sweetie you look so tired" or "oh my are you coming down with something""

I think this shows the difference. Your examples imply that it's somebody who regularly wears makeup and they stop wearing it. So people notice that something looks different and that's why they say that stuff.

This is a bit why the prominence of makeup bothers me a bit. It's a bit like wearing a mask over your real face. I've got nothing against makeup or people wearing makeup but I do find it quite strange when I realized that I don't know the real faces of people around me. I mean, some makeup just accentuates stuff but other makeup can completely change a face. It's interesting.
posted by I-baLL at 11:55 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Yup, even my students will comment on how tired I look or ask me if I'm sick if I'm not wearing minimal makeup. Furthermore, after years of wearing just enough makeup to stop the comments, I recently started experimenting with wearing eyeliner. Man. I'm treated very differently in shops and whatnot now, and people constantly compliment me on ... my cool glasses. My glasses ARE cool and have been cool this whole time, but I get 3-4 times as many compliments when I wear eyeliner. This is kind of fascinating to me. And since there are other things about my appearance (which beyond my control) that can cause me to receive poorer service, I'm having lots of internal conflict. My pragmatic self and my feminist self are at odds with each other!

As for everything else, even in a very hot part of California, I just keep my upper arms covered and keep my legs covered and never wear a swimsuit, because I'm terrified of being judged. And then angry at myself for being terrified. HURRAY
posted by wintersweet at 11:55 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


Your examples imply that it's somebody who regularly wears makeup and they stop wearing it.

False. These examples are my personal life experiences as a person who never wears makeup.
posted by elizardbits at 11:57 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Also, I wonder why/how the hair social norm got started and when?
posted by I-baLL at 11:58 AM on July 10


"False. These examples are my personal life experiences as a person who never wears makeup."

Ah, my mistake. So the quotes you mentioned were said by people who didn't know you? As I assume people who know you would think that you look relatively the same from day to day and wouldn't make a "are you tired today" type comments.
posted by I-baLL at 12:00 PM on July 10


Also, on a side note, when I shave people end up complementing me on getting a new haircut...even though I didn't. I just shaved my beard.
posted by I-baLL at 12:01 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


It's a more polite way of saying "Something changed about you in this general area, probably on purpose, but I am unable to identify it without a picture of you from earlier."
posted by Peccable at 12:04 PM on July 10


Oh, I'm not complaining. I just find it amusing. And it happens so often and even to people to whom I pointed this out before that it's quite interesting. My coworker just the other day said "Nice haircut!" then paused and then said "Oh, yeah, I guess that means you didn't get a haircut and shaved" as I pointed this out to him before.
posted by I-baLL at 12:06 PM on July 10


I-ball: (whose name mefi autocorrects no matter how often I fix it -- sorry): I used to get compliments on my new haircut when I was doing weird alternative medicine stuff for weird health issues and would go to work on Monday with, say, dramatically less swelling in my face, having done nothing to my hair. I think it's just a way of saying "You look different and I think it's better."

People are just amazingly oblivious, basically.
posted by Michele in California at 12:09 PM on July 10 [3 favorites]


My niece is an aesthetician (yes that is a word now) which means part of her job is giving people Brazilians. It's funny that a fear that our pubes will be seen by a lover now drives us to go to public places and pay strangers to rip them off with wax.
posted by emjaybee at 12:10 PM on July 10 [7 favorites]


"People are just amazingly oblivious, basically."

Avoid the description of the vid:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo
posted by I-baLL at 12:13 PM on July 10


". It's funny that a fear that our pubes will be seen by a lover"

Heh, I'm pretty sure that the reason people get Brazilians isn't because they're afraid of their lovers seeing their pubes (which, come to think of it, they've probably already seen if they're lovers already)
posted by I-baLL at 12:14 PM on July 10


>It's this weird idea these days that everything has to look effortless.
* flawless skin but no makeup

flex, thanks for the perfect intro to this Alexandra Dal comic: http://www.alexandradal.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/1
0/Lady-Problems-by-Alexandra-Dal.png
posted by virago at 12:15 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


barchan: "I recently passed a store called "The Art of Shaving,""

...which is a dumb store that will try to sell you ridiculously expensive soaps and badger brushes, along with a disposable razor. I mean jesus people, are you even trying? If you're selling high-end shaving supplies you don't pair it with a Gillette Mach 5, no matter how fancy the handle is it's still an overpriced, shitty disposable razor. If you're going to shave, do it right. I'll pit my nickel-a-blade safety razor against your multi-blade disposable, any day you choose, showdown like pistols at dawn.

