by Oana-Maria Moldovan
“Do you think girls should shave?”
This question, which has been asked more and more frequently in recent years, is the starting point of a wide-ranging discussion that often ends up with both parties feeling rather good about themselves, but not like either one of them had won the debate.
So, should girls shave? But, actually, scratch that, should anyone shave, either be them a woman, man or a non binary individual? And maybe, even more importantly, why should only girls - as in young girls - be the ones we are so interested in for them to shave their bodies?
Let’s talk about history
Body hair removal can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where people of all genders considered it fashionable to be hairless. They used various methods, including tweezing, sugaring (a form of waxing), and depilatory creams made from natural ingredients like honey and oil.
In ancient Greece and Rome, hairlessness was associated with cleanliness and sophistication. All individuals removed body hair, often using razors made of materials like bronze or iron. They also used pumice stones and tweezers to pluck hairs.
During the Middle Ages, body hair removal practices declined in Europe, partly due to the influence of the Church, which considered hair removal - and actually any body alterations - a sin. However, in some parts of the world, such as the Middle East and South Asia, hair removal remained quite common - but mostly for the noble families.
In the Renaissance period, the fashion for hairlessness returned to Europe. People used various methods, including rudimentary razors and early depilatory creams. We can blame this one, very easily, on the Renaissance paintings that depicted the ideal of beauty by soft skin.
Later, in the 19th century, the safety razor was invented by King C. Gillette, which made shaving more accessible and efficient. This innovation contributed to the popularization of hair removal in the Western world.
However, it’s very important to add two things here. The razor was initially invented only for men - and only for facial hair -, but King C. Gillette thought he could sell more razors if he brands them like something necessary in every women’s bathroom.
His team created ads that suggested that shaving was a “feature of good dressing and good grooming” for women.
After that, the 20th century brought further advancements in hair removal methods, including the development of waxing and the first electric razors. The 60s saw the introduction of the first commercially available laser hair removal technology.
For us to understand the 60s fashion of waxing and shaving we also have to understand the fashion of the time. The rise of mini skirts and coloured thighs was one of the biggest factors as to why this phenomenon was possible.
But, for most part, until that point, the idea of shaving and waxing was mostly in relation to having hairless legs. Most groups of people, before the 60s, were not shaving other parts of their bodies.
And then, Gillette came into play once again, changing forever the way young girls, young femme presenting people and young afabs (assigned female at birth) were seeing their bodies.
You see, the old ads were destined to an older audience, to women already married or soon to be.
However the ads that were created in the middle of the 20th Century were especially made to target “young girls”, as young as 10 years olds for some. The latest was due to the fact that for so long, young girls were no longer seen as “young” once their menstruation started.
Social stigma and expectations on young people
We established already that the idea of “erasing” one’s body hair is not quite a modern concept. We also established that, for the longest time in history this was seen rather like a grooming technique used by adults.
Amid all that, and with the risk of repeating myself, the last part of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21th Century represented a new era for body hair removal.
It’s important to add here that, in recent years, the idea of young people having to shave has had very deeply sexist and pedophilic undertones. It’s also important to add that this phenomenon can be blamed mainly on the media, “the lolita effect” and even micro trends that romanticize these behaviors - like coquette.
This debate can be resolved either way. One could argue that it’s more clean - hygienic even - to shave, another could also say that it’s more natural not to do so. But it’s not that easy.
Each to their own body
Everyone has their own relationship and journey with their own body and body hair. The true beauty of body hair is that we can actually have control over it, we can choose for ourselves. These are our bodies, or hairs, our choices.
The concept of beauty is highly subjective and varies from person to person and across different cultures.
When it comes to body hair, opinions on its beauty are diverse. Some people appreciate and celebrate body hair as a natural and normal part of the human body, while others may prefer to remove or groom it for personal or cultural reasons.
It's important to recognize that beauty standards are socially constructed and can change over time.
In recent years, there has been a growing movement to challenge traditional beauty norms and promote body positivity, which includes accepting and embracing one’s natural body, including body hair or the lack of it (people with alopecia do exist after all).
Ultimately we have to understand what's most important is that individuals feel comfortable and confident in their own bodies, whether they choose to remove body hair or let it grow naturally.
Beauty should be defined by self-acceptance and self-expression, rather than conforming to societal expectations.
One’s decision regarding their body hair must be only their own. You can choose to partially or fully remove it, or to not even think about erasing that part of yourself from your body. Whatever choice one makes, it should only be theirs; and it’s beautiful either way.