Body hair is only human

Sam Wendorf, Contributor

When a person thinks of taking a shower, their thoughts most often go to shampoo, sponges and body soap. Perhaps they have one of those long brushes for their back or a loofah to get a nice, bubbly lather going. But a shower tool considered a must-have by many, especially women, is a razor.

In modern American society, it is normal for women to see body hair as something that must be cleaned off. To the average person, smooth legs and spotless underarms are beautiful, and ensuring you are groomed below the belt for a date you expect to go well is a necessary part of life. But why?

Shaving has been around as long as human civilization. Cavemen and cavewomen shaved to make sure parasites such as lice and mites had nowhere to hide. Egyptians shaved to appear more civilized. It was in Roman times that the practice began to appeal more toward women, and it was in Elizabethan times that the removal of body hair on parts of the body exposed by clothing — at the time limited to the face and neck — became the precursor to what it is today. A great deal of history stands behind the habit. But this is the modern day, and it is time to rethink how we view our bodies.

It is a surprise to no one that men and women face very different standards regarding appearance. Gender determines what clothes we wear, the way we style our hair and how we practice hygiene. It is a huge part of our identity as individuals; however, what should not be a requirement is the alteration of our natural bodies to conform to what history has decided the expression of our genders should be.

For men, this is easy — they are not usually expected to get rid of body hair to appear masculine. Some shave their faces or heads, but this is tied to personal preference or occupational restrictions requiring facial hair to be trimmed for hygienic reasons, such as those in the medical fields. It is no more masculine to be without a beard than to have one. Most of the time, arm and leg hair are left out of that conversation entirely.

For women, it is a different story. Perfect legs are ones that have smooth, bare skin. Faces must not have unsightly mustaches, and pubic hair is a realm of landscaping on its own. We are taught from an early age that body hair is gross, and if we want to be beautiful, we need to get rid of it. This creates substantial body image issues throughout our lives. Discomfort can arise when a woman forgets to shave her legs for a few days and stubble starts coming through. It has become an uncommon sight for hair to be present when a woman wears a shirt that exposes her underarms. Even for those who have not made a habit of shaving, there can be a feeling of shame while wearing shorts that expose dark hair around their thighs and calves. And this shame is not the only issue.

Shaving can also create pain and skin problems. Anyone who has used a razor knows how easy it can be to nick the skin, creating tiny cuts that sting for hours afterward. These cuts can lead to infection, just like any other wound. Razor burn can occur, inflaming the skin and conjuring red bumps all over the now-hairless area. Ingrown hairs are the bane of smooth skin — a punishment for shaving at the wrong angle. These consequences are not always severe, but they are unpleasant in all respects.

Women should not feel the need to deal with these things to feel beautiful. As we have all heard repeated ad nauseam throughout the internet, societal beauty standards can be harmful. More than that, it is the distortion of self-image that is harmful. We are born with hair. It grows on our bodies throughout our lives. We should not believe that something so natural is ugly and that we must get rid of it. There should be no shame in being human. Being human is beautiful, and we should embrace everything that comes with it.