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Sex Roles, Vol. 39, Nos.

11/12, 1998

Th e Hairlessn ess Norm : Th e Rem oval of Body
Hair in Wom en
Marika Tiggem an n 1 an d Sar ah J. Kenyon
Flinders University of South Australia

This study aim ed to in vestigate the frequency an d m eanin g of the removal of
body hair in wom en. Participants were 129 female university studen ts (m ean
age = 22.3 years) an d 137 female high school studen ts (m ean age = 14.3
years). Alm ost all (> 95% ) were Cau casian . It was foun d that, as predicted,
the vast m ajority (92% ) of wom en remove their leg an d/or un derarm hair,
m ost frequently by shavin g. This was irrespective of their femin ist beliefs, but
was negatively related to self-esteem in un iversity studen ts. The reasons cited
for hair removal were prim arily concerned with a desire for femin inity an d
attractiveness. However, the reason s provided for starting to remove body hair
differed between the grou ps, in that they were relatively m ore norm ative for

wom en ’s stated reasons for startin g the practice of h air rem oval reflect prim arily
the un iversity studen ts than for the high school studen ts. It was conclud ed that

their vantage point as an observer. In fact, removing body hair is a practice

substan tially to the notion that wom ens’ bodies are un acceptable as they are.
so n orm ative as to go m ostly u n rem arked , bu t o n e wh ich con trib u tes

The ide al of be auty for wome n has ne ve r be en a static one , but rathe r has
change d across time and be twe e n culture s. Howe ve r, as Mazur (1986)
points out, the rise of the mass media in the late 20th century is like ly to
impose more uniform standards of be auty throughout the world than be-
fore. Most authors (e .g., Rodin, Silbe rstein, & Strie gel-Moore , 1985; Fallon,
1990; Wolf, 1990) agre e that current ide als of beauty e mphasize the looks
of “ youth ” : a slim body, high taut bre asts, and smooth unwrinkle d and hair-
le ss skin. Ce rtainly ane cdotally many wome n reporte dly lie about or are
unwilling to re ve al their age (Rodehe aver & Stohs, 1991) , and “ it makes
1
To whom corre spondence should be addresse d at School of Psychology, Flinders Unive rsity
o f So ut h A u stra li a , G P O B o x 2 1 0 0 , A d e la id e , 5 0 0 1 , A u stra l ia ; e -m ai l: Ma rika.
Tiggemann@ flinders.edu.au

873

0360 ¯0025/98/1200 ¯0873$15.00/0 Ó 1998 Plenum Publishing Corporation

le ads many wome n to try to alte r their bodie s to match the ide al. 1982) . Fur- the r. among othe rs. p. hair removal is one of the most freque nt ways women alte r the ir bodie s to achie ve the ide al of youthfulne ss and attractive ness. For wome n. as Hope (1982. and of course . one aspe ct of the idealize d female body which has receive d relative ly little atte ntion is the aspe ct of smooth hairle ss skin.0 ye ars. Pe rhaps the major reason that hair removal has re ceive d so little re- search attention is that the practice is so socially normative as to go un- que stione d. The results showe d that the majority (81% ) of profe ssional wome n do re move their body hair. physical appe arance tends to be much more important for a woman ’s global view of her self-worth than is the case for a man (Rodin et al. such that “ feminine ” doe s not mean “ womanly” when applie d to body hair. Approximate ly 85% to 90% of wome n have unwante d body hair (Chapkis. a sample chose n de libe rately for high e ducation. 93) points out. 1989) . But. Although shaving for most wome n is habitual behavior which may be vie wed as trivial. Although the practice of hair removal doe s not carry the large personal and he alth conseque nce s of dieting and cosme tic surge ry. body hair is see n as embarrassing and sometime s re pulsive . supports the multi-million dollar diet. the process is still freque ntly uncomfortable and some what painful. Furthe r. and many studie s docume nt that wome n show much greate r dissatisfaction with their bodie s across the board than do men. it doe s strongly e ndorse the unde rlying assumption of any of the body-alte ring be- haviours. and to maximize the numbe r of feminists and lesbians. Body hair is a sign of sexual maturity for both wome n and men. 1986) . The impossible pre scription for a “ young ” be autiful body is a source of great dissatisfaction. “ those be haviours which are most take n for grante d in a culture may well be the most important one s for re vealing an unde rstanding of that culture ” . argue s that this ide alization of youth carrie s the political age nda of powe rlessne ss. name ly that a woman ’s body is not acceptable the way that it is (Chapkis. and arise s at particular times when wome n become too pow- erful. but in wome n fe mininity is actually associate d with a lack of body hair (Hope . 1985) . Although a great de al has bee n writte n about body weight and shape . Wolf ( 1990) . and many women do not venture out without first removing their visible body hair (Freedman. Statistically. cosme tic and cosme tic surge ry industrie s. at le ast occasion- . The re has only be en one previous empirical study which has inve sti- gate d the meaning of hair removal and the re asons women re move their body hair. Basow ( 1991) inve stigate d the practice in a sample of profe s- sional women in the United State s with a mean age of 44.874 Tiggem an n an d K en yon you look younge r” is invariably take n as a complime nt. Such dissatisfaction. it doe s con- tribute to the cosmetic industry.. Usshe r. 1986. in turn. 1986) . profe ssional status.