If you are NOT going to shave, fine. It's your body. Personally I'm kind of bothered by the hairless trend. We're mammals, mammals have hair. Grownups have hair. Hair is sexy. Stop pretending you don't have any. Beards, pits, pubic hair, hell even back hair, if you want to rock it, you grew it, go for it. I'd like to see the depilatory trend die down. I don't want my son to grow up thinking body hair is shameful or that real women are bald as eggs from the neck down.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:59 PM on July 10


I know the convo has moved on but I'd just like to state for the record that it's okay to have preferences, but it's not OK to think your significant other is your property and treat them accordingly unless you have both thought it over and explicitly agreed that you prefer that type of relationship.
posted by bleep at 1:00 PM on July 10 [6 favorites]


caution live frogs: They also sell straight and safety razors. Bit too pricey though.
posted by I-baLL at 1:02 PM on July 10


I-baLL - yes, they do, but they seem to pair every set on display with a crappy disposable. I went in there once looking for different options for blades and handles, and left with the impression that the owners assume people who REALLY want to shave will go to an actual specialty store. Their goal in life is to sell gift sets.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:06 PM on July 10


caution live frogs: Wow, I just sorted their razors by price. They must have a HUGE markup on their razors. They're selling a Gillette Fusion Razor for $90!!! That's crazy! It might have a custom handle but the regular ones sell for $9 bucks.
posted by I-baLL at 1:10 PM on July 10


Ohhhh man this thread is so relevant to my interests right now. (This was the thread that made me finally register an account? Really??)

Much like memebake's partner up north in this thread, I too wield my body hair as a method of deflecting attention from human beings I don't want to interact with! (Thanks social stigma!)

Rule 1) Don't shave. "Wow, it's that easy?!" I can hear you saying. Ahh, but here's where it gets more complicated...

Rule 2) Wear clothing that exposes your shameful hairy legs/pits/etc(??). If you want men to reject you outright and with forceful disgust, this step is key.

How exciting it is that you are participating in your own mini social experiment. Maybe one day your research will help science find a way of harnessing public social shaming as a means of renewable, clean energy!

Here are my experiences with intentionally having pale skin and dark body hair, obviously for maximum discomfort to others:

I actually don't really ever have to put up with people commenting. We're going on a month of my legs fully grown out, wearing shorts and running around in a bikini and everything, and I have not had a single damn person say a thing about my leg hair. And this isn't your wispy filaments of golden honey adolescence, we're talking sturdy black strands of hormone-fueled excellence in female leg hair. I could win contests. What gives?! At least give me a little sass, something to let me taste all this delicious vitriol everyone else gets to experience. Both sets of parents didn't say a thing. Extended family? Nothing. Coworkers? Nada.

But the truth is I really don't want that attitude thrown at me, and I'm really glad that I am not subject to it. Why should I/you/anyone have to put up with someone else's projected physical insecurities? And I thought maybe it was because I have a kind of natural way of carrying myself confidently, or that everyone around me is generally awesome and accepting and lovely human beings because I refuse to associate myself with anyone otherwise. But I can also attribute it to living in an alternative neighborhood where my hairy legs pale in comparison to other more extreme ways of presenting human bodies that I see daily (and deeply appreciate). I'm also in my 20s and white, so all of these things combined it's pretty easy to forgive me for being hairy I suppose: all the +10s to Attractive can cushion the blow of a -30 Hairy Body equip.

And I'm all too aware that growing my body hair out gets me a reaction I want, namely less sexual interest from men-types, but it also can have the inadvertent side-effect of making normals not want to interact with me either. I can hear myself in my head when this happens: I'm normal too! We are the same! Enjoy making small talk with me while we stand in line at Safeway!

