Popular culture has greatly influenced the relationship between females and their body since the beginning of time, it seems. But in recent years, female body hair has become a statement – something to be messed with.
Growing up in Western culture, girls are taught at a young age to remove their body hair, while boys are trained how to grow and groom ‘manhood’ in the form of facial hair.
It’s not a secret that Western culture social's norms encourage and sexualize the idea of smooth legs and hairless arm pits on women, but label hair on men, especially beards and moustaches, as ‘masculine’ and ‘desirable’.
“Pop culture naturalizes the status quo. It produces and reinforces the idea that women should not have body hair,” said Ummni Khan, a joint chair at Carleton University’s Pauline Jewett Institute for women’s and gender studies.
The first women’s razor advertisement was released by Gillette in 1915, and targeted only arm pit hair.
During the second World War, nylon shortages led to bare legs and eventually hairless legs. And with the arrival of the bikini in 1946, pubic hair slowly disappeared.
In the 1970s when sexual liberation was a boasting theme of the decade, growing out pubic hair became the new fad.
From the 1980s until now, hair removal and the introduction of Brazilian waxing in the 1990s painted the path to a less hairy world.
Though this may not reflect the best of society, according to authors of The Last Taboo: Women and body hair.
“In a Western capitalist society which sees itself … as having broken most established taboos … women’s body hair remains an area of silence and blankness,” said co-author Karín Lesnik-Oberstein in the book.
Although female body hair may be a discrete topic, it is slowly rising in importance to women as seen at protests and on social media.
The removal and maintenance of body hair has become much more than a fashion trend, and has evolved into a political statement and a course of action for women as they look to establish equality on yet another matter.
Protesters gather together in Ottawa, Ont., for the Women's March in January 2017.
History has shown us that women often use the pressures of society, such as the stigma of body hair, as a defence to reach their goal of equality. This time, they’re pursuing an end to the social pressures of hair removal.
In the process, women throughout the world have been embracing their natural bodies, hair included. Dying and styling arm pit hair is one of the few trends reaching places such as red carpet events.
Celebrities such as Anne Hathaway and blogs like the Hairy Legs Club are trailblazers in the normalization of female body hair.
Not only is hair removal expensive, time-consuming and painful, it’s sexist, according to second-year English literature major Megan Brown-LaCarte.
“A woman’s body hair is no different from a man’s, and there’s no logical reason to treat it like it is,” she said in an email.
“I choose to not remove all of my body hair because I find it tedious and uncomfortable, as well as using it as my personal means of overcoming sexist expectations,” she said.
Though some may follow in Brown-LaCarte’s footsteps, others may agree with Sydney Schneider that growing out body hair does not represent what feminism is.