Women with body hair are perceived by men and women to be more ambitious, independent, aggressive and uptight than those without, a US psychologist has found.

Women with body hair are perceived by men and women to be more ambitious, independent, aggressive and uptight than those without, a US psychologist has found.

Despite the previously taboo subject being open to debate, women who do not shave still face assumptions about their character, the study claims.

Dr Susan Basow, from Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, showed 118 men and women videos of a woman in a swimsuit, with and without body hair. One group was told the woman with body hair was a feminist. Another was told an allergy prevented her shaving.

Both viewed the woman with hair, whatever the reason, as less friendly, non-conformist and aggressive. She was also seen as assertive, ambitious and in better physical shape. The researchers found no difference in the reaction from the men and women.

"Body hair does generate real disgust," Dr Basow told the American Psychological Association's annual conference yesterday. She said the view that women need to shave is "to do with our illusion we are not animals... The alarming thing is that it is also a pre-pubescent thing which makes women look younger." Removing hair was introduced in the 1920s for "cleanliness".

Efforts to defy convention, for example by feminists in the Seventies and by the actress Julia Roberts, who displayed her unshaven armpits, had not caught on. "There is just too much pressure to conform."

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