Arizona Professor Offers Extra Credit To Female Students Who Stop Shaving Their Armpits
Professor Breanne Fahs offers female students extra-credit if they “stop shaving their legs and underarms for ten weeks during the semester while keeping a journal to document their experiences.” For Fahs, who teaches women and gender studies, the purpose is to get students thinking critically about societal norms and gender roles.
A similar opportunity is available to men in Fahs’ classes who recieve extra credit for shaving all of their hair from the neck down.
One student, Stephanie Robinson, described it as a “life-changing experience:
"Many of my friends didn’t want to work out next to me or hear about the assignment, and my mother was distraught at the idea that I would be getting married in a white dress with armpit hair. I also noticed the looks on faces of strangers and people around campus who seemed utterly disgusted by my body hair. It definitely made me realize that if you’re not strictly adhering to socially prescribed gender roles, your body becomes a site for contestation and public opinion."
They published a paper about this the first time someone did it, and it showed that non-white young women experienced a lot more pressure from friends and relatives to remove their hair. The authors suggested that because beauty standards are white - long, fine, flowy blonde hair, blue eyes, etc, etc - his body hair non-conformity was more troubling in WOC, as they crossed yet another boundary of femininity. They were also more likely to have darker or thicker body hair, so it would stand out more than on the blonde women, for example.
For me that sort of exemplifies why it’s so important to have multiple, intersectional feminisms. Because “let’s not shave our legs!” might be a powerful and important message, but it’s ultimately one of white privilege that sort of ignores the whiteness of these beauty standards in the first place.