Arizona Professor Offers Extra Credit To Female Students Who Stop Shaving Their Armpits

By Judd Legum

Putting down your razor can lift your G.P.A. at Arizona State University.

Professor Breanne Fahs offers female students extra-credit if they “stop shaving their legs and underarms for ten weeks during the semester while keeping a journal to document their experiences.” For Fahs, who teaches women and gender studies, the purpose is to get students thinking critically about societal norms and gender roles.

A similar opportunity is available to men in Fahs’ classes who recieve extra credit for shaving all of their hair from the neck down.

One student, Stephanie Robinson, described it as a “life-changing experience“:

Many of my friends didn’t want to work out next to me or hear about the assignment, and my mother was distraught at the idea that I would be getting married in a white dress with armpit hair. I also noticed the looks on faces of strangers and people around campus who seemed utterly disgusted by my body hair. It definitely made me realize that if you’re not strictly adhering to socially prescribed gender roles, your body becomes a site for contestation and public opinion.

Men seemed to have an easier time with it since some degree of “manscaping” has become accepted, or even expected.

The norm of women shaving body hair dates back to an effort by Gillette to expand their market for razors. Starting around 1915, Gillette started a campaign “denouncing the (previously inoffensive) female underarm hair as ‘unsightly’, ‘masculine’ and ‘unclean’.” In the 1920s, they expanded their efforts to leg hair, glamorizing “a smooth, silky leg.”

Still, “[b]efore the first world war, virtually no American woman shaved her legs. By 1964, 98% of women under the age of 44 did so.”

In 2010, Mo’Nique created a minor stir by appearing at the Golden Globes with unshaven legs. This year some celebrities, including Cameron Diaz, have been speaking out for more tolerance for women’s choices.

Fahs received an award from the American Psychological Association in recognition of her program and has been contacted by “faculty members at other universities are considering using the exercise in their classes.”

This post originally published on ThinkProgress.


Sara Sezun
Sara S2 years ago

I studied in Europe for a year, and did not shave my legs or underarms at all. It was totally liberating, and the men didn't care, including my boyfriend, who was European. It made me realize what a chore it is to shave one's legs.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe2 years ago

Congratulations to Professor Breanne Fahs for getting her students thinking!!

Dale O.

Fascinating and intriguing, this is something different. I was going to mention Gillette, but I see that Marie W has already stated this, so I will repeat her comment and the interesting link that she provided.

Marie W: "Most European women do not shave armpits or legs ever. No thinks that is strange.

USA is strange. Having Women shave legs and armpits was started as a market ploy to sell Gillette razors. Do some research. USA has the shortest memory in the world and follows marketing as a religion."

Carole R.
Carole R2 years ago


Frank S.
2 years ago

I would do it for a chili dog, but not for extra credit, lol.

Suzanne L.
Suzanne S2 years ago

And following on Stella W.'s comment, why is it not OK for men to choose to remove their body hair? George Chuvalo, a heavyweight boxer, preferred to shave his whole body. Body hair on women became less appreciated when sleeveless, short dresses and more athletic dancing came on the scene in the 1920's. However, Muslim women had been using wax and a thread techniques to remove facial and body hair centuries prior to that. Records drawn on cave walls show that prehistoric males and females shaved using clamshells, flint knives and shark teeth. Circular, gold or copper razors have been found 4 millennia B.C. in Egyptian tombs. Central and South American pre-Columbian cultures used volcanic obsidian blades to shave with and cut hair. They traded them with other Indian cultures further north. Certainly Fah's experiential assignment is a great way to get students thinking about things, but man and womankind's predilection for hair removal vastly predates Gillette.

Kamia T.
Kamia T2 years ago

Many cultures in Europe have NOT bought into the idea that every inch of visible hair, other than on her head, should be removed by a woman. I think it's a personal decision between her, her significant other (maybe), and certainly NOT society. We use cosmetics to companies can make a buck; probably shower way too much for the same reason, and waste a plethora of materials and goods just because we buy into biased advertising. It must have been interesting for the women and men in her class to see their own and others' reactions.

barb p.
Past Member 2 years ago

I think it is an interesting study

BMutiny TCorporationsEvil

I am repeatedly amazed by the fact that some people either DON'T READ an article, yet come to immediate conclusions about it based on a single word or sentence;
or apparently read SOME of it, but DON'T SEEM TO UNDERSTAND what the article actually SAYS, if it doesn't fit some PRECONCEPTIONS they already have!!!

For those who trot out the tired old saw, "What are Universities coming to? This is TRIVIAL!"...
"For Fahs, who teaches women and gender studies, the purpose is to get students thinking critically about societal norms and gender roles."
Yes, "Women and Gender Studies", is a LEGITIMATE FIELD OF ACADEMIC INQUIRY, and has been since the '60's! It's a separate discipline sortof overlapping "Psychology" "Sociology" and "Anthropology".
This sounds like a WELL-PLANNED EXPERIMENT. One that is VOLUNTARY and anyone can quit at any time they feel uncomfortable with it! I'm sure there are several ways to earn "extra credit", which is for EXTRA WORK, above and beyond the Academic Requirement for a passing grade!
And this Experiment, keeping a detailed record and all, IS REAL WORK - with quite a bit of "homework" to it!
One way, after all, to RESEARCH Gender Roles - which is WHAT THE CLASS IS ABOUT - is to make some small or large CHANGE in them, and see what happens!
Just like an Experiment in Chemistry or anything else...

BMutiny TCorporationsEvil

This is NOT "extra credit for looking a certain way". The "teasing" come-on title of this article tends to make you think so. Some people READ NO MORE THAN THE TITLE and maybe first sentence...

This is about students getting Extra Credit for ENGAGING VOLUNTARILY IN A CLASS PROJECT. A Research Project, that is unusual because it involves doing research on themselves and their immediate surroundings - in a somewhat intrusive way. That is why it is VOLUNTARY and for EXTRA Credit - rather than being a "class requirement" which would be very intrusive, rude and in bad taste if it were "required"!

This would be like a Class Research Project that required you to sit in a swamp [studying frogs let's say] and getting wet - not everyone would like to do that, or even be capable of doing that! So, again, that would be for EXTRA credit, for those brave enough to risk the cold and damp!

Again, it is a habit of magazines, tabloid newspapers and even Care2, to put out "teasers" which are basically False Advertising, just to get your attention! You always risk the "Gotcha!" effect..... have to watch out you don't jump to false conclusions about the article itself.

On a different note, just think of the TONS OF MONEY that Gillette has made for DECADES, since 1915, just thru that ONE CHANGE IN AMERICAN WOMEN'S HABITS.... no wonder the Company is ROLLING IN WEALTH.... we call this advertising GENIUS...