To shave or not to shave – the topic of body hair has been discussed and argued over thoroughly in feminist conversation. Some believe it’s against feminist principle to eliminate body hair, while others argue that they like the way it feels and looks to shave. I’m not here to dictate what people should or shouldn’t do with body hair just as I’m not going to dictate how they style the hair on their head.
Ultimately, everyone is entitled to their own preference, and what someone does with her/his hair shouldn’t be anyone’s decision but their own.
However, one can’t deny the amount of stigma and double standards surrounding the subject of body hair on women. Last October, artist Petra Collins was censored by Instagram for posting a picture of herself from the waist down in a bikini because it featured unshaven pubic hair, despite not violating any of Instagram’s policies. Meanwhile, images of girls in bikinis are posted and tagged everyday on Instagram, some of which are more revealing or more “provocative”, and don’t receive the same flack or censoring.
I witnessed the hate on pubic hair again recently on facebook. A friend of mine posted an article on facebook about the health issues surrounding the removal of pubic hair, which broke out into a heated comment war over the preferences of men and women, feminism, and opinions of social acceptance.
Why is there so much stigma around a simple grooming preference?
There are a number of trends that may have sparked the shift toward shaving and waxing: the increase of bare bodies in pornography in the 1990s, the appearance of hairless movie stars in films, the fad toward thongs and itsy bitsy bikinis. Some argue that it’s a male-driven desire to infantilize women, others consider it cleaner and more comfortable for themselves. Whatever the reasons, there is certainly a contemporary social pressure to remove the pubes.
Whatever individuals decide to do, it’s important to acknowledge the health consequences that can go along with hair removal.
In her article, Emily Gibson (M.D.) notes that whether through shaving or waxing, removing hair irritates the skin and hair follicles. According to Gibson, that this can cause the area to be infected by ‘“bacterial pathogens, namely group A streptococcus, staphylococcus aureus and its recently mutated cousin methicillin resistant staph aureus.” Meanwhile, an article in CBS news explained how researchers discovered that waxing and shaving could promote the Molluscum contagiosum virus. Furthermore, the tiny cuts and razor bumps that occur from hair removal increase the possibility of transmitting STIs.
Of course, these are all simply possibilities and there is no sure way of telling what will or will not occur as a result of hair removal.
This is not a call for everyone to drop their razors; it’s simply to bring awareness to the health factors and double standards involved.
In the end, what someone decides to do with their ‘hair down there’ is completely their own business. It’s your body and you can do whatever you prefer!