Student (Misc) Wheaton

The Body Hair Assignment

At the beginning of my Sociology 101 class on September 20th, Professor Justin Schupp introduced the Body Hair Assignment. He explained that the Body Hair Assignment was an optional task for extra credit. For a period of six weeks up until December 1st, if you identified as a female you could not shave your legs or armpits. If you identified as a male, you had to shave your legs and armpits. And finally if you were non-binary, you got to choose either one. The purpose of this experiment was for students to reject cultural norms. In order to obtain the extra credit you would have to provide a weekly log and a reflection paper. In the assignment, Professor Schupp made an error which allowed female students to decide either to not shave their legs or not shave their armpits. I was not paying attention so I did not realize that was an option until three weeks into the experiment. 

To be honest, I was quite hesitant to sign up. I never thought of not shaving my armpits since I normally shaved them once a week. As a child I did not really care about having hairy legs or arms. My sister would tell me that it would keep me warm during the winter. It was not until I was ten when I noticed that a majority of girls at my dance studio had way less hair than I did on their arms. I remember asking my mom for Nair Hair removal so that I could get rid of the hair on my arms. When I was in middle school I remember hearing boys say that “Girls can’t have hair on their arms and legs because they would look like a man”. Having it in your armpits was considered disgusting and unhygienic. 

Facial hair was a whole other story. Having a tiny bit of hair above your lip or having bushy eyebrows was frowned upon. At the age of thirteen, I started to get extremely self-conscious of my body. Having body and facial hair being disapproved of was the least of my insecurities but I would still shave my arms and legs twice a week and pluck my eyebrows so that I would not get bullied. At such a young age, I accepted that I had to follow the beauty standard that females and feminine presenting people had to get rid of their body and facial hair in order to be considered “feminine” and “beautiful”. 

I wanted to find out what others thought about the experiment and their experience with body hair norms. Luckily one anonymous student was willing to share their perspective with me. One of their first memories concerning body hair was when their mom warned them not to shave their legs because they said that their hair would come back darker. They thought  that says a lot about how women are socialized and just those sorts of ideas about how body hair on women is undesirable.  As they got older they started to care less, especially when they got to college. “You kind of realize it’s a little arbitrary about whether body hair is appropriate or not, and quite frankly I like the way I look with body hair.  It’s nice to not have to shave my legs all the time. I guess to sum up, I am sometimes conscious if my legs are all hairy and everyone I’m surrounded with has smooth shiny legs, but honestly at the end of the day, does it really matter anyway?” They felt that the Body Hair Experiment was a breeze for them. 

At the end of the day it is your choice whether or not you want to shave your body hair or not. I highly recommend trying out this experiment because it can really open your eyes. I interviewed Professor Schupp to find out what he wanted students to get out of the experiment. 

His response was “part of the reason was for students to get a better understanding of the power of social structure, but it was really for the individual to explore why they do these particular rituals in their life.” He wanted students to hopefully get impacted by the experiment on who they are and why they do the things they do. The experiment definitely taught me many things and impacted me. I was very reluctant to do the experiment at first, but as the weeks went on I came to understand that not shaving your armpits or legs is not a big deal. It was one less chore I had to do and I ended up really enjoying it.