Most cultures carefully establish guidelines around facial and body hair as visible means for expressing gender and group membership. For men, in many countries, the dominant expectation is to be clean-shaven. Even Olive Oyl sang, “I want a clean shaven man,” about Popeye. Like other cultural expressions, facial hair trends change over time. Beards are in fashion again.

Facial and body hair for women is a different story. Any excess is judged. Eyebrows must be groomed. Legs and underarms are to be clean as a whistle. In some cases, even other areas are “cleaned up.” In general, body hair is seen as evidence of being uncivilized – and unclean. A woman who doesn’t conform sends a message that challenges gender norms and she will likely be the subject of gossip and teasing.

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