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Double Standards – The Issue of Body Hair

March 19, 2010

I stopped shaving both my legs and under my arms a few years ago. For the first 25 or so years of my life I was your average zombie flowing with the horde. I remember the summer before my senior year traveling around Europe (it was an early graduation present from my parents) and seeing women with their natural body hair, especially in France. This was a very confusing time and I think this experience is what started me thinking about why we’re expected to have hairless bodies.

Everyone in my group would laugh at them when they would see them and I went right along with them. But inside I had conflicting feelings. While my thoughts were telling me what society had taught me, that it was unattractive and gross, I also really admired these women and actually found it a turn on to see beautiful women with all natural bodies, hair included. Like I had so often growing up, I wondered what was wrong with me that I thought this way (I struggled with the fact that I was attracted to girls as much as boys in much the same way).

It took me a long time to realize that there wasn’t anything wrong with me but instead with the societal ingraining that taught me there was something wrong female body hair. And even after I realized this and stopped shaving, it took me a few years to be able to wear clothing that showed off my hair in public. And I got a pretty big surprise when I finally did gather up the courage. Most people didn’t even notice and of those who did, most didn’t seem to care. A few people do double takes, but I’ve never had anyone laugh at me (though karma would totally justify it since I did it). Now, it should also be noted that I now live in a very progressive town, Manitou Springs, CO and I rarely venture out to our uber-conservative neighbor Colorado Springs. Had I made this discovery earlier and tried it in the small southern town where I grew up, I’m sure I would have some very different experiences to tell.

But I love my hair now, I feel comfortable and, some may be surprised to hear, very womanly. It’s natural, so if you think about it, why shouldn’t it feel that way? I did an experiment a few months back and shaved both my legs and under my arms for a few days. After years of not doing it, I had honestly forgotten what it felt like. I absolutely hated it! My skin was raw and over-sensitive and was constantly itchy from tiny stubble. I couldn’t wait to let it grow back in and now that it has, I feel comfortable and natural again.

I realize not shaving will not be for everyone. And, as my brother pointed out to me, some guys like to shave as well and I’m all for that too. But if you’re a woman who has been shaving since puberty, I really urge you to just try growing your hair out. It’ll feel strange while it’s in the process of growing, but once it’s fully grown in you’ll see how wonderful, natural and sensual it feels.

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From → Body Image

9 Comments
  1. When my leg hair grows out to its fullest, it’s much softer than the hair on my head (and I use a really good shampoo and conditioner). But I really do love the way my legs feel when they’re clean shaven. So sometimes I let them grow and sometimes I shave them. Either way, the condition of my legs and the rest of my body is for my own personal enjoyment. Nobody’s gonna touch this.

  2. That’s a great frame of mind to have Emily! For a while in the beginning, I was actively against shaving for women. I have since come around and realize that there are women who enjoy shaving even without patriarchal influence. I think I just suffered from young feminist syndrome lol.

  3. I’ve never shaved – well, once when asked to by a girlfriend, and *that* was totally seductive and kind of fun – and I’ve never regretted it.

    I occasionally make use of online dating sites, and one of the key things that just turns me off someone *completely* is when they ask if I’m shaved, and tell me – when I tell them honestly that no, I don’t – that I SHOULD. It’s weird – when my girlfriend asked me as a sexual experiment, almost “let’s see what it’ll be like if you do” – that was fun, and that was fine. We didn’t repeat the experiment. Being told by complete strangers I’ve never met that they have pre-set ideas about what constitutes sexual attractiveness is just repellant.

    • I totally agree that there’s a huge difference in someone who has already accepted you for who you are asking you to do something as an intimate experiment and someone who has just met you and wants to date you but only if you change yourself.

      The former is a lovely and intimate moment in a long term relationship. The other is just skeevy.

  4. Amanda permalink

    I totally stopped shaving under my arms a few years ago.Then I went with my boyfriend to his friend’s wedding, and decided to shave again to see what it was like. I also couldn’t wait for the hair to grow back. Not only was it weird and itchy, but I had this strange, very uncomfortable feeling like I was a child or something – and I thought I looked like one too. Hated it.

    I do shave my legs every so often though, because sometimes I just don’t like the feeling of my pant legs brushing up against the hair. I keep telling myself that if I ignore it for awhile I’ll get used to it, but so far I’ve been too impatient.

    • I’ve done that a few times, shaved and then regretted it and longed for it to hurry up and grow back in lol. The whole childlike thing is one of the aspects that I find really creepy about it.

      I’d say if your hair actually bothers you anywhere, don’t feel bad about getting rid of it. I think it should be about what we’re all comfortable doing.

      Thanks so much for the comment!!

  5. Thanks for posting about this!

    I used to shave in high school and the first part of college, and then I moved to Europe, and stopped shaving. And I came back and never started again. Sure, I shaved once or twice since, but every time I do, I can’t wait to let the hair grow back in! Usually when i start wanting to shave, it’s because I don’t have enough to think about, or I’m worrying about unimportant things.

    I have been in work environments that have been hostile to my not shaving, and I usually deal by wearing tights or pants. You just have to be your wild self, and not let anyone tell you how to be a woman.

    http://wildwomanfundraising.com

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