Saturday, July 11, 2009

Social rules for unwanted hair

I’ve always been fascinated by cultural sociology, and one interesting aspect is a cultures reactions to facial hair.

Men and women both have strict social customs and rules for body hair and approved rules for where hair should appear.

It's interesting, if you mix gender-specific standards for hair, you get something that looks more like a drag queen than a professional:

Facial hair on females has become a "turn off"

Let’s take a quick look are hair-related gender-specific rules . . .

Women should shave all facial hair

This prohibition is likely due to the perception of male facial and “manliness”, an undesirable characteristic in a woman who wants to promote her femininity, not negate it. This article notes the issue:

“High levels of emotional distress and psychological morbidity were detected; 30% had levels of depression above the clinical cut off point, while 75% reported clinical levels of anxiety; 29% reported both.

Although overall quality of life was good, scores were low in social and relationship domains—reflecting the impact of unwanted facial hair.”

Women must shave hairy armpits and legs

This prohibition is largely American and it does not extent universally! I’ll never forget my first trip to Europe and those beautiful women whose looks were ruined by having bushy armpits and hairy legs!

This is a "turn off" for American Men!

Men may only shave their facial hair

Men may only shave their faces, and anywhere else (armpits, balls) are socially prohibited. However, there are exceptions. For example, this man should definitely shave the legs of his dead twin appendage:

Shave the legs on any dead twin appendages

We must also consider the social stereotypes relating to facial hair. This started in America in the early 20th century when it became customary for Civil War vets to grow long white beards. This turned into the “bearded grandpa” stereotype.

Military men may not have beards

In some professions, beards are considered “unclean”, and they institute rules against bearded men. Soldiers may never grow a beard, and there are also strong prohibitions against beards in the financial sector, where a conservative appearance is paramount.

Remember when those ZZ Top members decided to grow beards?

I wonder if full facial hair will ever become the fashion trend?