The Great ASU Social Hair Experiment

Baby Boomers, do you agree that our generation has always been at the forefront of cultural trends?

Didn't women in the '50s wear curlers and hairnets, poodle skirts, torpedo bras and saddle shoes?

Didn't afros and bouffants, bell bottom pants, miniskirts, go go boots and granny glasses dominate the fashion world of the '60s?

And how about the '70s?

Didn't tie dyed T-shirts, turtlenecks, daisy dukes, Birkenstocks and platform shoes rule?

Then big hair, ripped jeans, fishnet shirts, punk, new wave and Boy George outfits showed up in the '80s.

I could go on.

Behind the scenes, through every decade, was the "Avant Garde" unisex look.

We have always been "cutting edge" when it comes to fashion, style and grooming.

How to bend social norms (and piss off our parents) was always a test of our creativity.

Nothing was too sacred when it came to proclaiming our independence and individuality.

We were the hipsters, the beatniks, the bohemians, the flower children, the groovy people and if someone said we couldn't change something we did it.

Well, what goes around comes around.

In this new millennium, have definitions shifted around the old adage: "When men were men and women were women?"

If you haven't been following the news lately baby boomers, it appears that the current generation of academics is taking a page out of our play book to educate our grandchildren about society and gender stereotypes.

There is an associate professor at Arizona State University, Breanne Fahs, that has developed a unique way to test the fiber of our youth to see if they would be willing to challenge the typical social norms of today.

Starting back in 2010, she has been offering her students extra credit if they defy the mainstream conventions of our society by changing how they treat their body hair.

What's that you say?

The females are challenged with letting their body hair grow for a full ten week period without shaving.

That's an entire semester.

The men, just the opposite.

In order to earn extra credit they need to shave their entire body and go hairless (from the neck down) for the entire semester.

Fahs, who is an associate professor of women and gender studies at ASU's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, told the campus newspaper in an interview recently:

"There's no better way to learn about societal norms than to violate them and see how people react."

She added:

"There's really no reason why the choice to shave, or not, should be a big deal. But it is, as the students tend to find out quickly."

It appears that dozens of women as well as men have found the challenge exciting enough to participate.

The reactions of how the public behaved when confronting these students varied.

One of the female students felt that the attitudes to her "hairiness" was sometimes "extreme."

Stephanie Robinson stated:

"Many of my friends didn't want to work out next to me or hear about the assignment, and my mother was distraught at the idea that I would be getting married in a white dress with armpit hair."

Maybe a simple black dress would be more appropriate?

Another female student told ASU News that the experiment was a "life-changing experience."

It appears that her friends were repulsed and her mother was horrified by the addition of her newly propagated coiffure.

I find it hard to believe that these girl's parents were so taken aback by all of this considering the social environments they grew up in.

I guess Arizona never was on the forefront of social upheaval.

Anyway, at least she came away from the experience with a clear perspective of how others felt about her 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."

That sounds like the battle cry for our generation doesn't it?

So how do you feel about all of this fellow boomers?

Considering where we come from socially, do you find this experiment extreme or even a challenge?

Or is this just another case of "what goes around comes around?"

I think most of our baby boomer generation has already "been there, done that" with most social acceptance issues like this.

I dated plenty of (OK, a few) women with body hair in my college days.

As an old hippie, it wasn't uncommon in my social circles.

If anything, I found the departure from the commonplace exotic if not erotic.

If you follow current fashion trends to any degree you might notice that body hair on females is making a bit of a comeback anyway.

Hasn't it always been that "European thing?"

And there has definitely been an increase over the past 10 years or so in more aggressive body shaving by younger men.

You know, I don't see it as an act of social disobedience that I have been basically glabrous beneath my BVDs for years.

"What's the big deal?"

Has society really changed that much?

Do kids really think they have found something new and have become "activists" and "rebels" just by changing the configuration of their body hair?

Is this experiment another reminder of how fragmented and self-centered the current generation has become or is this just another case of the media finding a slightly curious story that they can blow up to global proportions?

It appears that the American Psychological Association was so impressed with this body hair experiment that the organization gave Associate Professor Fahs the Mary Roth Walsh Teaching the Psychology of Women Award in 2012.

She has had papers about the project published in academic journals and on her website.

Well, if you want my humble opinion fellow baby boomers, I think it is time for our generation to step up again and set society back on its heels again.

Like Otter said in the classic movie "Animal House":

"I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part!

We're just the generation to do it!

What will it be folks?