O n the othe r hand. and the in- te nse social reaction to violations of the se norms. In particular . since girls start shaving at pube rty primarily because of social and normative re asons. and social/normative reasons. young girls are unlike ly to say the y starte d to shave ( or do anything) for norm ative re asons. It is e xpe cted that Basow’s (1991) findings conce rning the motivation for starting and con- tinuing to re move body hair will be re plicate d in the unive rsity stude nt group. “ It makes me fee l attractive ” . Pe rsonal me mory for actions is far be tte r than pe rsonal me mory for thoughts. 1994) . Factor analysis identifie d two main factors: re asons to do with femininity and attractive ness. as adole sce nce is a time of e merging se xuality and ide ntity formation. The re is a cle ar ne e d to re plicate the se findings with othe r sample s in which le sbians are not ove r-re pre se nte d and which contain fe wer well- e ducate d and fe minist wome n. The main reason the y gave was to avoid social disapproval. The most important reasons for continuing to re move hair were the feminine /at- tractive ness one s. Even among strong fe minists and lesbians most (72% and 55% respective ly) remove d leg and/or unde rarm hair. 19 88 ) . “ Wome n are suppose d to shave ” . in this case of Australian unive rsity and high school stude nts. and with the passage of time ne e d more re construction. Information about such e ve nts is store d in a subse t of autobiograp hical memory re fe rre d to as pe rsonal memory ( Bre wer. Responde nts were also aske d to rate a se t of reasons for why the y began and why they continue d to remove body hair. Basow (1991) speculate d that shaving may act as a rite of passage for girls. particularly with re spe ct to the growth of the wome n ’s move me nt. The par- ticipants in Basow ’s (1991) study we re on ave rage 30 ye ars olde r than whe n the y had starte d to shave around the age of 14. e . About half of the responde nts re move d hair at least once a week. It is im- . e . the validity of the importanc e place d on the normative re asons which e me rge d as the most important for starting to re move body hair can be que stione d. which te nd to de cay faste r. such pe rsonal me morie s are e xpe rie nce d from the vie w of the initial e xpe ri- e nce whe n the y are re cent. Furthe r. most (96% ) by shaving. Thu s wome n re me mbe ring re asons (thoughts) for hair re moval 30 ye ars e arlie r are like ly to be doing so with the be ne fit of hindsight and from the ir pre se nt vantage point.Th e Hairlessn ess Norm 875 ally. O pe n-e nde d comme nts emphasize d the strength and powe r of the hairle ssne ss norm. whe re as olde r me morie s are more like ly to be e xpe rie nce d from an obse rve r ’s vie wpoin t ( B re we r.g.g. Howe ve r it is not e xpe cted that the findings will be re plicate d for the younge r high school stude nt group. and the most important for starting were the social/nor- mative one s. Thus the aim of the pre se nt study is to inve stigate the practice of hair re moval in a diffe re nt population.

