Perilous Patches and Pitstaches: Imagined Versus Lived Experiences of Women's Body Hair Growth

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28 Scopus citations


Although some research has examined men and women's general attitudes toward women growing body hair, little research has engaged in a side-by-side examination of women's imagined experiences of growing body hair with an experiential component of growing their own body hair. In the first of two studies, I asked a diverse community sample of women aged 18 to 59 to assess their impressions of women who grew body hair and to imagine their own, and others', reactions to their hypothetical body hair growth. For the second study, I utilized response papers from 62 women from diverse backgrounds in an undergraduate women's studies course, who grew their body hair for an assignment. Results showed overwhelming negativity toward women growing body hair in both studies, but they differed in perceptions of social control and individual agency. Women in Study 1, who merely imagined body hair growth, described it more nonchalantly and individualistically, citing personal choice and rarely acknowledging social pressures placed upon women even disgusted by other women's body hair. Women in Study 2 regularly discussed unanticipated social pressures and norms, rarely discussed personal choice, and reported a constellation of difficulties, including homophobia, family and partner anger, and internalized disgust and "dirtiness." These results on a seemingly "trivial" subject nuance the "rhetoric of choice" debate within feminist theories of the body while also illustrating a vivid experiential assignment that delves into women's personal values, relationships, and social norms. Implications for assessing and changing attitudes about women's bodies-particularly "abject" or "othered" bodies-are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-180
Number of pages14
JournalPsychology of Women Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • body image
  • choice behavior
  • physical attractiveness
  • sex role attitudes
  • social behavior
  • social norms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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