The thing is, though, that I never actually notice this thought process happening in other people. How could you possibly tell why someone isn't talking to you when they weren't in the first place, and their body language doesn't read anything aside from "I am a stranger"? I'll never know if I didn't get to have that interaction with them because they just got off a double-shift and all they want is to stuff that pint of Ben & Jerry's in their mouth hole, or if it's because they noticed my furry legs and have deemed me Unclean.

The one time -- one time! -- I got a reaction out of anyone was my best friend. He and I recently went to a water park for his birthday, had just finished discussing my not-shaving, and so I threatened to make him sit in the front of the two-person inner tube so he would have to hold onto my unshaven legs for stability. "I'll cut you," was the playful response. (And I wanted the front anyway, because come on.)

My boyfriend has taken all of this in stride. I explained to him that I get less male attention that I don't want to have to take the time or the blow to my value as a human being to deflect: "I have a boyfriend. Oh you suddenly have to be over there now? Ok." I tell him I call it Boy Repellent. He says it clearly doesn't work, touches my beautiful gross strong feminine hairy legs lovingly and kisses me like he means it, because he does.

Today I am not wearing pants because it's warm outside and I love myself. The wind through your leg hair is an experience I never thought I would find so poignant. I have touched my legs countless times, and the novelty has entirely worn out. I am bored with my offensive leg hair and will probably shave it off soon because variety is the spice of life.

In conclusion, humanity and the nature of being me continues to be both surprising and informative.
posted by Snacks at 1:17 PM on July 10 [18 favorites]


partial credit?
posted by exogenous at 1:28 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


One question: is it okay to volunteer to shave your significant other? Actually, what about applying makeup on your significant other?
posted by halifix at 1:40 PM on July 10


I don't want my son to grow up thinking body hair is shameful or that real women are bald as eggs from the neck down.

Could you maybe teach him that some people of all genders choose to modify their body hair, for any number of reasons? Because I'm a woman who shaves my body hair off for reasons (none of which are currently up for debate, thanks), and I like to think that I'm "real".

Thanks!
posted by palomar at 1:48 PM on July 10 [5 favorites]


Just back from Provincetown, and I can confidently report that the gays, at least, are getting hairy again. It's all properly 'scaped (of course), but the look was definitely more hirsute than clean and plucked - and it wasn't even Bear Week.

It would be hard to find gender parity in this experiment; men have a lot more socially acceptable options for grooming than women. I think the professor did the best she could to include everyone.

And perhaps because they have more options (or perhaps just because I'm a guy), I do sometimes get judgmental about men who over manscape, or who manscape poorly. I'm seeing a lot more elderly male tourists at home who shave their legs, and ... it looks like shit, especially if they don't moisturize. Skinny pale white and ashy is not a good look.


Also, my understanding is that Muslims of both genders shave off most or all body hair.

Not Muslim here, but I have seen shaving booths in the hamams in the Middle East. I was told that men need to shave the genital region as part of the hajj. They didn't do their whole bodies, just a big block around the midsection.
posted by kanewai at 1:54 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


The art of shaving is a very bad store, suitable for malls, but they usually have competent barbers on staff but unless say my barber they won't give you whisky and play old jazz albums during.

/menshaircarederailover
posted by The Whelk at 2:06 PM on July 10


In conclusion, humanity and the nature of being me continues to be both surprising and informative. This thread is awesome.

In pondering about my own grooming per the questions raised by people in this thread I realized my pubic hair grooming decision is solely because of 2 books written by men. It's strange how a few throwaway sentences in completely different books could be so influential.

In Captain Corelli's Mandolin, one of the soldiers says something in regards to some shaven pubic hair, about liking to "burrow and disappear into a good, honest muff." Then, in the SF Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, one of the scientists has sex with Martian born woman. Due to the gravity on Mars, the woman is so big that his hand keeps getting lost in her pubic hair.

Brazilians etc. were becoming big enough then that even teenage me worried about it - I didn't want to do that, it didn't seem pleasing to my own sexuality - and the idea that I didn't have to was a huge relief. And it wasn't about what would be more pleasing to men - a woman rooting around in a good honest muff seems fun, too! - it was more about what I wanted. Having a partner who enjoyed my pubic hair the way I enjoyed it seemed much more ideal to my developing sexual identity than what was being presented as a norm in society at the time.

