By now, we’ve all heard of the “shavegate” scandal, a story of a woman being asked to shave a man by a stranger in the subway station, who then proceeded to shave the man’s head.
And the story went viral, gaining more attention than anything else in recent years.
But as more women get their hands on the products, what exactly does it mean to ask them to shave their head?
And when is it OK to ask?
“It’s a question that has gotten a lot of traction lately because the trend is really spreading,” says Heather Clements, founder of the women-only salon Salon Hair Salon and author of the book, Shaving in Public: Why Women Need to Stop Shaving Everywhere.
Clements says that a lot has changed in recent months: “There are so many people that are trying to be more inclusive of everyone,” she says.
“So I think there’s definitely been a real shift in how women are asking for this.
But I think the real shift has been in how we talk about it.”
For example, Clements says it’s not as if people are afraid to ask women to shave in public.
“I think the conversation is still really strong, it’s just that a certain level of comfort has to be built into the conversation about it,” she explains.
“If someone doesn’t feel comfortable saying yes, then it doesn’t have to be.”
And while there’s a growing movement to make shaves more inclusive, some women say it’s still too much to ask.
“People are just too intimidated by it, and they’re not ready for it,” says Jennifer, a 31-year-old from New York City who has been a full-time shaver for five years.
“There’s too much pressure and too much fear.”
She says it makes her feel unsafe asking to shave at a public place.
“It feels so weird and so uncomfortable,” she admits.
“But then I think, ‘This is my body.
I don’t want to feel unsafe.
I’m a woman.
I’ve had my fair share of harassment and threats and stuff.'”
Jennifer and many other women are starting to take on the question of whether it’s OK to request a woman shave in the presence of men in public, as long as she’s not being asked.
“When people ask women what they want to do, I think it’s always a conversation about body image, about body positivity, about what it means to be a woman in the world,” says Lisa, a 28-year old from Seattle.
“It’s so much more inclusive if it’s a person who’s actually interested in being a part of that conversation, who’s not trying to manipulate you.”
But many women aren’t convinced that asking a woman for a shave in front of a stranger is really a good idea, and say it could make them feel unsafe or even dangerous.
“I don’t think asking a female person to shave is a good way to build trust and comfort,” says Lauren, a 23-year past-graduate student at the University of Utah.
“You can’t ask a male person to do it, so I think asking someone to shave someone else’s head feels unsafe.”
“The whole concept of women needing to be able to get a shave without having to ask me is a bit of a myth,” adds Lauren.
“And people will look at you like you’re asking a joke.”
And in fact, according to Lauren, “people are actually going to look at me like I’m asking a sexist joke.”
She adds that she often feels like her hair is a liability because of how it’s done, and it’s very hard for her to ask for a haircut with the amount of attention it’s received.
“And even when it’s the right thing to do,” she adds, “I’m still concerned about being the person who looks stupid and looks awkward.
I feel like I look stupid and awkward.”
But she adds that if women are really comfortable asking for a hair cut, “why not ask people to do something else?”
“The most important thing is that you’re not making a decision that you don’t feel like you can handle,” says Liza, a 26-year current student at New York University.
“We all have to have our hair done, we all have a personality and have to know our limits.”
“It just makes me feel uncomfortable that I’m being told I have to do this, that it’s something I have no control over,” says Melissa, a 22-year woman.
“When I was asked to have a haircut by my parents, I was terrified.
I was just scared to death that I’d look bad.”
But Melissa, who has a degree in political science and is an artist, is open to hearing from other women about their experiences with asking a stranger to shave. “Shavegate