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Smooth Operator

How I got over my ridiculous obsession with ridding my entire body of hair

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  • This revelation was problematic because, for women, there are only three acceptable places for hair: on the brows, the lashes and the head. While the appeal of a smooth, hairless female body goes back as far back as ancient Greece, defuzzing began in earnest just under 100 years ago. After the turn of the 20th century, sleeveless dresses and shorter skirts came into fashion and retailers capitalized on this by touting new hair-removal products in ads that essentially blamed fashion while providing the solution.

    In 1915, the first razor for women, the Milady Décolleté by Gillette, debuted with this message: "Fashion Says: Evening gowns must be sleeveless…The Woman of Fashion Says: The underarms must be as smooth as the face." Another ad from that same year for a depilatory deemed body hair "objectionable."

    The attitude towards women's body hair hasn't changed that much since then. Body-image expert Sarah Maria, author of the book Love Your Body, Love Your Life, says that it reinforces the idea that women's femininity—and therefore value—depends solely on how they look. "It's not enough for women to know that magazine images are Photoshopped or that it's unrealistic to compare themselves to models," she says. "The fact is, the culture still puts a premium on the impossible."

Smooth Operator
How I got over my ridiculous obsession with ridding my entire body of hair
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