the capital city of South Australia. In addition to age . Procedu re Q uestionnaire s e ntitle d “ Women and Grooming ” were comple te d by both the unive rsity and high-school stude nts in class time. The se pre dictions on self-estee m furthe r show the importance of hair removal and sugge st it is not a trivial be havior.3 ye ars. Almost all participants (> 95% ) were Caucasian. The ir mean age was 14. and there by se ek to alte r the body more fre quently. Thus it is pre dicte d that the high school stu- de nts will rate the fe minine /attractive ne ss re asons for starting shaving re lative ly more highly than the ir olde r (unive rsity) counte rparts.876 Tiggem an n an d K en yon portant for pe ople in ge ne ral to fe e l in control of the ir life . fe minists are pre dicted to remove hair less freque ntly. Q uestionnaire s were comple ted anonymously and stu- dents were assure d of the confide ntiality of the ir response s. This pre diction is base d on the re asoning that a woman with low se lf-e stee m is liable to view the natural body as le ss satisfactory than a women with high self-es- te em. two furthe r individual diffe re nce variable s will be inve stigate d. and to place less importance on feminine and attrac- tive ness as oppose d to normative re asons. with a mean age of 22. The question- naire aske d participants about the ir body hair and re asons for its re moval or non-re moval.3 years. to 5 = gre at de al) . Participants rated se parate ly how much leg and unde rarm hair the y had on 5-point Like rt scale s (from 1 = ve ry little . Measu res Body Hair. It is also predicte d that curre nt non-re move rs will have highe r self-este em than remove rs. METHOD Participants The re were two groups of participants. and also the rate of growth (from 1 = ve ry slowly. The high school stude nts (N= 137) came from two state co-educational schools in Adelaide . but e spe cially so for young adole scents. The unive rsity stude nts were 129 female unde rgraduate s at the Flinde rs Unive rsity of South Australia. followe d by measure s of se lf-e ste em and feminism. to 5 = ve ry . pre- sente d in that order. Following Basow (1991) .

10.88.00) e merge d. the major method. Thus the final list containe d six re asons in the fe minine /attractive ne ss cate gory and e ight re asons in the normative cate gory. “ My mum told me I should ” and “ My frie nds told me I should ” . participan ts we re aske d to rate the importanc e of 14 possible re asons for hair re moval on 5-point Like rt scale s.9% of variance ) containe d the re maining normative ite ms.2% of variance ) containe d 3 normative re asons and one femininity/attractive ne ss reason.87). Thus it can be see n that while the obtaine d factor structure doe s not re plicate .29. 7.82.2% of variance ) was a normative factor with 5 out of its 6 items designate d nor- mative . The third factor (eigenvalue = 1. Te n of the re asons (six fe minine /attractive and four normative ) came straight from Basow’s ( 1991) study. Following Basow ( 1991) .84. 9. The y the n indicate d whethe r or not the y had e ver removed their le g or unde rarm hair (ye s/no) . 14. Participants we re aske d to rate the above re asons twice . The second factor (e ige nvalue = 2. how fre que ntly. base d on the most common ope n-e nde d comments made by Basow’s partici- pants: “ To avoid social disapproval ” . For the starting re asons. as was the case for continuing hair re moval (respective a ’s = .2% of variance ) was cle arly a fe minine /attractive ne ss factor.3% of variance ) con- taine d only de signate d normative items. three main factors (e ige nvalue s > 1.78. The reliability for the e ntire scale for starting to remove body hair was high for both Unive rsity stude nts ( a .62. To furthe r inve stigate whe ther this categorization ade quate ly de scribed the reasons give n by an Australian sample . two factor analyse s were con- ducte d. Reason s for hair rem oval.29. the first factor (eigenvalue = 4. continuing feminine a . For the continuing re asons. . In both cases. and the age at which they had started. 40. to 5 = major re ason. two with minor modifications to suit Austra- lian language usage . and if so.83. from 1 = not at all.88). and containe d all 6 of Basow’s (1991) feminine /attractive ness reasons (plus one normative reason). starting normative a . The division into feminine /attractive reasons and normative re asons was justifie d by the moderately high reliabilitie s for the se se parate scale s: starting feminine a .9% of the variance . “ To maintain profe ssional credibil- ity” .85) and high school stude nts ( a . once for starting to re move body hair and once for curre nt re moval of body hair (ite ms worde d in the past and pre se nt te nse re spe ctive ly) . while the third factor (eigenvalue = 1. The se cond factor (e ige nvalue = 1. Table I provide s the results of the varimax rotation of the starting and continuing reasons give n by the unive rsity stude nts (the more similar group to Basow’s profe ssional sample ). continuing normative a . 16. both Basow’s original and the ne w additional items.Th e Hairlessn ess Norm 877 quickly) . Four furthe r (norm ative ) ite ms we re adde d. the first factor (e ige nvalue = 5.99.88) accounte d for 34.

