Breanne Fahs, a professor of women and gender studies at Arizona State, is awarding bonus credits to students who defy their proscribed gender role by growing or shaving their body hair (women will grow body hair and men shave it).
The results were immediate:
One female student told ASU News that cultivating a hairy existence was a “life-changing experience.” Friends were repulsed. Her anti-pervert-hairy-stockings-for-girlsmother was horrified. But she came away from the experience empowered by her newly politicized perception of grooming habits. “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.”
According to [professor Breanne] Fahs, the “labor-intensive” assignment “gives men some insight into what women who shave go through.” The apparently torturous act of grooming is something women–guided by societal norms and media representations–are powerless to fight. Men must “go through” the same horrors to understand the plight of their female classmates because, Fahs says, “male students tend to adopt the attitude of, ‘I’m a man; I can do what I want.’” (One ape-like man, she told the ASU student newspaper, “did his shaving with a buck knife.”)
I love this experiment. Everyone should do a little gender bending and see how difficult it is to live outside societal norms and what it's like to be the other sex. So profound.