Looking back now, I realize the influence wasn't actually the sentences but the idea that I had a choice. Recognition that choice is even available is a fundamental step that can't be glossed over. (Sadly, it's a step many of us - of all genders - don't take for many reasons, the ease of making those choices notwithstanding.)

Also weird how body hair removal can be fashionable like shoes.
posted by barchan at 2:50 PM on July 10 [3 favorites]


I basically don't shave. Ever. Except for very professional or fancy occasions where it will cause unnecessary friction and wearing pants isn't an option. This is the very first year since I was a young child that I have ventured out in shorts or a skirt that show my legs. My hair is extremely noticeable, and I had a huge amount of trepidation over it. It went fine, but it's been a month and I haven't repeated it. The pressure on women to be hairless takes up an outpost in our own minds.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:21 PM on July 10 [3 favorites]


Aw, man, let me follow the nanny.

She doesn't shave her legs. Jesus-

Women like that are so hot.
From Enemy of the State. IIRC, the actor is Jack Black.

My experience has been that no matter what your thing is, someone, somewhere thinks it is a feature, not a bug. So I generally don't bother to try to engage in social manipulation (a la not shaving in order to intentionally repel people). For me, attempts at repelling men seem to go like that scene in White Chicks where the undercover (male) cop tries to gross out his male date and everything he does just makes the guy want "her" more.

Currently, I happen to have very short hair. This is not a style preference. It is happenstance related to doing what I need to do about health issues. Recent years have been an interesting experience involving generally violating social norms for a woman and looking more butch than I would personally prefer. I have learned a lot. I hope to someday be able to dress in a more socionormative conservative girly fashion. I like clothes and I like being girly and so forth. I cannot imagine making the choices I have made for "political" reasons. That just does not compute for me. It has been a growth experience on so many levels, a journey I would not have taken had there not been a metaphorical gun to my head.
posted by Michele in California at 3:46 PM on July 10


emjaybee: Sometimes I fantasize about a world where women getting their middle-age facial hair was a mark of distinction, like greying temples on men.

As some men (and women) go grey at a young age, so do some young ladies grow a notable amount of facial hair (previously, twice).

I also left out a link to Armpits 4 August, a recent movement that sees similar to Movember, but without the specific focus on health.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:58 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Armpits 4 August looks intriguing, but I think they're really missing out on not having a health focus. Maybe we can raise awareness of the terrible scourge of ingrown hairs?
posted by asperity at 5:09 PM on July 10


Does it have to be August? That is the stinkiest month. Unless you're in Australia! Let's make it April. Armpits for April! Wear your new spring dress with the spaghetti straps and show off your kitten pits. For...hmmm....what's a good cause? Planned Parenthood? Animal welfare?
posted by emjaybee at 5:32 PM on July 10


Hate to contribute to the patriarchal stuff being foisted on women, but if your wife really really wants smooth legs, waxing is the way to go. It hurts like a hurty thing (personal experience) but there's no blood and it lasts a lot longer.

I have never, ever waxed my legs without bleeding.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:56 PM on July 10


Really? I'm a hairy, hairy dude and never bled when I had my legs waxed. Maybe it's different if you're doing it at home? I dunno. Maybe I was just lucky with my esthetician.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:14 PM on July 10


(admittedly, the first time I had them done she tore off one strip and I tried to flee the room screaming. She basically held me down and pointed out it was probably a bad idea to run down the street in my underwear, so..)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:16 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]


I don't shave. I did ask my husband what he thought before I stopped shaving, and he asked if I would open the question again when the weather got warm (it was October) and I said sure, and then I opened the question again in July or whatever and he said "You know what, I forgot that you weren't shaving, it just seems normal now." I stopped shaving my legs because it was a pain; I stopped shaving my armpits because I have a skin tag in one and that makes it a nuisance and it seems dumb to shave just one armpit. I found that when I let the hair grow, I was a lot LESS stinky, btw. I never shaved my pubic hair, not ever.

