ActivismFeminism

No Shave November

I found out about No-Shave November for the first time four years ago, in my junior year of high school. At the time, I thought it was just a thing that people did, like the Pokemon profile picture month on Facebook or something. I’ve recently discovered that it’s actually for a cause, and an important one at that: prostate cancer research, through the Movember campaign. Because prostate cancer (and the ability to grow a moustache) is a primarily male issue, it’s most frequently men who participate. But many women choose to as well.

This led a friend of mine and I to browse the trending topics on Twitter yesterday, one of which was No Shave November. We were shocked by how sexist and shaming many of the tweets were from both men and women. Some of the comments included: “If you’re a girl and participating in No Shave November, get away from me” (female), “Just Witnessed A Female Who C L E A R L Y Started -No Shave November-. Ughhhh. Nasty AF” (female), “Just saying, this whole no shave November should not pertain to girls that’s just gross” (male), and “No shave November? I guess some of you aren’t getting laid #disgusting” (female).

Now, this strikes me as rather sickening. Most guys only shave their facial hair, not legs or underarms like most women. Yet they get no flack about it. And numerous guys don’t shave at all, and it’s completely social acceptable so long as they keep their beards and mustaches more or less tame.  Women, however, are apparently expected to keep their bodies completely free of hair, except for the patch on top of the head, eyebrows, and maybe forearms. Not doing so, according to this sampling of Internet denizens, is “gross”, “nasty”, “sickening”, and “disgusting”.

I’ve been lucky enough to avoid body image issues, mostly due to growing up in a very supportive and open family, with little exposure to peer pressure and oppressive social conventions. But even among my lovely cowriters on Teen Skepchick, that’s not necessarily the case. So, seeing comments like those above on the public Trending Topics of Twitter is depressing. Both genders are willing to shame women for the fact that, as decedents of an ape-like ancestor, we have a thin coating of hair on our bodies. They are even willing to do so to hold up an arbitrary social convention, at the cost of women not participating in and donating to a cause which helps research cancer treatment and preserve human life. That is a fundamental problem. As my friend put it, “Why are we shaming women for their bodies or what they to do with them? How is not shaving nastier than prostate cancer?”

On that note, I heartily support all men and women participating in No Shave November this year. More power to you.

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Ali Marie

Ali Marie

Ali Marie is a recent Master's of Education graduate, and is now venturing back into the world of non-traditional education, as an outreach program leader at a children's museum. Her interests vary widely, but include board games, music, dinosaurs, and science as a whole.

You can find Ali on Twitter, @ascientifica.

4 Comments

  1. November 2, 2011 at 4:38 pm —

    As a guy with a full beard when I first decided to go with a beard i got a ton of pressure from family to not have any kind of beard.

    When it comes to no shave November I have never understood it. Its like you are giving something up when to me you are getting to save some time everyday not shaving (that is NOT why i have a beard it just is a side benefit). The above quotes are quite distressing as a guy who has a beard. I just don’t get how its “gross” to have a beard.

    • November 2, 2011 at 7:43 pm —

      You bring up some good points I kind of left out. Most of the tweets I noticed were specifically directed at how women not shaving is gross, but there were definitely some that were directed at not shaving at all, finding beards just as gross as body hair.

      My father has had a full beard since before I was born, and my mom shaves only because when she was a swimmer there was legitimate reason for her to, and she’s just in the habit now, so I never understood why people shave either. But I figure, if people want to use it for a cause, fine. But I think everyone should have their own private choice whether to shave or not shave. The pressure to shave, for either men or women, is completely absurd. I agree with you 100%: I don’t get it either.

  2. November 2, 2011 at 11:22 pm —

    What is kind of weird is that since becoming a military spouse and living near a military base I get lots of “your beard is awesome” and “I wish I could grow a beard”. Really the only place I have gotten it.

    Also, I probably did not make it clear enough but yes I agree they were sexist and most against girls.

    My point about the concept of no shave November was that i just don’t get why not shaving is such a big deal. I have heard guys make it sound like they a doing some hard physical activity or that it will really be hard to do. It’s not at all.

    My dad was so antibeard he literally grew a beard hoping I’d think it wasn’t cool that my dad had one so I would shave it off.

  3. November 8, 2011 at 3:19 am —

    I agree, it is sexist. I work in an overwhelmingly male workplace in a small town, with the result being that most of my friends/workmates are male. Movember is a pretty big thing here, with the marketing team actively supporting and organising related in-house events. At least 50% of the workforce are growing moustaches, with a wide variety of particularly hideous types. In support of the cause (which I feel attached to not because of personal experience with prostate cancer, but because all these awesome guys I know make me want men’s health awareness out there in general) I’m growing my leg hair out. I’m blonde so it’s not hugely noticeable, but my work uniform is shorts and I interact with the public daily, so it’s not invisible either. Most of the guys I work with think it’s gross on some level that I’m not shaving my legs for a month, but they do think it’s awesome that I (and the few other girls in the workplace) have been sporting drawn-on moustaches on the job. I got told to wash mine off by one boss the other day, the reason he gave being that I hadn’t officially signed up for the event (neither have any of the boys). I drew it back on away from the building, as did the other girls, and got way more attention for the cause than the upper-lip fluff on the guys – we looked completely ridiculous and unlike them there was no way it could have been accidental unlike them!
    We reckon this is just as sexist – they’re taking away our chance to support the cause just because we can’t grow facial hair of our own. We’re planning on appealing on these grounds.
    I’m sorry, this is really long! But semi-relevant.

    (as a side-note, the moustaches looked completely ridiculous because they were blatantly false, one ringmaster-style, one chopper mo, and a full-on upper lip one; not because facial hair on women is inherently wrong or ridiculous).

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