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When Went conducted tossed her razor, "the most interesting thing happened," she says. "Nobody cared!" Few people even noticed her shaving strike, and Went realized that a lifetime of hair removal hadn't been worth the effort. "The more I thought about it," she says, "the more I realized it was my body and I was the only one who ought to dictate what it looked like."
While Went is not alone in embracing a hairier existence — Madonna sported unshaven pits in a selfie last spring, and in her 2014 book The Body Book, Cameron Diaz penned a much-discussed chapter entitled "In praise of pubes" — some women still prefer a smoother approach. "Being of Mediterranean heritage, with very thick dark hair and fair skin, as soon as I was able to shave, pluck and wax, I took full advantage," says Jess Prentice, a 36-year-old HR director from Toronto. Since upkeep was difficult and even painful, she invested in laser hair removal on her armpits—meaning she couldn't hop aboard this trend if she tried.
"I applaud women who are standing up for gender quality by ditching their razors in protest, and women who want to get back to a more natural way of life," she says, "but personally I like my pits smooth!"
Even the guys are getting nicked in this fuzzy discussion. On the one hand, the popularity of beards would seem to say that hairy is OK. But ads for man-scaping razors and the popularity of back and chest waxing and laser hair removal for the guys suggests otherwise.
For women, however, the debate gets painfully personal further down this time of year with hair removal—to varying degrees—in the bikini zone. Some argue that the decade-old hairless Brazilian wax not only leaves women prime for ingrown hairs, but also for infection from ripping out hair follicles from a decidedly sensitive spot. Others take the political stance that the Brazilian and its sister variations, such as the "landing strip," are inspired by the porn industry, infantilize women and create an unrealistic view of what grownup womanhood looks like.
For most of us, though, hair removal is likely more personal than political. Vogue columnist Karley Sciortino writes that any way you choose to wear your personal hair is a matter of style, not politics. And in her recent (and controversial) book, Hot Feminist, British columnist Polly Vernon rails against the idea that fashion and grooming don't jive with women's rights. Her non-fuzzy stance? To be a "shavey leggy, fashion-fixated, wrinkle-averse, weight-conscious kind of feminist."
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