This year, for JanuHairy, we dove into the history of body hair removal. These are the 31 daily posts we shared on instagram, where the conversation was all about shaving off the mysteries & honoring [informed] personal preference.
JAN. 1 - This stat is true across incomes, ethnicities, and religions. How did we get here? What is the history of the obsession with body hair removal?
JAN. 2 - From the beginning of hair removal, it was related to "cleanliness" and, because of that, connected to class. Some people (rich ones) had the time and resources for this stuff and others (working class folks) didn't.
JAN. 3 - So judgey! Can you imagine burning off your pubic hair? No wonder all those statues of ancient Greeks were hairless, they should have shown the burn scars!
JAN. 4 - Ancient Rome carried on the stigmas and extreme hair removal. We shudder to think what those creams were made of. Again, wealthy folks are setting the "beauty" standards.
JAN. 5 - The middle ages royal version of eyebrows on fleek? Also, she used all kinds of dangerous chemicals (like ammonia) to push back that hairline. Her white face makeup must have covered the burn scars.
JAN. 6 - European & American women hadn't been convinced yet that their pesky body hair needed to be removed (mostly because they were bundled under layers of clothes), but this was a big deal for men.
JAN. 7 - Yes, Gillette has been around that long. They still have about 60% of the razor market all these years later. The safety razor invention allowed shaving to happen more easily in the home, rather than going to a barber.
JAN. 8 - When fashion brought the skirt lengths up, western women discovered their leg hair is gross to the male gaze. So begins the campaigns of shame. These have been reiterated in ads and other media ever since.
JAN. 9 - Ads like this from the early 1900s reminded women that eating alone at a restaurant with a mustache would not be attractive to strangers. As if that would be the worst thing possible.
JAN. 10 - Rat poison. Think about that. As if our natural body hair was a vermin infestation. The lengths wom*n have been expected to go for made up beauty standards never ceases to amaze.
JAN. 11 - For awhile, women hid hairy leg monstrosities with nylons, but then the war needed that material. Good thing lady razors existed! There was also paint to cover up that pesky body hair. Glad the literal WORLD WAR didn't interrupt beauty standards. Phew. Crisis averted. (note: sarcasm!)
JAN. 12 - Unlovable AND insane. Coincidence? Mental health in women was often diagnosed as ill when they wouldn't conform to what society said they should be. Like, practically hairless, for instance. Because only an insane woman wouldn't want to be attractive to men. 😑😑😑
JAN. 13 - The undercurrents of shame hold on, but are slicked up with sexy. "You are unlovable unless you shave" is pretty much the same as "Dudes will want you if you're hairless." And still heteronormative, to boot.
JAN. 14 - Sure, it's about monitoring bodies using shame and sex appeal, but it's also about money. Our legs, pits, crotch, stache, eyebrows, chins, etc = corporations' bottom lines. The more they convince us to change ourselves, the more $$$$ they make.
JAN. 15 - When the bikini was introduced in 1946 and Playboy in the 50s, suddenly our pubic hair needed to be "tamed." The false idea of pubic hair being unhygienic took off and seven sisters from Brazil opened a salon in 1987 offering a "Brazilian." Once models and actresses started doing it, society followed.
JAN. 16 - Have you ever noticed this? As if our body hair is so gross it can't even be shown in an ad to remove it! Like our legs aren't presentable with NATURAL hair on them.
JAN. 17 - This isn't just with hair removal ads. White, skinny, shiny-haired women are featured for most products (even men's). In reality, most white women don't even look like this. Where are the lovely variations of skin color, body types, gender expressions, and REALITY? Beauty standards promote body dysphoria AND racism.
JAN. 18 - 1. Beauty standards: white, skinny bodies with long hair
2. Peer pressure: "Your friends are shaving their pubes. You don't want to be the only one unkempt."
3. Sex appeal: And the inference that we're all interested in men's attention.
JAN. 19 - Who writes this crap??? Oh right, most creative directors are men. In addition to being the epitome of binary, what in the world does it mean for a razor to be designed for women and how they shave?? What does this mean to you? Please share in the comments. The snarkier, the better.
JAN. 20 - Women spend 72 days of their lives shaving their legs. That doesn't even include all the other hair removal spots. Think of all we could have been doing with that time!!! Like putting our hairy legs up and watching the first woman VP get sworn in!
JAN. 21 - Let's talk about the pink tax. Does it cost more for the pink paint or to resize for our dainty fingers? "Women's"razors typically cost 40% more than men's. The average woman will spend $1,300 more PER YEAR in pink tax (discriminatory pricing based on gender stereotypes).
JAN. 22 - During COVID, Gillette realized razor sales were going down and showing commercials of clean shaven people on tropical vacations wasn't working. They thought, "how can we get to people who are staying home more?... gaming!" If you're an Animal Crossing fan, you may notice some new skin options - freckles, tattoos, pimples, body hair, and more... all sponsored by Gillette. Cool variety, but don't forget it's about sales for them.
JAN. 23 - Keeps out bacteria, helps regulate body temp, reduces friction during sex and other activities, decreases chafing, and lowers chance of skin infections - just to name a few benefits of body hair! Have your opinions on aesthetics, but it's there for reasons!
JAN. 24 - We're seeing more headlines from folks reexamining their relationship with hair removal, especially during quarantine. What does it mean that we modify our practices when we know we won't see other people? What does that say about why we are participating in certain practices in the first place?
JAN. 25 - In 1871, Darwin wrote a book called Descent of Man. His theory connected body hair to evolution, in that folks with less of it were more evolved. Even saying different types of hair (read: RACISM) made people more "primitive" and "less developed" than others. This framework also said that men were supposed to be hairy and women were not. Made. Up. Racist & sexist nonsense.
JAN. 26 - Over time, some fun trends have emerged. Just a couple years ago, folks started embracing "unicorn pits." It was a way to be playful with body hair and reclaim its natural growth. Have you ever dyed your body hair?
JAN. 27 - When we first started Januhairy, I did a checkin with myself on each body part I'd shaved before. Turns out hairy legs, pits, crotch, and brows don't bother me at all. Chin though, I'm not interested in a goatee. What about you? What feels right for your body?
JAN. 28 - Nearly all of the articles we read for this series referenced this book by Rebecca Herzig. She happens to teach right here in Maine at @batescollege! Plucked is a wealth of information with both history and theory. Check it out!
JAN. 29 - With 3 days left in the month, here's the top 3 reasons to consider skipping the hair removal.
With our time saved, we'd like to read more, dance more, write letters to friends, or sleep more! What would you do with the extra time?
JAN. 30 - Skipping hair removal supplies could mean more smoothies, yoga classes, more donating to causes, and (safe, socially distanced) meals with friends. What would you spend any extra money on?
JAN. 31 - The goal of Januhairy isn't to make everyone stop shaving (and plucking, waxing, or lasering). Instead, it's to look at the history of how hair removal has been used to control women, reinforce racism, and make a whole lot of money for big businesses. YOU choose what body hair means and looks like for you. YOU get to decide how you move in the world. Sometimes revolution starts with an idea or a petition. Sometimes it starts with unicorn pits.