Posted by: Kevin | October 17, 2006

Musings on Body Hair


Last week I got a great deal of amusement out of a discussion on beauty ritualswhich took place on Feministe.  Part of the discussion centered on whether the removal of hair from certain parts of your anatomy constituted a betrayalof feminism.  To their credit, most of the commenters seemed to get that embracing the same “you must look like this to be accepted” attitude that they criticize in mainstream society, is a bad idea.

So my reason for writing is to express my own views on body hair.  I’m writing not from the perspective of a feminist or an anti-feminist or an anarchist or any other -ist.  I’m writing as someone who suffers from an abundance of hair who questions his body’s wisdom in continually trying to regrow it.

It has been theorized that body-hair, particularly the annoying stuff that starts growing during puberty, developed as a means of spreading pheromones.  The hair would help generate body odor, advertising your sexual maturity.  If this is actually the case, then I clearly descend from a line of very successful cavemen.  Sadly, this would also lead me to classify body hair with the appendix, as useless leftovers from earlier models of humanity.

Advertising your scent was ok when we were cavemen.  Everybody stank then anyway.  So you might as well stink more than everyone else to attract attention.  However, for at least the past 12,000 years, humankind has been gradually becoming an urban creature.  The downside of that shift has been the rise in communicable diseases.  The powerful stink that worked for the cavemen, now just means that you’re dirty.  And dirty people spread diseases. 

So rather than classify the question “to shave or not to shave” as an issue of feminism or empowerment.  I’m going to classify it as an issue of natural selection.  We’re using our brains to make up for the slow pace of evolution in adapting ourselves to the current environment.  Or at least I will be, before my next trip to the beach.


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