To shave or not to shave: How women can participate in No-Shave November

It’s that time of year again when people put down their razors in favour of growing out their hair. “No-Shave November” or “Movember” is a month-long commitment in which participants neglect shaving and grooming to raise awareness of cancer.

The annual campaign began nearly 20 years ago, according to the official Movember website, when two friends in Australia decided to see how long they could grow their mustaches for the month of November. Since then, it has turned into a worldwide cultural phenomenon promoting men’s health issues - such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and colorectal cancer - as well as mental health awareness.

Non-profit organisations such as Movember and No-Shave November have gone on to encourage participants to donate the money they’d typically spend on shaving and grooming, with the latter raising over $10m to date.

The rules are simple: don’t shave. Many cancer patients receiving various treatments are unable to grow their hair. In honour of them, participants are encouraged to avoid shaving their face and grow out their hair.

However, some people may be wondering: is No-Shave November only for men or can women participate too?

For years, societal beauty standards have suggested that women growing out their body hair is unappealing and unfeminine. So much so, there are countless pink razors marketed towards women at every drug store, as well as waxing professionals at most salons.

Nevertheless, it’s becoming increasingly common for women - especially among the younger generations - to grow out their body hair. A study from 2016 revealed that nearly one in four women under the age of 25 had stopped shaving their underarms. That number may be even greater now, considering the amount of non-binary people in the LGBTQ+ community who may reject shaving their body hair due to expectations of heteronormativity. Not to mention the Covid-19 lockdown gave us all some reprieve from being judged by others for our appearance.

These days, several non-profit organisations encourage not just men, but people of all gender identities to participate in No-Shave November. According to Fight Colorectal Cancer, a patient advocacy group, women typically avoid getting haircuts and grow out their leg hair during November. The group has also seen more people participate by sporting a blue mustache and posting it on social media.

That doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been some backlash towards women’s participation in the past. Because No-Shave November helps raise awareness for men’s health, some critics believe that by women forgoing their razors in solidarity, they’re taking away from the “true cause” of the movement, the Daily Dot previously reported.

That is, until the Movember Foundation - a global charity raising funds and awareness for men’s health - encouraged “Mo Sistas” to support their “Mo Bros” and get involved in the movement. “Women tend to be the gateway to health in a man’s life - whether it’s a mother or daughter, wife, girlfriend or pal,” the organisation said. “Women lead by example, and it’s the women’s health movement that Movember is emulating.

“Studies have shown that men are less likely to talk about their health, let alone take action. Women play an important role in helping men break down the barriers that surround those simple health conversations and can be the catalyst in getting men to move and stay active during the month.”

It goes without saying that women can do whatever they want when it comes to growing out their body hair, so why not help raise awareness towards men’s health issues while doing it?