With spring in the air, body hair is on my mind.
For some context, I started shaving my legs probably around 13. I stopped about 3 years ago, the summer before my senior year of college. That summer I was away from home, a live-in intern a rehabilitation clinic for wild birds.
I was working a lot, long days, split shifts. I didn’t really have the time to shave my legs, and more importantly, I realized that I didn’t actually want to. It was basically in a swamp. It was hot and humid. I did a lot of physical work. I wore shorts so I wouldn’t die, and I let my leg hair grow back, dark and uneven and kind of weird.
Even covered in dirt, sweat and bird shit, someone would stare with disgust at my patchy legs almost daily. Apparently my legs did not please them. I’m pretty sure I was there to rehab birds, but in retrospect, I guess I was just supposed to be there for people to look at. Covered in bird shit, but with legs straight out of a razor commercial.
It startled me. It really did. I was astounded by how much my tiny little sprouting leg hairs horrified people. I got no verbal comments whatsoever, but I really, really noticed people’s dirty looks. I suspect it was exacerbated by the general conservatism of the state I was in, but it happens everywhere.
Here’s the thing. In this season I start to see and hear lots of comments about how “women have to start shaving their legs again”. Its drive me up the wall. Because nobody has to shave anything, regardless of gender.
You might like to. It might be what you like for your body. And that is great!
Or you might decide to, just because it’s easier than putting up with the bullshit stigma around visible hair on certain kinds of bodies. You might worry about losing your job or not getting a job offer. You might want to avoid that one extra thing that everyone can pick apart and criticize. You might want to avoid negative attention. You might worry about rejection from friends or intimate partners. Those are definitely real reasons. It’s a decision that is not always really much of a decision. It’s a shitty position to be in.
I totally understand the difficulty of this situation, but I still wish that people wouldn’t say “I have to.” Maybe it does feel like it is a requirement because too much is at stake.
But when I hear you say that you have to shave, I hear, “If I could see your legs right now, I would be grossed out.”
You are definitely allowed to make that decision. It’s your body. But if you need to talk about shaving, can you maybe say something like,”I like to,” or, “I’m going to,” or, “I choose to”?
My legs are not gross. They are soft and fuzzy. Like kittens. We love kittens. (However, this is not permission to pet my legs.)
Please enjoy this video of a kitten. It’s one of my favorites.
Maybe we can talk about armpits another day.
PS: This is definitely a subject related to gender. I try to keep my language and discussion mindful of the fact that gender is an awesome spectrum, not binary. If I did not do a good job here, and you feel comfortable telling me about what I can do better, then I want to hear from you.
PPS: A great comment brought to my attention that the like to/prefer to shave category is more much complex than the way I presented it. There are sensory reasons like discomfort with favorite clothes or allergic reactions that make shaving a best option for some people, but that does not make it painless or convenient. I didn’t really elaborate there because it’s not my experience and I don’t really know much about why people would prefer to shave, aside from societal shaming. I hope I conveyed that my thinking is “you do you”, first and foremost. But I did neglect to acknowledge complexity when I presented it as a binary “liking to shave” and “choosing to shave because of societal pressure”. That was not great of me.
I’ve mostly steered away from body-related writing so far because it’s intimidating to tackle a very personal subject, knowing that there are as many experiences and ways to have a body as there are people. I’m very opinionated but also want to fully respect other people’s body choices and experiences. So I appreciate this kind of feedback and I hope in the 30 or so people who might stumble across this an read it through, there won’t be someone whose day is totally ruined. I’m learning. And if I say something crappy/oppressive, I’m sorry. Please tell me if you feel like it. I don’t really want to just collect a couple of likes from a few people who feel the same as me. (Although that is always nice!)