You know what boils my water? Hairlessness. Unnecessary hairlessness. Historically unnecessary hairlessness. Historically unnecessary hairless women. Quick: take any Hollywood historical drama and find me a woman with historically accurate body hair. I dare you; I double-dog dare you. I bet you can’t, especially not quickly, and that’s because for some bizarre reason, the idea of a woman with a pit full of hair is apparently considered so sickening and unattractive that filmmakers would rather mess with accuracy than traumatize the audience with historically accurate bodies.
You likely didn’t even notice the fact that hairless women have been rampant in Hollywood films for years, regardless of subject matter, from more recent examples like the Alien or Tomb Raider franchises to pretty much any historical film ever made in North America. You also probably didn’t know why this was troublesome. If you’ve watched enough European films, you’ll find that there are women with time-appropriate hair more often. The fact that much of Europe doesn’t have the same stigma attached to body hair as North America helps, but it comes down to the question of whether film is meant to reflect our society as is it, regardless of whether the film is about society at all, or is meant to entertain and educate us.
The idea of a woman with a pit full of hair is apparently considered so sickening and unattractive that filmmakers would rather mess with accuracy than traumatize the audience with historically accurate bodies.
Yeah, I know: Hollywood is notorious for padding even true stories to make a better narrative, but does that fall into the same category of attracting audiences as featuring hairless women? The answer is, of course, yes. But that begs the question of why exactly have we come to correlate hairlessness with beauty and hirsute with ugliness. After all, pretty much every single human being has hair in all sorts of fun(ny) places, yet we’re inherently ashamed of it and do our best to hide it.
Here’s a little history lesson: women didn’t actually begin shaving their armpits until about 1915, when the sleeveless dress came into fashion and Harper’s Bazaar gave the arbitrary advice that in order to wear it, “objectionable hair” had to be removed. By the ’20s, hairless underarms were rampant, all because of some (likely male) editor over at Harper’s who decided to abuse his power to further force women into yet another irrelevant societal norm. Furthermore, leg shaving didn’t become a thing until the ’40s, when skirts became much shorter and pin-up girls were rampant.
Considering that it wasn’t until the 20th century that women in North America began being overly conscious of body hair, it’s confusing why movies that take place in the 19th century and before contain so many hairless ladies (and men, as well). Think back on any movie you’ve seen that happened before the 20th century and you’ll find very few in which women have historically appropriate body hair. Diane Kruger’s creamy, smooth underarms in Troy were wrong; Vivien Leigh’s hairless pits in Gone with the Wind—in the antebellum South, when women wore a distressing pile of clothes and bathed once a week at most—are wrong; any woman in any Jane Austen adaptation wearing those empire-waist dresses with the cute, little, puffy sleeves should have a bit of hair waving hello from under the cloth, especially since they take place in Europe, where shaving didn’t become a thing ’til later.
The fact that Hollywood thinks that hairlessness is more attractive than natural body hair is extremely problematic and only helps to reinforce the out-dated and totally arbitrary gender stereotypes many are trying to break down.
While I’m lamenting Hollywood’s insistence that women be inherently hairless, let’s talk about how they demand that we accept hairlessness even in the unlikeliest of situations. In the Alien franchise, exactly when does Ripley have time to ensure that her pits are shaved? Someone please explain to me the logic behind how a woman literally fighting for survival against a killer xenomorph still has time to think, “Oops! I feel a little stubble there, better get a razor ASAP!” Not to mention Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft, who seemingly never has a moment to take a deep breath, yet apparently has ample time to ensure her body is as hairless as possible.
The fact that Hollywood thinks that hairlessness is more attractive than natural body hair is extremely problematic and only helps to reinforce the out-dated and totally arbitrary gender stereotypes many are trying to break down. An industry with the amount of power and influence Hollywood wields should at least attempt to use that clout to change society for the better, rather than stick to the status quo, in order to get asses in seats and nothing more. Of course, no one is obligated to do anything like that, but whatever happened to being a mensch and using your vast authority to better the world?