Negotiating the Hairless Ideal in Āotearoa/New Zealand: Choice, Awareness, Complicity, and Resistance in Younger Women's Accounts of Body Hair Removal
Terry, G; Braun, V; Jayamaha, S; Madden, H
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Hair removal amongst Western women is ubiquitous, and research continues to highlight the ongoing conformity of almost all women with hair removal practices. Often women are presented as either cultural dupes, following the expectations of the Western hairless ideal without question, or highly engaged participants in the rigours of aesthetic labour, using it for their own agentic purposes. This paper seeks to explore the various ways that younger women (18–35) made sense of their own and others’ hair removal practices. We report on a thematic analysis of data generated from an online (mostly) qualitative survey with 299 female-identified respondents. Four themes were constructed: (1) women should do what they want with their body hair, (2) removing hair is socially shaped, (3) begrudging complicity, and (4) resistance to hair removal norms takes a particular kind of woman. We discuss the ways in which women described their practices and thinking where they seemed simultaneously complicit with and resistant to idealised notions of feminine embodiment.