Every year on Nov. 1, men and women alike put down their razors and shaving cream to participate in No Shave November.
According to the official website, the goal of the event is to donate money that normally would have been spent on grooming products to cancer prevention programs. Participants are encouraged to share photos of their hair growth journey and can compete in leaderboards based on the amount raised.
Stefani Dopico, a 22-year-old telecommunications senior, has been participating in the event for years.
“Whether doing it intentionally or not, I’ve probably done it since high school, for around five or six years,” Dopico said. “But I’m hairy year-round, it’s not just November.”
Dopico said she normally shaves her calves about once a month or “whenever I can start to feel the wind blowing through them.” For her armpits, it is about once every two to three weeks.
“I don’t touch a razor the entire month,” Dopico said. “To go a whole month in November is not really much of a stretch for me, but I do make a conscious effort for November because it is No Shave November.”
“November 2014 is the last time I shaved my thighs,” Dopico said. “It was because of No Shave November that I made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to shave my legs the entire month. It was also a feminist thing. I have not shaved my thighs at all, above the knee, since mid-November 2014. I had to break my pact for a wedding, but after that wedding, I have not shaved since.”
Dopico said that since people can barely see her thigh hair and that she doesn’t show them that often, she feels comfortable with not shaving them.
“No Shave November gave me the courage to not shave, and also the knowledge that ‘Wow, it is nice to go more than two days without shaving!’” Dopico said. “I think I was also starting to get sensitive armpits. I think that shaving too often can be harmful to the skin. I also read somewhere that shaving didn’t even become a thing until razor companies decided it was going to be a thing. They literally advertised women into thinking body hair was unacceptable and gross, just for the sake of making a profit. It’s crazy how many companies profit off of a negative body image. It’s crazy.”
Dopico is right: women began shaving their underarms in the 1920s after an advertisement in “Harper’s Bazaar” advised women to shave their underarms before attempting to wear the new sleeveless dress. Female leg shaving began in the 1940s.
Dopico said that while the purpose of the movement is to raise awareness for certain men’s cancers, the movement is much more personal for her.
“I don’t really shave often enough to have any money to donate,” Dopico said. “For me, what I see as the purpose of my involvement is to combat the stigma of feminine body hair.”
“The joke on social media is ‘Oh ladies, No Shave November is not for you because then it’s gonna be No Dick December,’” Dopico said. “I think they’re just trying to be funny, but they don’t understand that their sense of humor is dehumanizing and belittling or that it contributes to very prevalent issues of negative body image for women.”
“Some women have really dark or fast-growing body hair,” Dopico said. “It’s amazing how they will feel so self-conscious. I have friends who shave their arms because they have such dark arm hair. I have a friend who begged her mom to let her get laser hair removal on her in middle school. As young as middle school.”
She has had negative responses to her month-long rejection of shaving.
At her birthday party a few years ago, an acquaintance of hers had an immediate response to her body hair.
“At one point I guess I raised my arms to put up my hair,” Dopico said. “[This girl] saw me, looked right at me and said ‘Stefani, is that your armpit hair?’ and I was like ‘Yeah, I’ve been growing it out.’ She was like ‘That’s fucking disgusting.’ She said it flat out, no humor whatsoever in her face. I just looked at her, completely ignored her and went back to talking to someone else. I couldn’t believe that, and that she would say it to my face.”
Dopico said she was shocked that received a response like that.
“I know that people find it gross, but for her to say that to my face I was like ‘Wow,’” Dopico said. “I still tell that story all the time about that time a girl saw my armpits and told me to my face that I was fucking disgusting.”
Dopico notes that if all may not be responsive to it, it at least starts a dialogue.
“My mom thinks it’s disgusting, but she’ll laugh at me. But I think she’s catching onto it, to be honest. I think seeing me be hairy has made her [care less] about her own body hair. But you know, we’ve had discussions about it. It creates discussions, it starts a conversation.”
Luckily, Dopico has a big support system.
“Most of the people in my life see it as no big deal,” Dopico said. “For most of my friends it’s not even something worth commenting on. It’s not a question of agree or disagree. It’s OK, you don’t shave, yippee.”
Once November ends, Dopico says she does shave.
“I usually shave about monthly,” Dopico said. “Once No Shave November is over I do shave, usually because it’s gotten to the point where it’s uncomfortable. And people tell me ‘you should just stop shaving, like I promise it eventually gets to a point where it’s not uncomfortable.’ I don’t know. I guess I’ve been too conditioned by society. I can feel [the hair]. And after a while I’ll be wearing shorts – I just shaved right before November started — and I’ll get to a point where I’m walking around outside and I can feel the air blowing my leg hair and it feels like I have bugs on my legs. I don’t know how guys do it. I don’t know how men can have just a jungle of hair, but I also don’t think it’s healthy to shave every other day because it irritates my skin. There’s a balance, I’m sure.”
Dopico is not wrong about societal conditioning of negativity toward female body hair. Feminist Sandra Bartky, in a 1988 essay, argues
“In contemporary patriarchal culture, a panoptical male connoisseur resides within the consciousness of most women: They stand perpetually before his gaze and under his judgment.”
At the end of the day, her involvement is because of her dedication to feminism.
“If I had to put it into a tagline: I like to make rude men feel uncomfortable,” Dopico said.