Visible body hair is rarely seen. It is so rare that underarm hair on a celebritybecomes a news story. For the rest of us, showing it in public — even at the beach, when wearing very little — is almost a political statement in itself. Increasingly, women remove all visible body hair. Including pubic hair. Men too have been getting in on the act, hence the long-rising popularity of the “back, sack and crack” waxing technique. The hairy chests and Playboy bushes of the 1970s are gone. Quite simply, body hair is no longer a feature of the ideal body.
But it is not just the ideal body that is hairless — every body has to be hairless every day. It is the hairy body that stands out, which is deemed abnormal and unnatural, even though hair grows on our bodies every moment of our lives. As a moral philosopher, this stealthy rise of the demands of beauty — and how the modified body is becoming the “normal” and sometimes even the “natural” body — concern me. And it does not end there.
That we have to do more work to create “normalcy” or “nature” is obvious. If we are to banish hair from our bodies, we need more shaving, plucking, waxing and lasering. (Meanwhile, when it comes to our heads, our hair must be abundant, and we dye, style, weave, extend and implant in our quest for luscious locks.) This level of “de-fluffing” is demanding, constant, repeated almost daily. Yet that it is demanding — and just how demanding it is — is little recognized. Instead, it is normalized.