As a first step toward implementing the new law, the government plans to launch an inquiry later this spring in the wake of a recent “armpit media” outrage in which women with unshaven armpits became the subject of torment and internet hate.
The incident also prompted additional concerns after it was revealed that girls in Sweden as young as nine-years-old thought it was “natural” to have shorn hair.
“We realized after the bullying that something had to be done,” Jenny Hårfager of Svenska Kroppsbildsverket (Swedish Agency for Self Esteem and Body Health – KBV) told The Local.
“Young people shouldn’t be influenced into unnecessary body maintenance. By taking away the option of purchasing shaving products for minors, we allow people to make the decision when they are at the right age – which we believe is 18.”
Attention was brought to the matter earlier in early March when music fan and librarian Lina Ehrin was captured on TV inadvertently flashing her hairy armpits to television viewers during the broadcast of the popular “Melodifestivalen” song contest finals.
The moment was captured by a home viewer and posted online, resulting in Facebook groups featuring thousands of Swedes pledging their allegiance to both the pro- and anti-body hair camps.
Eventually, a protest was held in Malmö where unshaven women united in a show of solidarity to “reclaim the hair”, making headlines around the world.
Finally, “Lady Dahmer”, who was curating Sweden’s official Twitter account “@sweden” at the time, posted pictures of her own hirsute pits and ensured the matter was certainly not a passing fad.
And people listened.
“It’s about time we do something about these restricting ideals even if it means we have to enforce laws to do it. People are too brainwashed to think for themselves and teens are easily coerced into shaving. If it can prevent just one of them from falling for peer pressure, it’s a victory,” she told The Local.
“Soon enough the Swedes will come around and new norms will be formed and shaving will be seen as old-fasioned and outdated. It’s a revolution!”
According to KBV’s Hårfager, the inquiry will review international research into the dangers of underage shaving and body hair removal, both from a physical and mental health perspective.
“These products contain a lot of harmful chemicals that can cause lasting damage to the body. Not to mention the danger of putting what amounts to a deadly weapon in the hands of children,” she said.
“It’s also imperative that we help young people understand that shaving is a choice they should make as adults, and not a behaviour they should feel forced into as young children by current societal norms.”
While Hårfager hopes the new law will be in place by the end of 2012, not all are pleased with planned ban on shaving products.
Hans Bergquist, a 16-year-old student from suburban Stockholm, shaves his face daily.
But according to the planned legislation, he will not be able to purchase razors or shaving cream for another two years.
“I’m gobsmacked. I’d have a proper Viking beard in two minutes if I didn’t shave regularly. They’ll tease me at school if I come unshaven. And dad won’t let me borrow his anymore, I blunt his razors,” he told The Local.
“I’ll have to import from Norway,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hårfager believes only time will tell whether young Swedes will see the light and embrace the idea and ditch the “Hollywood ideals” forced upon Swedish society.
“People need to understand that this is Sweden, we are democratic, and we have the right to be hairy,” she said.
“How long will it take everybody to figure this out?”
April Fools’ Day update
It’s midday in Sweden and custom dictates that we now reveal our chicanery, skulduggery and general tomfoolery.
As many readers no doubt have guessed, the above article has very little basis in fact bar a couple of notable exceptions:
Sweden is a democracy and women are permitted to grow under their arms.
Sweden has a tradition of freedom of speech and some people have recently used it to argue that female bodily hair, is, well, unfeminine.
The Vikings were Danish.
Comments have now been reactivated. A word of caution – after midday the joke’s on you.