General Question

tinyfaery's avatar

Since when, and why, is it a cultural norm for women to shave their legs and armpits?

Asked by tinyfaery (36002 points ) July 8th, 2008

Why only these places? Why not men?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

21 Answers

Breefield's avatar

Haaaaaang on. It better not only be those places :p
Anyhow, I think it’s because of the evolution of the way we think a woman should look as opposed to how they actually look. Not sure why we do this, it’s just cultural change really. Like foot binding, or those people who make their necks all long.

stevenb's avatar

My wife doesn’t have to shave legs or armpits, she is naturally hairless there. Please don’t ask about other areas…..gotta have boundaries! She does have very long and beautiful hair on her head though.

gailcalled's avatar

It is not a cultural norm everywhere. And not every woman in the US shaves. Some happily leave well-enough alone.

Viz: : teeth filed to points (Fiji), four lower inscisors knocked out ((Nilotid), foot binding (Chinese), platter lip implants (Ubangi), neck stretching via neck hoops (Patonga) , ear lobe elongation (Mittu).

@steven: is “herd” a euphemism for a body part?

tinyfaery's avatar

If I go out with hairy legs, inevitably, people stare. Its not really that acceptable in everyday society. People I know don’t care that much, but this is a small minority of people.

iriemuffin's avatar

I heard once that the practice started with prostitutes quite some time ago to deal with lice & crabs. I can’t verify the truth of this.

marinelife's avatar

Something else we can blame on . . .(drum roll) marketing! What better way to get people to spend money on a product than to say that the customer has a problem? Harrassment about women’s underarm hair began shortly after the turn of the 20th century.

From the same people who brought you douches and personal deodorant for women, and are now bringing all of us sheep whitening strips!

tinyfaery's avatar

Haha sheep whitening. Was that a type-o or a joke?

gailcalled's avatar

Try reading it like this: ...and are now bringing whitening strips to all of us sheep.

gailcalled's avatar

And remember the hyphen; I knew there was a reason for it….and are now bringing all of us sheep-whitening strips.

marinelife's avatar

Forgive my hurried and poor construction. I do, however, highly recommend this movie to give you a whole different perspective on sheep. (Seriously, it is a very funny spoof of a whole lot of things.)

gailcalled's avatar

@Marina: before I click on link, may I hope that it is a Wallace and Grommit one?

marinelife's avatar

One of my all-time favorite movie lines: “We’ll call him Sean.” (Sounding just like shorn.)

No Black Sheep is a hilarious New Zealand spoof of horror films, animal rights activists, militant vegetarianism, genetic engineering, phobias, and much more.

gailcalled's avatar

So, oddly, is the Wallace and Gromit, albeit in claymation.

marinelife's avatar

You are so right! I had not put that commonality together.

nayeight's avatar

I don’t know but sometimes I like when my legs are hairy, not stubble but hairy after a week or so. I don’t shave my legs unless I expect for them to bee seen. I like my armpits hairless though. I’ve also found a few “whiskers” (as I like to call them) on my chin. Not really sure what to do about that

stevenb's avatar

@gail, first, I love your answers and questions. You seem like an incredible woman and I like and respect you greatly. Second, typo!!!, and I fixed it, just not fast enough to get past you.

playthebanjo's avatar

I gotta go catch that sale at the head shop on those platter lip implants. It’s two for the price of one!

margeryred's avatar

Per Yahoo:
Businesses began “encouraging” American women to shave their underarms around 1915, when sleeveless fashions became popular. Harper’s Bazaar featured an ad stating: “Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair.” Yet another revenue stream made possible by human insecurity.

The war against nature’s leg warmers came a bit later, as changes in clothing allowed women to display more than just an ankle. According to Hope, convincing women to shave their legs was more challenging, so advertisers pulled out all the stops. “Some advertisers as well as an increasing number of fashion and beauty writers harped on the idea that female leg hair was a curse.”

The Straight Dope offers another theory for the surge in leg shaving in the 1940s—Betty Grable. The pin-up’s epic legs may have started a trend. Flaunting one’s gams was suddenly “in.” Since short shorts and woolly limbs don’t mix, it was goodbye to hairy legs and hello to something equally pleasant—razor burn.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I would also guess that it stuck because men ended up preferring it. Shaving renders to the wearer a more neotonous appearance; I would wager that men like this because it makes them feel more protective and manly.

deaddolly's avatar

I never shave my legs. I only shave my pits because I get too sweaty if i don’t…so for cleanliness purposes. Ditto for the private parts….trim for cleanliness.

Remember when Madonna refused to shave her pits and everyone thought she was such a rebel?
I often wondered why guys don’t shave their pits. Especially the ones that STINK!

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