What can be dismissed as trivial is a source of deep anxiety for many women, but that’s what female facial hair is; a series of contradictions. It’s something that’s common yet considered abnormal, natural for one gender and freakish for another. The reality isn’t quite so clearcut. Merran Toerien, who wrote her PhD on the removal of female body hair, explained “biologically the boundary lines on body hair between masculinity and femininity are much more blurred than we make them seem”.
The removal of facial hair is just as paradoxical – the pressure to do it is recognized by many women as a stupid social norm and yet they strictly follow it. Because these little whiskers represent the most basic rules of the patriarchy – to ignore them is to jeopardize your reputation, even your dignity.
Scientists have turned their sexist and homophobic expectations of body hair to racist ones, too. After Darwin’s 1871 book Descent of Man was published, male scientists began to obsess over racial hair types as an indication of primitiveness. One study, published in 1893, looked for insanity in 271 white women and found that women who were insane were more likely to have facial hair, resembling those of the “inferior races”.