Maybe people have opinions about it, I dunno. My husband's is the only one I care about, and that's "care about" not "will give veto power to." If he came to me and said "You know, it's your own choice, but I really do find you a lot sexier when you shave," I might take it up again, I dunno.
posted by KathrynT at 6:53 PM on July 10


Speaking as a pale-skinned, dark-haired, borderline-hirsute woman, I've always kind of wondered if there are differences "between"women in how people react to body hair.

Absolutely. My very fine, blonde body hair rarely gets read as dirty or unhygienic. Transgressive, when people notice it (which they don't always), but in a way that many people seem to brush off patronizingly rather than feel threatened by, if they are the sort who are inclined to feel threatened by transgressive appearances. The patronizing is incredibly obnoxious, and I'd often rather be taken more seriously, but it's also an incredibly priviledged position to be in relative to what women (cis* or trans*) with more obvious body hair have to deal with. It's the Gloria Steinem effect - I can say or do some quite radical things and, for better or worse, not be received as radical because other aspects of my appearance by chance conform well to societal norms around women's beauty. I imagine I'd have quite a different experience, for example, if I had the same hair features but was differently abled, of a more curvacious body shape, etc.

People also don't seem to feel entitled to police my body in quite the same way as stories I've heard from other women. It's entirely possible that my personal grooming choices (not shaving, not wearing makeup, etc.) have affected important stuff, like student evaluations of my teaching. But the only direct comments that I've gotten since about early high school have been positive; and even those have gotten fewer and farther between as, eg., I've been able to afford clothes that signify higher social status (and as I in fact acquire higher social status due to my career progress).

(It seems that not-shaving is becoming a bit more socially acceptable overall though, at least or especially in the parts of North America that I frequent.)
posted by eviemath at 7:17 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Maybe people have opinions about it, I dunno. My husband's is the only one I care about

Yup, same for me--and trust me, lots and lots of gay men have Firm Opinions about body hair, for and against. The only person who gets a say is someone I am/want to be sleeping with, and now that I'm (finally) at a stage in my life when changing myself to suit a man is capital-o Over, they have two choices: take it, or leave it.

It's fine to have preferences. It's even fine to reject people based on those preferences, whatever they are (and yeah, sometimes/often those preferences are loaded with sexist/genderist/$_ist garbage), but our gonads respond to who they respond to. There's nothing wrong with that.

But when you get together with someone, briefly or long term, you need to take who they are and not who you want them to be. Making demands (outside of actual physical discomfort e.g. women--and I know women who have said this--"If you want to go down on me you have to shave or I get chafed raw"), however, that partner(s) change themselves is not acceptable.

Asking is fine. Making your preferences clear is fine. And making decisions about whether the person means more than the preferences can sometimes be difficult.

But demands? Nope right outta that situation and find someone who isn't a douchebag.*

* Douchebag is one of my favourite insults. Douching is something women shouldn't do because it is bad for them, and is inflicted by men. There is no way that 'douchebag' can be interpreted as anything-ist except anti-jerkface-ist.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:11 PM on July 10



I've actually heard a lot more shaming recently aimed at women who DO choose to wear makeup, and although it predominantly comes from men, other women definitely get in on it, and it's just bad news all around.


Yes, I have several guy friends and women friends (but mostly guy friends) who think women who "smear paint on their face" can't be feminists. I mean FFS. I really hate the "smear paint" trope because it's like saying there's no skill or art to it whatsoever. I mean if I just smeared the stuff all over my face I'd probably get arrested
posted by sweetkid at 8:54 PM on July 10 [4 favorites]


I typically only shave during the summer and I feel like being girly and wearing a dress, or if I have some sort of special event and I don't want to get shit for not shaving. I don't shave during the winter, and this relatively minor transgression bothered my family somewhat (my mom's reaction upon finding out that I didn't shave my pits: "What are you, a bear?")

Of course, it doesn't help that I currently wear my hair in the tiniest of fros. I've gotten all sorts of strange reactions to it over the years, ranging from "You're so brave" (???) to "My husband wouldn't let me" (!). I love wearing dresses and makeup, and I also like having short kinky hair and not shaving my legs, and it would be nice if I could do all those things at once without being deemed Insufficiently Feminine.