28 To maintain professional credibility.06 .19 It made me feel feminine. confirming the re lative ly high internal re liabilitie s.61 . Participants who did not re move their body hair rate d 5 possible re a- sons for not doing so (the four most-highly rate d ite ms in Basow’s study.54) and for high school stude nts some what highe r ( a .76 .69 a F (= feminine/attractive ) and N (= normative) indicate how the reason loaded on Basow’s ( 1991) factors. Factor Loadings of Re asons for Hair Removal for University Students Starting Reasons Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor 3 a I liked the soft silky feeling.19 . (F) .05 . the ove rall division betwee n fe minine /attractive ne ss reasons and normative reasons e merge d clearly in this Australian sample . (N) .878 Tiggem an n an d K en yon Table I.15 I like the soft silky feeling.18 .79 b -.12 . (new N) .63 . Here de gree of feminist orientation was measure d by the Women . (ne w N) . b Factor loadings greater than . Basow (1991) asse sse d feminist identification by only a sin- gle ite m.09 .48 It makes me feel attractive . (N) .19 . Fem inism .19 My mum says that I should.07 To avoid social disapproval.53 .34 It is the thing to do. (new N) . (N) . (F) .60 .27 . (ne w N) .55 ¯.07 .81 .30 .26 . (F) ¯ .24 .70 To maintain professional credibility.19 .66 Pe ople would look at me funny if I didn’t.05 .52 .22 . (F) .00 .80 It makes me feel grown up. (new N) .76 .01 I don’t want to look like a man.15 Me n prefer women without body hair.29 .41 My friends told me I should.65 Continuing Reasons Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor 3 Pe ople would look at me funny if I didn’t.79 .24 .47 ¯.15 To avoid social disapproval.11 Body hair is ugly.38 .13 . (F) . the original catego- rization was maintaine d to facilitate comparison be tween the studie s.15 .06 It made me feel attractive.51 Me n prefer women without body hair. (new N) ¯ . (F) .76 .82 .05 My friends say that I should. plus “ to make a state ment ” ). (F) .10 . (F) .29 ¯.07 I didn’t want to look like a man.62 . (N) .01 .08 .84 .75 .78 My mum told me I should. (F) .01 . (N) .39 . (F) . e xactly. (new N) ¯ .09 It was the thing to do. (N) .45 are in bold and underlined.10 It makes me feel feminine. Conse que ntly. (F) . (F) .80 . For unive rsity stude nts reliability was only mode rate ( a = .71) . (new N) .79 . (N) .02 .11 Body hair is ugly.62 .53 .19 .41 It made me feel grown up.76 .25 Women are expecte d to shave.21 .05 .78 .41 Women are expecte d to shave.49 ¯. (N) .09 .

inte rnal reliability was high for the unive rsity group ( a .40.2% . More than half the girls re move their leg hair (58. Le wis. The major method was shaving (le g 79.0% ) and unde rarm (91. of whom 7 had started and then stoppe d.5% .85.85).Th e Hairlessn ess Norm 879 in Socie ty Q uestionnaire (WSQ . 12. . The most common method of hair removal was by shav- ing (le g hair 65.7% ).2% ) hair. with 35. The modal fre quency cate gory was weekly. the vast majority of unive rsity women remove both their le g hair (91. In the se sample s.3% .9% removing le g hair and 56. Reliability was mode rate ly high in both the Unive rsity ( a . 1989) de- velope d as a contemporary alte rnative to the commonly used Attitude s To- wards Wome n Scale of Spe nce and Helmreich (1972) which has a numbe r of psychome tric proble ms (Smith & Walke r. Self-Esteem. e.92) and mode rate ly high for the high school stude nts ( a .6% ). The scale consists of 21 statements. with high scores indicating high self-es- te em.001. p < . with high score s indicating an e ndorse ment of non-tradition al or fe minist attitude s.2% ).84) . 1992) . unde rarm hair 83. O nly 8 (out of 137) girls did not re move the ir body hair and the se had neve r done so. followe d by waxing ( 23. Scores range from 10 to 50.05.7% ) at le ast wee kly.0% ). but the re was no diffe rence in fre que ncy of re moval of unde rarm hair. The re sults for the high school stude nts were ve ry similar. Grieve .g. p > . “A caree r is as important to a woman ’s self-estee m as it is to a man ’s” which re sponde nts rate on 6-point scale s (from 1 = disagre e strongly to 6 = agre e strongly) . Most re - move both their le g (92.7% re moving unde rarm hair at least weekly. RESULTS Frequency of Hair Removal As pre dicte d. unde rarm 84. O nly 8 (out of 129) wome n did not curre ntly re move their body hair. Responde nts rate on 5-point Likert scales (from ne ve r true to almost always true) statements such as “ I fe e l that I have a numbe r of good quali- ties” . The fre que ncy of le g hair re moval was highe r for the school girls than unive rsity stude nts. Hende rson and Cun- ningham (1993) recommend the use of the WSQ as it has be en develope d and normed on Australian sample s. Be ll & Bartlett.5% ) and their unde rarm hair (93. Self-este em was measure d by the 10-ite m scale adapte d by Bachman and O ’Malle y (1977) from Rosenbe rg’s (1965) Self-Estee m Scale .5% ) and unde rarm hair (65. t(239) = 3. Scores range from 21 to 126. t(238) = 1.83) and high school group ( a .

