Riin's Rants

Shaving is stupid

Shaving is stupid. People are mammals. We're supposed to be hairy.

Who ever came up with the idea of shaving? What were they thinking? Taking a sharp implement of some sort and dragging it across their skin to remove their hair to make that area of their body hairless in an attempt to appear prepubescent? Of course, if you're going to do that, you're going to cut yourself frequently. And you'll have to do it every day to keep the area hairless because the hair keeps growing back. It seems like you'd have better things to do with your time. You do have better things to do with your time, don't you?

I'm not saying that nobody should shave. You can shave if you really want to. But you should understand that you've been conditioned by cultural expectations which are not natural. Many people shave even though they don't want to because they feel they have to. Many people have attitudes about their own bodies or about other people which are unhealthy or discriminatory simply because of irrational ideas about hair.

Women naturally have hair on their legs and on their armpits. Really. I have no idea who came up with the idea of shaving it off. I know it's not a universal thing, but in the US, the majority of women shave or remove the hair through even more ridiculous means. Women with hair, especially with armpit hair, are often viewed with disgust, by both men and by other women. Why? It's completely natural to have this hair. If she never shaves, the hair is soft. If she showers regularly, the hair is clean. Just what is objectionable about it?

I think some people view women with leg hair and armpit hair as masculine, as if only men are supposed to grow hair there. If women weren't supposed to grow hair there, then the hair wouldn't grow there. But it does. It grows on men and women. It's completely arbitrary that someone decided women should shave it off. Someone could just as easily have decided that only men should shave it off. There is nothing natural about women shaving it off. It's arbitrary.

I figured men had it a little easier. Lots of men shave their faces, but lots of men have beards. I figured it was just a matter of individual choice. I know I wouldn't choose to shave every day if I were a man. I don't really know why most men do, but I suspect many feel they have to. I was surprised though when my friend Ken told me he had been discriminated against because of his beard. When he first grew his beard years ago he was forced to resign from his teaching job. I was shocked. I couldn't understand why anyone would feel it was their business whether someone else shaved or not. Why would someone think less of a man because he has a beard? That simply never would have occurred to me.

I wondered if this sort of discrimination was still occurring so I did a Google search for "beard" and "fired." There were 64,000 hits, though not all of them were relevant, as Beard seems to be a surname, and "fired" has other meanings. But I found many stories of discrimination lawsuits, won and lost, nearly all on the basis of religious discrimination filed by Muslim or Sikh employees who were fired for not shaving (or in some cases, not trimming) their beards. One company allowed Muslim employees to have beards as long as they were able to produce a note from a religious leader, but the employee was not able to provide a note in time, so he was fired. Many companies allowed employees to have beards only if they were Muslim or Sikh, i.e., their religion forbade them to shave. Other male employees were required to shave or be fired. (They might have beliefs which are just as strong, and they could be religious, but only organized religion counts as religion in this country. But that's another rant.)

I found one case of racial discrimination described in Business Week Online. A black man sued the company that fired him for refusing to shave his beard. He had explained to them that he was unable to shave because he suffered from PFB, a skin condition peculiar to many black males that makes shaving painful. Their response was that there were no exceptions to the no-beard policy, and he was eventually fired. He won his lawsuit, as the court found the company's policy "effectively operated to exclude those black males from employment." But then the website goes on to explain, "the court noted that the mere fact that a black male employee suffers from PFB is not sufficient to exempt him from the no-beard policy; only those who suffer greatly and cannot shave are protected." Excuse me? Only men who are in complete and utter agony if they shave are allowed to keep their beards? Men who suffer a moderate amount of pain must put up with that moderate amount of pain every day or be fired? Who decides how much pain is too much? And why should any amount of pain be acceptable? Why should an employer have the right to tell an employee he must undergo daily pain if he wants to keep his job?

The Business Week site concludes the topic with: "TIP: Good grooming regulations reflect a company's policy in highly competitive business environments. Reasonable requirements in furtherance of that policy are one aspect of managerial responsibility and may not constitute an invasion of a person's privacy if challenged, particularly if the company disseminated written rules advising workers of the consequences flowing from violations of such policies." How utterly offensive! Good grooming?! Are they saying anyone with a beard is not well-groomed? How can it not be an invasion of privacy to tell someone "I don't like what your face looks like. Change it." That's what all of these cases are about. What's next? Telling an employee to have plastic surgery?

Good grooming simply requires someone be clean and neat. Hair on one's face is just as clean and neat as the hair on top of one's head. If you want to shave your own face, that's fine. You have that right. But to discriminate against someone else who doesn't, for whatever reason (and the reason is really none of your business), is unconscionable.

Both men and women may decide not to shave because they think it's a stupid waste of time and they've got better things to do than spend minutes every day cutting themselves, trying to defy nature for no good reason in some Sisyphean exercise for a result they don't think looks better than what nature gave them.

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Copyright © 2003 Riin Gill | October 26, 2003