Close-up of a Black woman shaving under her arm

Gender, Body Hair, and Hairlessness

A Fall 2020 First-Year Tutorial

Gender, Body Hair, and Hairlessness: Constructing the Feminine Woman

A First-Year Tutorial offered fall 2020, taught by Charvann Bailey, assistant professor of biology

As a female, do you shave your legs and/or your armpits? Have you ever thought about WHY women often go through painful procedures (shaving with a razor, electrolysis, or waxing) to remove body hair? There are a variety of reasons why women shave their body hair. However, often times a hairless woman is seen as “feminine,” whereas the presence of body hair on a woman (no matter the reason) is perceived as “masculine.”

Where do these “beauty” standards come from and why do these rules seem to apply only to women? In this tutorial students will explore the answers to these questions from historical, psychological, and sociological viewpoints. We will use these different perspectives to discuss how hairlessness forms western society’s idea of what defines a “feminine woman.” Students will also have an opportunity to explore how these concepts intersect with topics like gender identity, sexuality, health, race, and/or socioeconomic status.

Charvann Bailey

Why I Wanted to Teach This Topic

The societal “requirement” for adult females to be hairless is a habit that most western cultures accept as something that we just do without questioning. Where does this standard come from? Also, hairless women are seen as more “feminine.” I've always been curious about these things, so I developed a tutorial that addresses these questions.

– Charvann Bailey

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