At Arizona State University, female students can earn extra credit by agreeing to not shave their armpits and legs for ten weeks.
Breanne Fahs, a professor of women and gender studies, has made the special offer to her students as a way to encourage them to challenge social norms.
“There’s no better way to learn about societal norms than to violate them and see how people react,” she told ASU News. “There’s really no reason why the choice to shave, or not, should be a big deal. But it is, as the students tend to find out quickly.”
Female students looking to earn extra credit are asked to not shave their legs or underarms for ten weeks of the semester and to keep a journal to document their experiences.
Male students aren’t being left out: They can receive the extra credit by shaving all body hair from the neck down. This labor-intensive process gives men some understanding on what women who choose to shave must go through, Fahs said.
One student who participated in the project, Stephanie Robinson, called it a “life-changing experience.” She noted the looks she received from 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,” she said.
According to ASU News, professors at other universities have been inspired by the body-hair exercise, and are considering using it in their own classes. Fahs says she is excited to see how the project will be practiced in other settings.
“There is a big difference between imagining not shaving and actually trying to not shave,” she said.