It helps that I have an SO that doesn't care either way, and is just glad that they get to see me naked.
posted by supermassive at 9:16 PM on July 10 [3 favorites]


re: "husband wouldn't let me" I know several women who casually say their husband won't let them cut their hair and don't seem bothered by that at all.

I dunno.
posted by sweetkid at 9:22 PM on July 10


Honestly, I find it bizarre. Like the notion that your husband gets to dictate your appearance is just so ingrained that it becomes part of the background noise, and no one bothers to question it.
posted by supermassive at 9:27 PM on July 10 [5 favorites]


I agree, what I meant was I find it really strange that they're not bothered.
posted by sweetkid at 9:29 PM on July 10 [3 favorites]


Oh, whoops! Sorry about that.

I also remember hearing about a family friend who cut off her dreadlocks because her fiancee didn't like them. I was the only one in my family who seemed to be bothered about that.
posted by supermassive at 9:34 PM on July 10


Back when I was doing drag more regularly, I shaved my arms, pits and legs frequently. I used to worry about people asking me about it, and I had a cover story all ready to go. But IIRC, the only person who ever commented was a doctor who was treating me for shingles. My parents didn't even ask about it. In hindsight, I'm still kind of puzzled why it wasn't a bigger deal. It just seemed like nobody ever noticed. (Of course, I was never the shorts type. Maybe walking around with obvious, silky-smooth legs would've attracted more attention?)

When this story was making the rounds online the other day, the headline I kept seeing was Prof Gives Extra Credit to Female Students Who Stop Shaving Legs. That really frames the story differently, doesn't it? It makes it sound like the male students are shit outta luck, while this crazy teacher lady gives the girls a cookie just for upsetting mom and daddy by growing out their leg fuzz. Those crazy feminazi academics strike again!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:10 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


I'm a hairy, hairy dude and never bled when I had my legs waxed.

Different people, different skin! I don't even necessarily think it's gendered, either. A former ladyfriend of mine bled really alarmingly from getting anything waxed ever, but had such fine, pale blonde hair that it didn't really make a difference if it was there or not. I've bled from plucking eyebrows a couple of times when I had the three-hairs-one-follicle madness thing going on. My (hirsute darkhaired russian jew) cousin bled a little from a chest waxing but that might have been because he tried to leap away at the last moment.

it is a mystery
posted by elizardbits at 10:46 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


It's miles up thread now, but I'd like to add my own testimony to that of the few brave souls who noted how the removal of butt hair can transform one's farts from the gentle soundings of a french horn to the hilariously loud and bright squawks of ten thousand trumpets. Endlessly entertaining at home but easy to forget in public.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:41 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]


I have only just recently realised that there is NO DAMN REASON that I have to wear a swimsuit designed such that I have to bother in the morning about whether my pubic hair will stick out the sides.

None of the men in the swimming baths are wearing anything that their pubic hair might conceivably escape from.

They are wearing SHORTS and I am going straight to the swimming shop and buying lady shorts as well as a rash guard top type thing.

I note though, that swimming shorts for men are cut just above the knee, or mid thigh at the highest, whereas board shorts for ladies are cut just below the bush. WTF.
posted by emilyw at 5:42 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


shaving at the table, elbows on granny

The Aristocrats!
posted by FatherDagon at 6:18 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


btw here is the epic makeup thread we had once.
posted by sweetkid at 8:02 AM on July 11


Different people, different skin!

I do have rather sensitive skin.

And I've been wearing old-lady bathing suits since high school to avoid the worry of anything showing. It's very freeing.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:49 AM on July 11


nebulawindphone woman isn't supposed to say "Yeah, it turns out I have fascinatingly weird armpit hair ..."

Well sod it, I have fascinatingly weird armpit hair, and I like being shaved, and I've done all sorts of things to try and combat the constant stubble/goosebump skin I have, that never ever goes away no matter what razor, wax or shaving cream I use. Even grow it out a few times a year just to see if that helps, but nope. So if any ladies here have any tips on getting those impossibly smooth armpits you see in airbrushed adverts... Do share.
posted by dabitch at 9:15 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


any tips on getting those impossibly smooth armpits

My armpit health improved dramatically after I stopped using antiperspirant and switched to this. (Also, no more pit discoloration on my shirts. Turns out those come from the antiperspirant, not from sweat.)
posted by phunniemee at 9:19 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


if any ladies here have any tips on getting those impossibly smooth armpits you see in airbrushed adverts

It's actually super-easy to get that unrealistic airbrushed look -- just convince everyone who looks at you to put a little vaseline on their eyeballs!