94 2. le g and unde rarm hair were first re move d at around 131/2 years of age (M’s = 13.22 2.50 3.92 3.23 It make s me feel attractive 3.57 1.16 3. .27 Men prefer women without body hair 2. In the unive rsity group. 13.65 2.10 3.83 2. degree of leg hair (unive rsity M = 2. silky fee ling 3. 2.76 2.05 2.33 1.85 My mum says that I should 1.41 3.39 Normative People would look at me funny if I didn’t 2.59 1.7) and unde rarm hair (M’s = 2. 3.65 2. For the unive rsity group.22 3.68 To maintain professional credibility 1.73 1.40) .15 3.67 I don’t want to look like a man 2.53 3.53 a “ Starting” re asons were worded in the past tense.24 3. high school M = 2.10 2.36 3.34 It make s me feel feminine 3. University School a Starting Continuing Starting Continuing Feminine/Attractive I like the soft. b Re asons rated at greater than or equal to 3 are in bold.73 2.39 3.5.25 3.5) were perceived as close to “ av- erage ” .50 2.08 2.48 1.84 2. which displays the means for each of the reasons for hair re moval. the two most highly rate d re asons were “ Body hair is ugly” and “ Me n prefer women without body hair ” .32 Overall mean 2.06 3.45 3. For the high school girls.0) and unde rarm (M’s = 2.74 2.45 2.50 Body hair is ugly 3. 12.13 b 3.8. 2.73 1.35 3.52. Reasons for Hair Removal As can be se en in Table II. the two most highly rated reasons were “ It make s me fee l attractive ” and “ I like the soft silky fe e ling ” .31 It is the thing to do 3.55 3.47 3.51 1. Mean Ratings for Reasons for Hair Removal.81 3. as was the rate of growth of both leg (M’s = 2.9.53 Overall mean 2.62) .29 2.880 Tiggem an n an d K en yon In both groups. both the unive rsity and high school groups rated the feminine /attractive ness reasons as most important in why the y continue to remove body hair.85 It make s me feel grown up 2.87 2.42 3.5.94 Women are e xpected to shave 2.91 3.8) hair.59 2.55 To avoid social disapproval 2.55 My friends say that I should 2.72 1.01 3. This is consiste nt Table II.18. whe re as the school group reporting starting somewhat earlie r around age 12 (M’s = 12.53 2.

