Nell Highleyman ’19 does not have your typical female shaving routine. Rather than taking a razor to her legs and underarms, Highleyman chooses to not shave at all.
Around the country, women are laying down their razors in protest of social norms that dictate that women should be smooth and hairless.
Though the current trend of not shaving is often considered political, Highleyman has a variety of personal reasons for not shaving. She attributes her choice not to any grand political statement, but instead to mere convenience.
“[It’s] partly that I am lazy—I don’t want to spend the time that it takes to maintain shaving,” Highleyman said. “I also cut back on costs when I’m not purchasing razors and shaving cream, and I reduce my shower time, and thus conserve water and my own time.”
Many women can relate to the pain and annoyance that shaving causes them on a regular basis: mornings that begin with the question of whether to shave or to wear pants, razor burn that requires constant attention, and the shower time.
Becca Weinzimer ’19 recently stopped shaving her legs. Like Highleyman’s, her choice to forego removing body hair does not coincide with political statements. Instead, she values comfort and ease, areas on which shaving encroaches.
“[My leg hair] grows too fast, so I let it be,” Weinzimer said. “The reason I shave my pits is because of deodorant clumps, which is a pain, and I very much still use deodorant.”
Although Weinzimer is a recent convert to not shaving, she plans to continue this ritual into the coming months.
“It’s just easier to not shave, and it’s warm for winter hibernation,” she said.
Weinzimer appreciates that she can choose to shave certain parts of her body while letting the hair on other body parts grow freely.
“I have gone about two months without shaving my legs,” she said. “[But] I still shave [my armpits] and bikini zone weekly, and when I did shave my legs, I did it about once a week.”
According to a 2009 Glamour poll, the average woman shaves her legs 12 times per month; 11 percent shave every single day, and altogether, the typical woman spends $10,000 over the course of her lifetime on shaving products.
Moreover, according to an article from the digital media site Women You Should Know, female shaving is a relatively recent trend. Most women did not shave their armpits until 1915, when an advertisement in the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar popularized the sleeveless dress. Leg shaving was not considered a social norm until the 1940s, when shorter skirts and sheer stockings became trendy.
There are, however, exceptions to this rule: for example, Muslim women have shaved their bodies the night before marriage since the ninth century, according to an article in The Telegraph.
Recently, though, more women have made the decision to stop shaving, and like the hair itself, tolerance for women’s body hair has grown. For the most part, Highleyman and Weinzimer have not received any negative comments regarding their choices not to shave.
“People do notice, but mostly people don’t comment,” Highleyman said. “Sometimes they do [comment]—usually something like ‘Ugh, I could just never do that!’—but mostly people are indifferent or supportive.”
In Weinzimer’s experience people tend not to notice the hair on her legs.
“People usually respond positively,” Weinzimer said. “I really don’t see it as a big deal, so they won’t either.”
So if having body hair is so natural and easy, and if shaving is so expensive and time-consuming, then why do so many women feel uncomfortable with the idea of simply throwing out their razors?
Arielle Schwartz ’19 identifies with the desire to stop shaving, but also feels pressure to comply with social norms.
“Personally, I shave but I sort of wish I didn’t,” Schwartz said. “Mostly I feel this way because I’m lazy, but it’s also because I don’t really like that society has this norm that says women should be smooth-skinned and hairless. Like, having hair is natural, so why does so much of society expect women to shave it off? It’s a lot of pressure and a lot of extra time in the shower.”
Though she hasn’t decided to grow out her body hair, Schwartz praises women who choose to not shave, especially if they have made this choice for political reasons.
“I think it’s fantastic when women choose not to shave,” Schwartz said. “I hope that if you choose to shave, like I do, it’s for you, not because you feel the pressure to conform to our society’s beauty standards.”
And then there are the perks that come with abstaining from shaving.
“I can feel the wind through [my] leg hair, and it tickles,” Weinzimer said. “Also, kids sometimes pet [my legs].”
Highleyman, for one, takes a certain pride in resisting social norms.
“I think that hair is beautiful in its own way,” she said. “We give our standards of beauty too much credence in our lives.”