I basically have the same situation: very pale skin + very dark hair = permastubble. In high school, my mother once yelled at me for having unshaven pits in a photo when I had actually shaved them the very morning the photo was taken! These days, I mostly just let it grow until it interferes with deodorant efficacy, then shave it off and restart the cycle.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:30 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


palomar: "Could you maybe teach him that some people of all genders choose to modify their body hair, for any number of reasons?"

Well, I assume he knows this, as one of his playmates at school has hair longer than any of the girls in the class. And some of the girls there have hair shorter than my son's. But to be frank my anti-bald thing is more a reaction against the articles I keep seeing stating all porn is shaved everywhere these days, and that hairlessness is seen as normal because kids get their idea of body norms from the porn. I know the first non-parent naked lady parts I ever saw were in magazines we found in the woods. And this being the early 80s, there was hair.

I'm not going to try to teach him that hair is right and no hair is wrong, I'd just like him not to grow up thinking all women are naturally bald and end up being disgusted that women actually do grow body hair, unless they choose to remove it. I mean, come on - if you are lucky enough to have a woman take her clothes off for you, you should be smart enough not to start criticizing the gift she is offering.

(Do people still stash nudie magazines in the woods? Maybe this requires wifi in the woods now. I don't even know.)
posted by caution live frogs at 9:47 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Secret briefly, briefly made this awesome deoderant that somehow magically slowed the growth of armpit hair. I know this sounds like bullshit, but it really did work for me. But then they revamped and renamed their entire product line and I can't find it anymore. :(
posted by maryr at 11:35 AM on July 11


Back to 1962, senior class at Fresno High School: My history teacher, mr man, was a crackerjack story teller--I forget his name, now, more's the pity. He lit us up. In the second semester he acquired a teaching assistant, a shortish, trim young man with a powerful chest and shoulders...all this was obvious, even through the required shirt and tie dress code for teachers in those days. Together they made American History into an amazing set of stories, anecdotes instead of timelines, people instead of lists of men with titles in front of their names, and dates bracketing their influence.

One afternoon a few weeks into the second semester, mr man began class by saying something along these lines;

"Some of you may have noticed that mr smith (or whatever his name was) has shaved his wrists up to his elbow. (I hadn't noticed) Well, this is because he lifts weights, and needs to tape his wrists when he works out....yadayada..." for a few more minutes.

As he talked, I realized that he was telling us that mr smith had a good reason (other than being queer) for shaving his arms. The moment passed, and I thought no more about it, but I do still remember it. In those days nobody was gay. You were straight or you were queer, and being queer wasn't acceptable.

Maybe times do change, but it seems like we do more running around in circles than we do advancing along the path of enlightenment. Not much symmetry exists between shaving and not shaving: if you (women) shave, you are making a political statement, if you don't shave, you (maybe) are caving into to pressure generated by the machine. Both choices are ambiguous. It actually takes a bit of focused dialog to determine if you are talking to someone who's perverse and bucking the system, someone who lives outside the societal grid-work, or some clueless person who has no idea what the hell you are trying to say. You spend ten minutes outlining your brief and she says something like fuckit I just like eyeliner, and the purple hair goes with my necklace. (Nah, he says, I just don't like pubic hair on my women.)

There seems to be room for humor here, on account of the irony involved. Except, as has been described in this thread, hair is part of the uniform, and sometimes the penalty for being out of uniform is laced with grief.
posted by mule98J at 11:44 AM on July 11


impossibly smooth armpits you see in airbrushed adverts

There was a great AskMe answer about hair removal a while back, I think it was sidebarred at one point. Ah, here it is.

The person I know who is getting laser done in her armpits has had amazing results, easily airbrushed advert quality, but you don't have to read many comments online to find a lot of people who didn't have such good results.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:40 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


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