Let’s talk about leg hair. Yes, yes, I know. Some of you think I am about to give a whole speech on why leg hair isn’t gross and not shaving is part of being a feminist. Another side is likely thinking that I am about to argue shaving leg hair is plenty feminist and you should just recognize the construct. That it is something women have been told by the media and society to do and also long as that’s recognized you can do what you will. Sorry, to disappoint, but I land somewhere in the middle and I am here to discuss something entirely different.
So, I want to start at the beginning. When I was somewhere between 12 and 13, I started to think about shaving my legs. Many of the girls in my classes had begun “the process of becoming a woman” i.e. – they started to grow leg hair, arm hair, develop breasts, and of course, got their first periods. I was a late bloomer on all of these fronts. I first got my period when I was 14, just after finishing middle school and right before a big family trip. Side note: (great timing period, how do you always know!?)
Anyway, it was when I was 13 that I first wanted to shave my legs. It felt like the next step in becoming a grown-up woman. I talked to my mom about it and she suggested that I wait until my hair really started to become black and prickly that I might as well wait as long as I could. Did I heed my mother’s advice? No. I wanted to shave my legs and damn it, I was going to shave my legs.
For me, shaving was irregular until high school, when I started doing it every 3-5 days, depending on how lazy I was. My Freshman year of High School, I remember having a conversation with a male friend of mine about leg hair and how boys react to it on women. My male friend stated with conviction, “If I were to put my hand on a girl’s leg and it was hairy, I would be immediately repulsed.” I nodded in agreement. I didn’t even like leg hair so why would boys?
What I did not realize while I was in high school, and frankly while in college, was that shaving equipment is expensive. I used the “Venus Breeze” razors, the ones that have shaving cream around the actual blades. I thought they were so much easier to use than the traditional razor, however, the catch was that the price for a pack of 4 razor heads is nearly $15. When you shave regularly you can go through a lot of them. It wasn’t a big deal when my parents paid for them, but once I was out of school and it was my turn to fork up the cash, it no longer seemed worth the price.
This past year is when I really had an epiphany regarding leg hair. Not only was it an expensive ritual to maintain, it took more time from my already extremely busy work week. I decided that I only needed to shave when I really felt like it. I also realized that I have extremely blond, barely visible leg hair so it doesn’t matter what others think or feel about my leg hair as long as I am personally comfortable with it. Finally, I decided not to let society decide what made me pretty or gross. It is my body and how I take care of it is my choice.
Society affects us all without us really knowing. It is almost on instinct that I associate female body hair (legs and armpits) as being unclean and gross. This is the message that I was brought up with. “Hippies” were the only people who seriously grew out their hair and it was gross because they didn’t bathe, i.e. – all women who do not shave are gross and do not bathe. My goal is to change this rhetoric. Frankly, I don’t care if women choose to shave or not to shave, I simply want women to realize hair does NOT make you gross. As far as I am concerned it is a part of my body and if I don’t want to shave, then I won’t, and it is my belief that every woman should make this choice. It is not up to magazines, TV or Hollywood to tell you what you should or should not do with your body.
For me, it was really helpful to have a supportive boyfriend, supportive friends, and a supportive family. This is not necessary to make the decision not to shave your legs, but it certainly makes it easier. However, the most important thing is that you love yourself and do what works for you. Once again, I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t forge this path just because they want to for their own bodies.
As a young feminist, I learned that saving my legs because society says that is what is acceptable is not ok. This is about each individual woman’s body, not society at large. If I want leg hair cool, if not, that’s also cool. This is something I have personally chosen and every woman has the right to make the same decision for herself. I believe women need to recognize these instinctual responses that we have been socialized into and change them. We have the power to change the image and rhetoric that surrounds leg hair and we should do just that! So stand up and stay hairy.