This week saw the television appearance of Emer O’Toole, a young lady who has decided not to shave her body hair; going against what she sees as unfair cultural expectations for women. Apparently, she stopped shaving as an ‘experiment’ and stuck with it.
I have a number of issues with this story, over and above the obvious cultural norms debate. Firstly, I’m not sure how refraining from doing something that will lead to inevitable consequences can be termed as an ‘experiment’. It’s a bit like going on hunger strike in an experiment to see if you will lose weight.
Secondly, how the hell was this woman booked for a TV show? Does she have an agent, or did they place an ad somewhere? Or maybe her hairy body has given her notoriety in her home town,or she was pro-active and contacted the producers herself in an effort to seek fame. The mind boggles.
The main point of her argument, was that it is cultural norms that ‘force’ women to shave and pluck their bodies again and again in order to please men. Whilst that may be true to an extent, the majority of the negative feedback to her appearance was from women. So blaming men is probably too simplistic.
And why do we need someone to blame? Who can say that women don’t simply choose to do this because they believe it looks nice? That’s why men shave their faces and increasingly attend to other areas too. Should we really discourage those men who appear to be the missing link in the evolutionary chain from waxing their hairy backs? I would say that at least half of the men in my gym remove their armpit hair. Personally, I think it looks a little too feminine, although on some men it does need to be kept in check. No-one needs to see pits like Chewbacca’s.
I think it’s a good idea for a woman who feels at one with her body hair to let it flourish. If I met a woman with hairy pits, then it is like a natural sign to warn me that other areas of her body would be like jungle exploration. I might find an undiscovered tribe down there…
Ultimately, the hair removal choices we make are personal choices, just like the clothes we wear and the length of our hairstyles; clearly these are also influenced by fashion and cultural norms, yet we still make our own decisions. If you really feel uncomfortable doing something to fit in or if you don’t think it looks good, then why not follow Emer’s example and opt-out? If that seems like too scary a thought, then you’ve probably already subconsciously made a decision to conform. Either way, why blame society or the opposite sex? You’re in control of your own life.