“No-Shave November” reflects gendered shaving norms

“No-Shave November” is more than just a time of year where beards and hairy legs become more socially acceptable—it has the potential to be a conversation starter for many issues, such as men’s health and the pervasive shaving norms that exist in our society alike. Bringing awareness to male-specific illnesses—like testicular or prostate cancer—is the largely unreferenced reason behind No-Shave. The official movement began as a product of a Chicago family who lost father and husband Matthew Hill to colon cancer in November of 2007. As a result, the No-Shave November organization encouraged people to donate the money that they would have spent on shaving products to a cancer research charity of their choice.

The spirit of No-Shave exists outside of the United States, too. Overseas in Australia and parts of Europe, people participate in “Movember.” Founded in 2003 by the Movember Foundation, the focus of this group is to grow a notable, well-groomed mustache throughout November. The official rules exclude the growing of beards and goatees, unlike No-Shave.

The emphasis on facial hair is great for those who can grow it. But what about those who cannot, including—but not limited to—women?

Movember suggests that persons unable to participate—known as “Mo Sistas”—ask other participants about their mustaches, thus opening the conversations about men’s health issues. No-Shave November, which has less regulations and rules than Movember, is more inclusive.

“The goal of No-Shave November is to grow awareness by embracing our hair, which many cancer patients lose, and letting it grow wild and free,” according to the No-Shave website. There is a lack of a gender focus, however, unlike Movember.

As a result, the meaning of “hair” is left up to the No-Shave participants themselves. While many apply this definition to their beards, people also apply it to the entirety of their body—including their genitals.

Herein lies the discussion about gendered shaving norms that No-Shave can provide. Society views male body hair as natural—but the same cannot be said of women. When women join No-Shave, they are often met with disgust from the people in their lives, males and females alike. Despite our society’s obsession with hairless skin being a relatively new phenomenon, the thought of a hairy woman still repulses some people.

There is no time more perfect than November—when body hair stands center stage—to address this disparity. The controversy continues from leg hair to genital hair. Some people see hair in that area as natural on both men and women, and some see it as dirty or unappealing. While it tends to be seen as a female-centric issue, men experience discrimination too, and some people believe they can dictate how their partners shave “downstairs.”

No matter your preference, it isn’t difficult to agree that body hair or lack thereof remains a personal choice: during November and every other time of year. No one should feel that their bodily choices are anyone else’s business but their own.

Celebrate No-Shave with an air of inclusivity. Take time to educate yourself and above all else remember what it really stands for—beyond your retired razor.