and the fe minine /attractive ness re asons were rate d more highly across the board than the normative re asons. whe re by the unive rsity stude nts gave lowe r ratings than the high school girls.001. p < . the starting re asons were rate d more highly. .58. F(1. were also the most highly rated in Basow’s (1991) study. as illustrate d by the overall means presented in Table II. continuing) and re ason (fe minine /attractive ne ss. the significant thre e -way inte rac- tion be twe e n group.001.74. it was e xtre mely cle ar that for the high school girls their starting re asons were primarily the fe minine /attractive one s. a 2 ´ 2 ´ 2 MANOVA was conducte d with re pe ate d measure s on time (starting. F(1. howe ve r. for the unive rsity stude nts. time and re ason. In summary. p < .238) = 36. modifie d by a significant two- way inte raction betwe e n time and re ason. Howeve r.58. indicate s that this was much more so for the unive rsity group. both groups also rate d the fe minine /attractive ne ss reasons as more important. p < . In contrast to Basow’s (1991) finding for starting re asons. time and re ason. The se were .78. with group (unive rsity. In contrast.01. than for continuing.238) = 4. F(1.001. t(14) = 2. The reasons provide d for starting are less feminine and attractive and more normative . whose third to highe st rated re ason was the normative item “ It was the thing to do ” (highe st rating in Basow’s study). In orde r to confirm this inte rpre tation and to more formally analyze the results. Reason s for Non -Hair Removal Table III displays the re asons provide d by the 8 unive rsity and 8 high school stude nts who curre ntly did not remove their body hair. high school) as the be twe e n-subje cts variable .05.6) .238) = 291. “ Women ’s bodie s are fine as the y are ” and “ Women shouldn ’t have to remove body hair ” . whe re by normative re asons were rated re lative ly more highly for starting than continuing hair re moval.238) = 28.98. It should be note d that the Uni- versity stude nts appe are d to e ndorse all the give n re asons more strongly than the high school stude nts. with an e mphasis on fe mininity and attractive ness reasons. p < . F(1. the re is conside rable diffe re nce in re asons re porte d for starting and continuing the removal of body hair. for the high school stude nts there is ve ry little diffe re nce betwee n ratings for continuing and starting hair removal. The re were significant main e ffe cts of group. although in ge ne ral the mean ratings are much highe r (Basow’s highe st rating for continuing to remove hair was 2. F(1. p < .Th e Hairlessn ess Norm 881 with Basow’s (1991) findings. norma- tive ). p < . The two most highly rated reasons by both groups. This was much le ss pronounce d for the unive rsity stude nts. Howe ver.80.238) = 8.05.

93) and non-re move rs (M = 110.96. t(124) = 0.882 Tiggem an n an d K en yon Table III. nor for high-school stude nts (re spe ctive M’s = 99.23 ¯ .38 a ¯.76.75 I ’m too lazy 2.75 a 4.13 It’s stupid 3.13 To make a state ment 3.13 1. nor was there any association for non-re movers.87. a relationship betwee n feminism and the e ndorse - ment of reasons for hair-re moval. p < . p > .25 3.40 a Reasons rated at gre ater than or equal to 3 are in bold.01 b p < . 104.45 2.12 a ¯ . Although the means te nd in the predicted direction. This pre- .42.25 a p < . Correlations Betwe en Fe minism and Reasons for Hair Removal University School Starting Continuing Starting Continuing ¯.11 a b a Feminine/attractiveness Normative ¯. p > . however. Mean Ratings for Reasons for Not Removing Body Hair University School Wome n’s bodies are fine as they are 4.26b ¯ . There was.001 Femin ism an d Hair Removal It was pre dicte d that non-re move rs of hair would be more fe minist in orie ntation than women who removed the ir body hair. t(128) = 0.38 ¯ .26 ¯ . It should be note d.00) for unive rsity stude nts. The correlations in Table IV show that for unive rsity stude nts fe minism was relate d to a lesser endorse ment of all re asons for starting or continuing to remove hair. Table IV.00 Wome n shouldn’t have to re move body hair 4.12 1. feminism was associate d with the lesser endorse ment of normative reasons but not femi- nine /attractive ness reasons.05.05.25) .00 Overall Mean 3. For the high school stude nts.00 2. however. the re was no significant diffe re nce in fe mi- nism scores betwee n hair-re movers (M = 107. For the small sample of non-re movers (n = 8) feminism was related to a stronge r endorse ment of their reasons (r = . that the small numbe r of non-re movers provide d only very limite d statistical power to te st the pre diction.01) . Self-Esteem an d Hair Removal It was pre dicte d that non-re movers of body hair would score signifi- cantly highe r on self-estee m than curre nt re move rs of body hair.

