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Where Do You Stand on Shaving?

shaving, body image, self esteem
By , 17, Staff Writer Originally Published: March 1, 2017 Revised: March 1, 2017

Of my many DIY fails, my botched attempt at dying my armpit hair for prom was one of the funniest. Standing in my friend’s bathroom, blue hair dye smeared all over, I discovered the coarse tufts under my arms were nothing like the stuff on my head and didn’t take dye the same way either. With my armpit hair bleached white (and my skin stained blue), I had to just shave it off. My attempt at a fun feminist statement was a complete flop. I never thought I would grow so attached to my “natural look,” but in the end, I missed how powerful I felt unshaved more than the embarrassment of my Smurf pits!

Razor companies profit off of the idea that a smooth body is a confident body. In reality, confidence comes from how we see ourselves. Our individual style and how we choose to groom or not groom our bodies doesn’t always fit societal standards, however. I was curious about this, so I talked to a few teens to get their opinions on shaving.

Shave or don’t shave; you will still be the same person with or without stubble.

Gender Expectations

Shaving can mean different things to girls and guys. Jack, 17, of Cohasset, CT, says, “It’s sort of unfair that girls are expected to shave their legs and armpits while guys don’t really face the same expectation.” Some people find girls with underarm hair “dirty,” while you don’t hear much about people being grossed out by a boy with underarm hair. “It really has ties to the amount of effort girls are expected to put into their looks and how judgmental society is,” Jack says.

Jack is on to something. I mean, don’t we often see models with almost reflectively smooth skin? Perhaps it doesn’t matter whether a person shaves or not, but people should not feel ashamed of how their bodies are perceived or even what they find attractive. While Jack prefers “someone who shaves their legs and armpits,” and he likes to shave his own face, opting for “the clean look as opposed to a hairy monster,” that is one guy’s preference. Each of us is unique, and we should each do what feels right for us!

What a Girl Should Look Like?

Another interesting perspective comes from Clara, 18, of New York City, who says that when she first noticed body hair, she “immediately shaved it all off.” However, she explains, “I stopped shaving once I realized that I didn’t actually like the way I looked with my hair removed.” For Clara, shaving wasn’t about what she liked. “I was just believing the norms that I was taught about what makes me beautiful,” she says.

Clara prefers not to shave, but she finds that it can be difficult to feel confident with unshaved legs or armpits in a new environment. “I proudly didn’t shave all summer, until I got to college and got nervous that people wouldn’t like me if I didn’t fit into the mold of what a girl should look like, so I shaved,” she explains. “I don’t think shaved armpits and legs are what make me beautiful, and if I wasn’t too afraid of other people’s judgement then I wouldn’t shave.”

It’s important to remember that there is no one way to be “a girl.” Femininity is merely a set of stereotypes, and the more we respond to them, the more they define us.

Role Models

Lastly, I heard from Claire, 16, from Granite Bay, CA, who says that watching her older sister shave made her “desperately want to do it too.” Like most girls, Claire says, “Now, shaving has become part of my routine.” Shaving is just something Claire does. “I don’t really think about it often; however, I know that part of why I wanted to shave was to fit in with others and seem mature.”

Since body hair is an early sign of puberty, the process of shaving can seem mystical and fun when we’re little. Shaving can make that awkward phase of our lives a time to look forward to, almost like a rite of passage.

Across the spectrum we see that even though how we present our bodies shouldn’t be dictated by social norms, those norms affect how we choose to groom our bodies. Shave or don’t shave; you will still be the same person with or without stubble. Do what makes you happy and love your body for all it’s worth!

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