The D for Dalrymple Questionhair (part four): Comparisons

I know you definitely use these

Back in April Christina wrote a post about body hair and hair removal. At the end of the post she included a link to a short survey on the subject of hair and hair removal. She called this survey the ‘Questionhair’, because it was funny. You’re welcome.

Hello everyone – and thanks for sticking with me during this series of posts looking at results from April’s Questionhair. There have been a lot of interesting results so far but for me, it’s this week’s data that has been the most revelatory. I’m really pleased to be able to include a lot of your original comments in this post, as it means less work for me they’re by far the best part.

We’re now up to question eight, which asked you how you thought your natural hairiness compared to that of other women in general.

For this question, quite a few people felt it was important to point out that the colour of hair can be as important as its amount or location when it comes to how it affects the way you look and feel. Again, fair-haired people reported and were generally perceived to have fewer ‘problems’ with their body hair due to lesser visibility. 22 people felt strongly enough about the distinction to write comments about it – here are a few of their observations:

If I’m averagely hairy, you also need to take into account that I’m a brunette, so body hair is much more obvious.

It’s difficult to say because I’m very dark haired so it shows up more than on a blonde woman. I grow more hair than some of my friends but couldn’t really speculate on how my hairiness fits on a scale comprising all women.

I have fairish hair so it’s not terribly visible until it has practically formed a fur coat.

I think I have quite a lot of hair on my body (arms, legs, sideburns, cheeks, pubes, ass, toes, armpits, neck) but it’s very pale and fine so it doesn’t show much unless you’re close up. I think my sideburns look super pretty when they catch the light.

577 women bravely went on to tackle the question of how MUCH hair they had. A mere 6% officially declined to offer an opinion, saying that they either didn’t know or didn’t WANT to know how they compared with others, body hair-wise:

I don’t care how hairy women are so I don’t really pay attention.

The other 96% were happy to take a guess. 99 women (around 17% of respondents) said that they thought they were probably less hairy than most:

I am a weird hairless freak and I realise this makes me lucky in that I am totally patriarchy 2.0 compliant with little effort.

41% thought they were of a similar hairiness to most women, and 36% thought that they were more hairy than the average women.

The hairy 36% had quite a lot to say on the topic:

So. Hairy.

I KNOW I’m hairier than most women. I’m constantly aware of hair on other women, and so know that I’m rather more hairier than them unfortunately.

I’m hairier than most GUYS.

I am a gorilla compared to most women – this is not a joke.

I have more hair than a chimp!

I’m practically the Missing Link.

Did I mention my theory that my real mother was impregnated by a chimpanzee in a secret 1970s experiment, and the babies, including me, were shaved and put up for adoption when research funding ran out? I’m really into fruit, too, so it must be true…

I may just be hairier because I cultivate mine.

For proof, when I went to my first laser hair removal session, the doctor (and remember this is a medically trained man who treats hairy women FOR HIS JOB) said, “oh my, that’s really quite thick, isn’t it?” Thanks a bunch, Dr Naidoo. And for second proof, a significant other once stroked my (foolishly unshaven) thighs in bed and murmured something romantic which I didn’t hear. Smiling, I asked him what he’d said…”I said, I could light a match on your thighs”.

I have real beard hairs and am more facially hairy than my sister, mum, friends.

I do have very dark (and abundant) pubic hair and this was an issue while living in Australia, where women seem to universally wax and small children would stop and stare at the beach. However the number of times in a decade when you can strip to your underpants on a Scottish beach have made it less of an issue here.

I know I’m definitely much hairier than most women and a fair number of men; I have PCOS & have always been a hairy manbeast.

When I was about 13 a doctor thought I might have polycystic ovary syndrome, one of the indicators is that you’ve got more body hair. My mum said to me, “Well, I’m not saying that you’re a gorilla or anything, but you are quite hairy, aren’t you?” There you are, you have it from my mother – I am abnormally hairy.

Some great comments. I’m laughing, I’m crying, but before I start bashing my head on the keyboard, let’s just step back and have another look at those stats, shall we?

– 41% of women said: “I think I’m probably of a similar hairiness to most women”

– 36% of women said: “I think I’m probably hairier than most women”

Now, I’ll freely admit that maths is not my strong point. Never has been. My school even made me do an intermediate tier maths GCSE where the highest mark you could get was a B and you got ten marks just for spelling your name correctly at the top. (Probably.) I recently had to call my dad to check how to work out percentages. But even I can see that something isn’t quite right here.

FIRST WEIRD THING: less than half of all women surveyed thought that they belonged to what, by definition, should have been the largest respondent group: the average. The median. MOST OF US. Look, I done a graph to show what the results should look like.

Figure one: what I expected people to say

As you can see from this highly scientific and accurate graph – which also, unexpectedly, doubles as a hairy Bolivian flag – I’ve plotted an imaginary line between a vertical axis of hairiness and an imaginary horizontal axis of your responses. The line is imaginary because I didn’t ask you to quantify your hair growth in any more detail than saying which of the three options – less, average, more – you thought you belonged to. But the line looks pretty and I spent the best part of a morning on this, so it stays.

You’d expect to see the majority of responses dotted along the line in the ‘average’ zone. That’s what average means, I think. But –

SECOND WEIRD – AND TROUBLING – THING: very nearly the same amount of women who thought they were average said that they thought they were of above average hairiness. Look.

Figure two: what people *actually* said

Figure two took me 25 minutes to draw and colour in and very clearly demonstrates that the yellow ‘average’ zone is nearly the same size as the red ‘danger’, sorry, ‘above average’ zone. The green ‘below average’ zone is hardly there at all. This is what you told me.

