The coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot of things. The changes were gradual at first, and they all started with people getting locked up in their own homes.
Before anyone knew what was really happening, pajamas became new uniforms, and many basic personal hygiene routines were pushed aside. After all, it's hard to care about shaving your hairy legs when you have nowhere to go.
However, this turned out to be a lightbulb moment for many women, who realized they could still go on with their lives without having to shave, whether or not they are in the middle of a pandemic.
Women Are Not Shaving
Many women consider the removal of body hair an important part of feminine hygiene, almost as important as brushing their teeth.
However, as time goes by, they are starting to question some of these hygiene standards. In the process, some of these common practices have been abandoned.
This has attracted a lot of criticism in some quarters.
There is nothing particularly shocking about this. According to Heather Widdows, a professor of global ethics at University of Birmingham, UK, failure to remove body hair is still highly stigmatized:
"It's been deeply stigmatized — it still is — and cast with shame."
A lot of women feel like they don't have a choice but to get rid of body hair.
"Today, most women feel like they have to shave. Like they have no other option. There's something deeply fraught about that — though perceptions are slowly changing."
Fortunately, these changes might happen much faster with influencers and celebrities openly supporting retention of body hair.
Many might remember the moment Lora Kirke was seen in a strapless gown with her unshaven armpits clearly visible to everyone during the 2017 Golden Globes.
However, she shocked a lot of people when she admitted to having received death threats for making this choice.
Years later, Emily Ratajkowski was seen posing for Harper's Bazaar with her dark armpit hair showing.
She explained that it was her decision to grow or shave her armpit hair. The celebrity explained that she considers body hair an opportunity for women to decide what choices to make in their lives.
The star went on to explain that having body hair makes her feel a lot sexier, although she admitted to struggling with the temptation to shave every day.
Some Women No Longer Shave Their Legs
Bekah Martinez, a Bachelor star, posted a picture of herself in a mini dress with her unshaved legs during a red carpet event.
"I've finally gotten to the point where I feel (almost) totally comfortable like this. I stopped shaving my legs and armpits about a year ago as a practice of self-love. I grew up HATING the hair on my body..."
"It's not about 'not believing in shaving', it's about believing I AM BEAUTIFUL, ATTRACTIVE AND 'FEMININE' NO MATTER WHERE I HAVE HAIR ON MY BODY."
Why Did Women Start Shaving In The First Place?
Rebecca Herzig, in Plucked: A History of Hair Removal, explains that the war on body hair started with Darwin's book, Descent of Man. In this book, Darwin argued that men were supposed to be hairy but women were not.
Apparently, women who were hairy were deviant, and an 1893 study did not help matters when it suggested that women with more facial hair were more likely to be insane. Also, these women were more likely to have thicker and stiffer hair like that found on inferior races.
Havelock Ellis added to these shocking claims by arguing that excess female hair growth was connected to criminal violence, strong sexual instincts, and exceptional 'animal vigor.'
Against this backdrop, body hair removal became quite popular in the 1900s. Smooth skin was considered a sign of beauty, especially since sleeves and hemlines were getting shorter as well.
Within a very short span of time, body hair was considered disgusting by middle-class American women. Similarly, its removal was considered a way to create some space between these women and the crude people, immigrants, and lower classes.
Back In The Day, Hair Removal Was Risky Business
Removal of body hair got so popular that by the year 1964, a whopping 98% of American women shaved their legs regularly.
Back then, many of the available hair removal methods were usually dangerous and harmful.
Women would make use of creams, shoemaker waxes, and even sandpaper. These creams were made from things like rat poison thallium acetate, and even X-rays.
Typically, after these hair removal procedures, the women were left with scabbed and irritated skin. Others weren't so lucky, as they ended up suffering from muscular atrophy, blindness, cancer, ulcerations, and the worst ended up losing their lives.
The unfortunate fact is that the stigma surrounding female body hair removal can result in feelings of inadequacy and vulnerability.
Also, according to Herzig, many women end up feeling that their bodies are naturally flawed and problematic.
Is It Time To Ditch The Razor?
The truth is that hair removal should be a very personal choice. Even during the pandemic, some women kept shaving because they prefer it that way.
However, others found little motivation to do so and got comfortable with having "excess" body hair during the lockdown period, and there's nothing fundamentally wrong with that.
In fact, many women have completely stopped shaving, and they consider this a sign of self-acceptance and an important act of self-love.
According to one Reddit user:
"I stopped shaving probably about a year ago. I just decided to stop caring about what other people thought about my body hair, and I became much happier with my body. Plus, I get a lot of ingrown hairs and have sensitive skin, so not shaving makes me physically more comfortable."
Others have done away with shaving for practical reasons: they just don't have the time to do it anymore. Another group of women have decided to take the hairy route as a way to make an important statement about personal choices.
Then there is a segment of women that considers the opportunity to stop shaving a welcome break for their sensitive bodies. Among these women, shaving often causes chafing, rashes, ingrown hairs, and other problems.
For such women, longer hair is better than these skin problems.
Of course, some women are simply indifferent to the presence of body hair, and they don't have particularly strong opinions for or against shaving.
Truth be told, body hair or its removal should be a personal choice, not a norm that should be imposed on people by society. Ultimately, you should decide if you should have body hair or not.