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In the United States, a 20-year-old Coast Guard cadet sought to remove his unwanted back hair through laser therapy.I studied those routines in the United States, where most adults, across genders, report regularly removing hair from their bodies. What I found is that the norms of body-hair removal now dominant in American popular culture – basically, smooth skin everywhere but the eyebrows, eyelashes and head for women, along with increasing demands for hairlessness for men – are scarcely a century old.When European colonists first reached the North American continent, they described the smooth skin of the "Indians" with shock, if not open contempt. Early ethnologists and natural philosophers debated whether indigenous peoples were hairless "by nature," or whether they repeatedly removed all visible hair. The rise of organized scientific and medical professions gave fresh authority to diagnoses and treatments of "excessive" hair.Far less widely recognized, however, are the wider effects of those norms – effects that reach far beyond the empowered or damaged individual at hand.
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