Can we all just take a second to consider how statistically unlikely these figures are?

It’s clear that something has gone wrong. It’s either me, or it’s you, or it’s the Questionhair itself.

I discussed this problem with my friend Tom, who works in a bank. Tom is a man who not only knows how to work out percentages but can use all of the buttons on a scientific calculator, including the ones with symbols that only the higher tier GCSE class got to learn about. Together we came up with a few theories to explain the anomaly:

Theory one: women of above-average hairiness were over-represented in the sample.

Could women of above-average hairiness have been particularly drawn to my survey – like furry moths to a flame? I certainly didn’t promote my survey to any known hairy user groups, but might the fact that the survey was about hair have attracted a particularly hairy sample? Do people with a large surface area of hair has a correspondingly greater interest in hair-related media? Does melatonin affect browsing habits?

Theory two: survey-takers’ responses were affected by their desire to please the surveyer.

This idea came from a paper Tom had been reading about the social desirability hypothesis, which suggests that some survey-takers fabricate their responses in an attempt to gain an interviewers’ approval. Is it possible that you guys thought you could make me happy by telling me you were super-hairy, when actually you’re not? Let’s rephrase: are there people out there who think I get off on everyone being hairy? Oh god.

Theory three: some survey-takers have an inaccurate perception of their own physical appearance.

Perhaps some of the people who answered this question were just plain wrong about how much hair they have. Could these figures be the result of widespread body dysmorphia among respondents?

Theory four: women nowadays have a realllllly hard time judging their own appearance relative to that of others, because they rarely see how other women actually, naturally are.

If you’ve been following the Questionhair since the beginning, it’s probably not hard to guess which of these theories I find most compelling. Let’s quickly review what we know so far about our sample: over half remove hair twice a week or more, spending on average £20-50 per year on up to thirteen different methods of removing hair from every conceivable place on their bodies.

How on earth are we supposed to know what the norm is when the bodies around us are so routinely plucked, trimmed, shaven, waxed, lasered or otherwise modified? We’re far more likely to see each other freshly plucked than not.

The comments from this question make it abundantly clear how hard it is for many women to accept other people’s bodies, let alone their own:

I don’t think I ever really see how hairy other women are/ aren’t.

I’ve given up on trying to figure out how hairy I am compared to other women, because I so rarely see female body hair in its natural state. I used to think I was pretty hairy, but now realise that this is probably because I had assumed that other women’s hairlessness was “normal” for them, rather than the result of an extensive beauty regime.

I don’t have a very realistic idea of how hairy “ordinary” women are, i.e. women who are not called Kate Moss and the like.

It never even occurred to me to e.g. shave my arms or so – and I was pretty dumbstruck when some female friends told me a couple of weeks ago they’d actually shave their arms, bellies, backs (…) on a regular basis.

I am eternally grateful to Jade Goody for shaving her belly in view of a camera during Big Brother: that’s the first time I knew that other women had belly hair and I wasn’t a freak after all. I think I was about 20 years old.

I’m not sure how hairy is ‘normal’. Is it normal for your bikini line to be about a centimetre outside your underwear? If so, why do they cut ladies underwear so small?

How is it most women can wear bikinis? And most underwear is low-cut or with see-through patches?

I’m not sure how hairy other women are really, because it’s always removed where it would be visible, or it’s not talked about.

Let’s talk about it. Coming up next – how open are you about your hair removal practices?

See also:

The D for Dalrymple Questionhair results – preamble and defence

The D for Dalrymple Questionhair (part 1): Gender, Age, Geography

The D for Dalrymple Questionhair (part 2): Frequency, Methods, Cost 

The D for Dalrymple Questionhair (part 3): Where

About Christina Kenny

Christina Kenny is a music journalist based in London.
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5 Responses to The D for Dalrymple Questionhair (part four): Comparisons

  1. Hannah says:

    I would guess it’s a combination of Theories 2 and 4: for me, a huge part of the appeal of the Questionhair, and why I have followed it with such fascination, is the fact that I am spectacularly hairy and am seeking validation. But for sure, as ever-increasing hairlessness becomes the norm, no one has a clue what level of hirsutitude is normal.

  2. Christina says:

    Ha, I know what you mean re: seeking validation. But over the last few weeks, I’ve been finding it increasingly hard to achieve this. Everyone, from female friends to the woman who takes my dollar to rip hair out of my crotch, seems to be at pains to convince me of my relative hairlessness. Is this hairiness as a badge of honour, or a conversation starter? I blame feminism, Bridget Jones and a culture of relentless one-upmanship 🙂 The hair wars start here

  3. Pingback: The D for Dalrymple Questionhair (part five): Talking | D for Dalrymple

  4. Codi Johnson says:

    It’s definitely number four. I know this because my dad is kind of a hippie and took me to rainbow gatherings where there’s a multitude of naturally hairy women wearing very little or nothing. My theory about hair removal is that it has less to do with the patriarchy and more to do with the multi billion dollar hair removal industry. By convincing women they’re not supposed to have any hair, they sell lots of stuff. Hippie women ignore this and give us a reference point. Having said this, I’m glad I’m blonde and can walk both sides on this.

  5. Christina says:

    I clearly need to hang out with more hippies (not the first time I have said this).

    Wouldn’t it be amazing, though, if hair could be normalised in women of ALL different lifestyles, not just the ones that mainstream culture find it easy to write off as ‘hippies’? I would like to see WAY more hairy celebrities. Julia Roberts wasn’t enough. I want 50% of the women in Heat magazine to feature hairy pits – and NOT in that fucking awful Circle Of Shame feature. I want to see actresses in Eastenders with sideburns. I want to see Kate Middleton combing her leg hair on a beach somewhere.

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