Women and Shaving

Gender has become a touchy and contentious subject of debate in a variety of settings around the world. Several advocacy campaigns aimed at gender equality have been broadcast and disseminated around the world by numerous organizations. This has been made significantly more successful by the use of mass media and large-scale actions such as marches, conferences, and government legislation. Prior to these mass gender acts, the female gender was mostly looked down on in a number of male-dominated fields. This has had a social impact on a number of people, especially in the twenty-first century. Individuals and organizations that identify as feminists are on the rise. Gender rights are now enforced in almost all settings be it in the economic front like in business related deals and work places or in political fields where certain political and elective seats are reserved for the female gender. However, socially the fight for the female gender has, on some occasions, been tagged with negative labels. The feminist groups, governments, influential social organizations and the society at large, have been found socially guilty of using the movement to create a form a gender driven social control over women. This has been effected through different angles and strongpoints including how women should behave and move about their daily life routines. This paper thus seeks to investigate whether women should be expected to shave and whether the idea is another form of gendered social control. The paper will analyze this in different contexts ranging from social settings to workplaces in terms of female careers and offices.

Why Hair Removal is a Form of Social Control

Hair removal is now ingrained in the brains of most women as party of defining feminine beauty. In fact, in most cultures, parents start taking steps to remedy the situation with body hair among their young girls as early as the symptoms of hair growth are witnessed. However, the trend traces its roots to the late years of the 18th century. Women of White American origins were the pioneers of the war on body hair. According to R. Herzig in her book “Plucked: A History of Hair Removal”, visitors who travelled to America were estranged by how Americans were obsessed with the desire to have body free of hair. During colonialism, the English were greatly perturbed by the absence of beards in their American male counterparts. This notion has evolved over the years and significantly translated to define the level of beauty in a woman. Women have continually embodied hairless bodies in order to outline their beauty and fit in the society.

Body hair has been used to discriminate and perform competitive selection among women in their work places and in the society at large. This has put pressure on women to put a lot of concern on their body hair. In 1871, Darwin documented in his book “The Descent of Man”, that apart from the evolution the physical human body, scientists were also concerned about hair types and growth patterns. This has been popularized and is now used as a rationale to selectively distinguish evolved human beings as hairiness is associated with the earlier primitive human descents. Among women, it evolved further and is now used to define fitness, beauty and desirable genes.

In addition, hairiness, in the society, is often associated with the male gender while the reverse is true for the female gender. This notion in the society compels women to perform extreme procedures on their bodies in order to rid them of any form of facial and bodily hair. Hair among men is an indication of masculinity, good genetic setting and possession of viable male hormones. However, the case is exemplarily different for women. According to R. Herzig the late 1800s, a study showed that hair growth among women was an indication of animalistic instincts, sexual vigor, criminal behavior and insanity. Shaving is thus a form of social conditioning for women to avoid being labelled with such traits. Nowadays, society uses this to distinguish beautiful and classy women from the crude, irresponsible, lower class women.

Hair removal procedures also pose a danger for women (R. Herzig 19). Women use a number of procedures to eliminate hair from their bodies. Some are permanent while some are temporary. Permanent procedures include X-ray procedures and laser hair removal while the temporary hair removal include waxing, using hair removal cream and razor shaving. In one case, several women were disabled by a cream called Koremlu which was allegedly contained thallium acetate which is poisonous. X-rays have also presented women with cancer, ulcers and skin damage.


Gendered social control is a social flaw that every individual with integrity should strive to eliminate. Unfortunately, women shaving is another form gender control. The need for women to shave body hair has become more prevalent with the rise in female activism. The society makes women feel vulnerable and inadequate with their bodies in their natural form and as such they are forced to make adjustments in order to fit in. As female liberty increases, they are more pressured to adhere to one of the societal expectation of them that is to shave. This exposes them to a number of situations that are harmful to their health and well-being and they are programmed to bear the pain as a worthwhile pain.

Works Cited

R. Herzig (2015). Plucked: A History of Hair Removal (Biopolitics). NYU Press.

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