Sunday, July 12, 2009

follicle talk

I spent the weekend moving into my best friend's house across town. I've been gearing up for this for a long time, but the past two days were the final shove. H was a big help throughout it.

I love my new place, my cat loves my new place, and, for this blog at least, best of all, I now have internet at home.

Last week my sister sent me to this article from the NY Times, that discusses how body-shaving is now being marketed to men. I was particularly interested in two parts. Here's the first.

But now evidence from market research and academia indicates that more men are removing hair from their chests, armpits and groins. The phenomenon skews to mostly college-age guys or those in their 30s. Reasons run the gamut fromBecause My Girlfriend Likes It to a desire to flaunt a six-pack or be clean.
What interests me is the unexamined use of "clean." I think it's a common misconception that body hair is a sign of poor hygiene. Seems like these guys could use a refresher from KidsHealth. org, which explains:

The best way to keep clean is to bathe or shower every day using a mild soap and warm water. This will help wash away any bacteria that contribute to the smells. Wearing clean clothes, socks, and underwear each day can also help you to feel clean. If you sweat a lot, you might find that shirts, T-shirts, socks, and underwear made from cotton or other natural materials will help absorb sweat more effectively.

If you're concerned about the way your underarms smell, you can try using a deodorant or deodorant with antiperspirant. Deodorants get rid of the odor of sweat by covering it up, and antiperspirants actually stop or dry up perspiration.

The very next section in this grouping, Body Hair, explains, "You may want to start shaving some places where body hair grows, but whether you do is up to you. " Or, in other words, shaving is about personal preference with regard to appearance, not a hygiene issue.

Here's the other part of the original article that interested me:

Plenty of female commenters online dislike suitors with less body hair than they have. As Eleanorxjane wrote about a chest-shaving video on YouTube, “i want a real man, not one that’s trying to look like he’s 12 again!”

Having hair on one’s chest — as the expression suggests — signals maturity and boldness.
I think this section reveals how wide open body-hair choices are for men still. Shaving is presumably to make a man's body more "consumable" for sexual purposes. Not shaving on the other hand, indicates that a man has reached sexual maturity and has positive masculine characteristics. From this article, it seems like each option, shaving and not shaving, is socially acceptable for men (what you're doing just might not be the personal preference of your current sexual partner). Each way is just one way to be a man.

I don't think that is at all in effect for women. Women who don't shave their legs are often regarded as adopting masculine characteristics. And I wonder if the commentor above considers shaved women as representative of the fetishization of pre-adolescent girls.

These articles are often presented as evidence that modern men face just as much pressure as women in regard to beauty standards. Its true, I think, that there is increasing pressure on all of us to conform in appearance to a narrow standard. However, shaved or unshaved, a man's masculinity remains intact in our society's eyes.

No comments: