While in the airport, on one of my innumerable layovers, I happened across an interesting Time Magazine article entitled “Body Hair is Natural. Society Thinking Otherwise is Dangerous”.
Oh hello! I was tapping on my screen and zooming in to quickly read the text before the airport Wi-Fi petered out. The article was written by Professor Heather Widdows BD(Hons), PhD., who authored Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal. I was immediately intrigued, mostly because I couldn't see the connection between beauty and my understanding of ethics as the moral standard(s) by which societies, organizations, and individuals conduct themselves. What does that have to do with beauty? Is beauty now judged as a standard of morality? If so... ooooohhhhwwweee…. I'm in trouble.
Widdows proposes that natural hairy body is now seen as abnormal, while the hairless body has transcended mere desirability and leapt over ever changing fashion trends to normal and natural status. Further, Widdows argues that we engage in health practices for beauty rather than health, that while it is in fact indulgent and optional, in Western society we now see this hyper-grooming as necessary and required. How does that connect to morality? Widdows argues that, rightly or wrongly, we value beauty over hygiene—maybe even disregarding hygiene if we truly look at the purpose of body hair. “Doing beauty becomes a moral duty.”
We have declared war on our hair. All of our hair: underarm, pubic, leg, upper-lip, eyebrows, every square inch of our body except that which is on top our heads. Yet our body hair does serve a purpose.
What are the functions of all that hair?
Body hair plays a very important role in regulating our body temperature.
Armpit hair serves as an important protective barrier against some of the most precious blood vessels in our body.
Pubic hair provides a cushion against friction that can cause skin abrasion and injury, protection from bacteria and other unwanted pathogens.
Eyebrows (aside from making us look glam, of course) are there to keep moisture out of our eyes when it’s raining or when we sweat. That arched shape helps divert liquid to the side of our faces, keeping our eyes clear.
All that hair removal isn't actually necessary... It's not even a hygiene function. Hygiene is something that is required to meet minimum standards, like washing one's tail feather and brushing teeth thoroughly and regularly to ward of rot, tooth decay and loss, rashes, infections, and disease! Hair removal doesn't do any of that.
Even so, I get it. I consider my routine of shaving, threading, plucking, etc and so on part of my daily upkeep. I can't keep from feeling at least slightly uncomfortable for the first five minutes when I realize I forgot to run that blade over my legs as I lotion and potion them after my shower.
I don't know if I agree completely with Widdows’ theory, but she has an interesting argument.
What do you think?