94. This reflects perhaps a lower commitment on the part of fe minists to the be havior of hair removal. although the se results nee d to be vie wed cautiously in light of the small sample size for non-re move rs.g. but it must be remembered that Basow’s sample was de libe rately chose n to maximize the numbe r of fe minists and le sbians. in the unive rsity group non- remove rs of body hair did score significantly highe r on se lf-e stee m than curre nt re movers.35. it was associate d with a lesser e ndorse ment of all the pre- sente d reasons. Neve rthele ss. p < .73. This pre diction was base d on the claim that women low in self-estee m will view the natural body as re lative ly more unsatisfactory and be more drive n to alte r the body than women high in self-estee m. the vast majority (about 92% ) of both Unive rsity women and high school girls remove their leg and/or unde rarm hair.86. for biologi- cally mature fe male sexuality is in fact linke d to the pre se nce of body hair. The e xtent of this conformity to the standard of hairle ssne ss illustrate s the pe rvasive ness of the hairle ss norm. The re asons women cite for current hair-re moval are those re lating to fe mininity or attractive ness. the current unive rsity stude nts (mean age = 22 ye ars) endorse d fe minine /attractive ne ss and “ normative ” issues approximate ly equally.05. Simi- lar corre lations with se lf-e ste em have bee n found in women for othe r body- alte ring be haviors. 34. DISCUSSION As expe cted. Hope ( 1982) pointe d out that linking shaving or smooth skin to fe e ling attractive and fe minine is the major pitch of nearly all curre nt adve rtising. Yet cle arly this is an artifactual link which has bee n socie tally constructe d. This is some- what highe r than Basow’s ( 1991) rate for profe ssional wome n in the Unite d State s. It also sugge sts that such concerns are not trivial but have implications for wome ns’ vie ws of the ir global se lf. e ducational leve l or profe ssional status. e . This appe ars to be the case whe ther they be profe ssional wome n. die ting (Rodin e t al.00) . that is in- depende nt of age . 1985) .. Although feminism did not predict the non-re moval of body hair here. differ be tween groups. The very unive rsality of hair re moval in the prese nt sample made it difficult to identify predictors. p > . while the high school stude nts (mean age = 14) . unive rsity stude nts or high school stude nts. but not for the high school stude nts (M’s = 32. The reasons wome n provide for starting to remove body hair. howe ve r. t(135) = 0.05.00) .Th e Hairlessn ess Norm 883 diction was confirm ed for the unive rsity stude nts (M’s = 37. t(127) = 1. Basow’s profe ssional wome n (mean age = 44) en- dorse d primarily normative issues. 43. as there were so few women or girls who did not remove their body hair.

however. or on spe cific re inte rpre tations of their own e xpe rie nce from an observer’s viewpoint. . During the 30 years age diffe re nce betwee n the groups the re may have bee n cultural and political change s that will have affe cted hair re moval behavior. it is cle arly not what the high school girls in the current study say. The se reconstructions may consist of e laborations base d on general “ scripts ” for tee nage be havior. the ne gative re lationship betwee n fe minism and e ndorse ment of fe minine /attractive re asons for start- ing (also found by Basow) is most parsimoniously explaine d by interpreting that earlie r behavior from the schema provide d by curre nt feminist the ory. p. is that this difference is a function of time since starting hair-re moval and accompanying memory distortion or reconstruction. They re port that they started (and continue ) to shave for fe minine and attractive reasons. in a way the y do not at the time.884 Tiggem an n an d K en yon e ndorse d fe minine /attractive ne ss issues more strongly. Some indire ct e vide nce for the latte r proposal comes from the correlations with feminism. This is e xactly the kind of rationale that fue ls the adve rtisers and ke eps women insecure about their bodie s. but only when looking back in time. In some ways the veracity of the wome ns’/girls ’ reporte d reasons for shaving is not the issue. Certainly the age of starting to remove hair appe ars to be getting younge r. As such. Give n that most women de- velop in their fe minist orie ntation as they grow. Basow’s conclusion that “ Girls start shaving at pube rty pri- marily because of social and normative reasons ” (1991. profe ssional status and educational level. women unive rsally (or at le ast in the three diffe re nt sample s that have bee n inve stigate d) attribute their behavior to fe minine and attractive reasons. Anothe r possibility. Clearly whether wome n start to shave for feminine or for normative reasons depe nds on the vantage point. Rathe r the wome n ’s re porte d reasons speak more to the ways pe ople proce ss and analyze information in autobiographical memory. Whate ver the source . Whe n conside ring their own curre nt behavior. toge the r with its somewhat contrasting attribution to feminine and attractive re asons. It is like ly that women will not “ remembe r” why the y starte d shav- ing. It appe ars that wome n can recognize the normative pressure s on them to shave . or time of starting to shave . Such “ normative ” but unre cognize d behaviors sure ly warrant furthe r re se arch atte ntion. While this is what adults (profe ssional women and to a lesser exte nt unive rsity stude nts) re port. certainly contribute s to the notion that women ’s bodie s are unacce ptable as the y are. the unive rsality of body hair removal. howe ve r. women inte rpre t the ir e arlie r be havior as due to normative pressure s. but will ne e d to reconstruct these memories. whe ther one is looking from the inside . These differences may be a function of age . 92) is calle d into que stion. as sugge ste d by Brewer (1988) . or from outside with the analysis of an observer.

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