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It's a smooth world ..very interesting article on hair.


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Georgie Binks is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She writes for the Toronto Star and National Post, and has written for Chatelaine, Homemakers, Elle, Glow and Style at Home, as well as salon.com. Georgie is a former CBC radio and television reporter and editor. She has been a feminist since she wrote an essay in high school on "The Changing Role of Women in Society" at her mother's suggestion.

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Somewhere along the line, many centuries after Samson, a few after Rapunzel, and about 30 years after the musical Hair hit the Broadway stage in the 1960s, hair became ugly. Not all hair, of course – but body hair. Everything from back and leg hair to pubic hair. And it's not just a female obsession anymore.

One man I know tells me, "My whole life is about hair removal." He shaves his back because he feels the hair on it is so unattractive. He's been doing so since he turned 21 – he's in his mid-30s now.

I remember another man telling me several years ago that every few weeks he would have his wife shave his back. I felt so sorry for him. Sorry not because of the work involved, (because, after all, his wife was stuck with the job) but sad that he felt ugly with back hair.

The whole hair removal thing in my opinion is simply a media/pornography/ hair removal company conspiracy. I think back to the 70s (yes, here I go again), when women were shunning shaving their armpits and legs in an effort to shed the trappings of the beauty industry, and I get nostalgic. Men with hair on their chests were actually considered kind of masculine.

In fact, says Rose Weitz, author of Rapunzel's Daughters: What Women's Hair Tells Us About Women's Lives, "Before skirts started getting shorter, shaving one's legs was the mark of a prostitute."

We haven't really come that far though, have we? These days, ordinary women endure painful and expensive Brazilian bikini waxes to rid themselves of pubic hair, so that they may mimic porn stars. And it's become mainstream. Sara Rosenthal, author of Women and Unwanted Hair says, " Its almost the norm to see the hair gone. It tends to be in a lot of younger women. I think male partners expect this and I think the women feel unclean if they don't remove it."

When a certain Sex and the City episode ran several years ago implying that if men shaved in certain areas some body parts would appeared larger, the fad caught on for them, too. Rosenthal laughs, "I think that was a statement heard around the world."

Rosenthal says, "It has always been very common for gay males to shave their chest hair. That trend has come from the appearance of the smooth greased muscle look. It comes from that world and is spilling into the heterosexual world."

Rose Weitz thinks men are shaving because in general they spend more time on their appearance. She explains, "The main reason for that is the economy. Men now face the kind of competition in the job market that women always have. Men are now worried about getting and keeping jobs, so that puts the pressure on men to pay more attention to appearance in general."

Last year, Ipsos Reid conducted a poll on behalf of Veet, a maker of hair removal products, and it found that a lot of women are removing hair, but many of them consider it a pain. Only 13 % of Canadian women do not remove leg hair. That leaves the majority removing it by shaving, waxing and using hair removal creams.

Of the women who shaved their legs, about a quarter were doing it five to six times a week. A third of them felt it was something they had to do, but many were not happy campers. After all, hair, like dust bunnies under the bed, just keeps coming back. Thirty-two per cent said they were not happy with the time involved and 16 per cent hated cutting themselves when razoring it off. Is this really a world men want in to? They already spend enough time shaving their faces.

One young man I know says, "Men aren't men anymore. It used to be masculine to have hair on your chest. I think it is that these days we all want to look young, and a lack of hair makes us look younger."

How true. Rose Weitz, points out, "Hair is a secondary sex characteristic. It is a sign of being a grown woman [or man]. One would expect it to be seen as a sign of sexuality, and in different times and places it has been."

What is it that is so beautiful about no body hair? Or so despicable about having body fur? Or, in fact, is there nothing despicable – it's just that the people in the beauty industry haven't come up with a way to make zillions of dollars on people who just leave it all alone.

If you Google around on the subject of hair removal you come up with some pretty interesting chat rooms, and it's amazing how many men have time to actually debate this kind of thing. They're split on whether they like women shaving pubic hair, and armpit hair.

Many men perceive hair on certain female body parts as unclean, or smelly. While hair can retain sweat, there is essentially nothing unclean about hair. After all, it sits on your head every day and no one thinks you're dirty if you're walking around with a big head of it.

Think of Farrah Fawcett or Jennifer Aniston, two women who have sent other females scurrying to the hairdresser to look like them. Unclean? That's not what I think when I see them, and I bet their heads sweat in the California sun. So why is hair considered so dirty when it's legs, armpits or elsewhere?

So what does Weitz think about all of the hair removal, in light of the title of her book – What Women's Hair Tells Us About Women's Lives? She says, "It tells us we are still ruled by fashion. Our success in life still depends to a great extent on our appearance."

It looks like men are now caught in the same trap.

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thanks for the article, i think this article is so true, its all because men want to look like women, have a "clean" appearance, and women are trapped in the hair removing industry. i dont have anything against hair, hair looks cool. men look more masculine, and females look more feminine.

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