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shaving Thoreau

today I would like to talk about my hairy legs. this story starts in high school, when we were reading Thoreau in english class and everyone was acting like they related so perfectly to his non-conformist attitude. he said people should be true to themselves, and everyone was like, "Of course I'm true to myself, I don't listen to anybody, that's why I shop at hot topic!" All I could think about was how we were so trapped by society we didn't even know we were conforming. I looked for obvious evidence of stupid things people did to conform. tried to figure out why people said they didn't care about clothes, but still didn't want to miss prom. why they said they didn't care about what clique they were in, but defended their lunch table seats to the death. and I really tried to understand why we were all the girls shaved their legs.

for years I struggled against this... it's a feminist issue, a naturalist issue, a conformity issue, an american issue. why is leg hair on women gross? we have head hair, eyebrows, hair on our arms, and that's not gross. guys can have leg hair and it's not gross.

so this winter, at the age of 26, with the help of a very busy schedule and an equally supportive "get back to nature" boyfriend, I just quit shaving my legs, and it was awesome. I have leg hair now, people! I don't look like a man... it doesn't look like a man's leg hair, it looks like my leg hair. I'm defensive about it; God gave me hair on my legs. The question now is whether I can keep it up through the summer, when we run around in skirts all the time. Next weekend I'm going to a wedding, where people will wear dresses and hose, and I have to admit that I want to wear a dress, does that mean I have to shave my legs? At this point it's like cutting part of myself off... or like shaving my head.

honestly, I don't expose my legs as much as I used to. I wear shorts for running, but everyone knows they're not really appropriate for too many public places, no matter what your legs look like. When I wear skirts in the summer they go past my knees, I don't like to draw much attention to my legs. I only wear slacks at work. I wear jeans to the nightclubs, partially because I think they look good, mostly because I can dance without worrying about getting molested (if you go to clubs, you know what I mean).

I just can't think of anyone relevant who will think less of me because I have hairy legs. I'm thinking of just going with it. I'm really pissed that it's even an issue. I want to be that cool girl who really doesn't want to give a damn what people think, is that so much to ask?


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 2nd, 2007 11:33 pm (UTC)
Woo hoo, another to the fold!

I don't shave my legs or my armpits. Fuck society's views on wht is "pretty" or "normal". The man loves it and I love that there's no hassle trying to do shaving yoga to shave. It's awesome.
Mar. 2nd, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC)
I would say it's cool. I shave various parts of my body because I like how it looks and so does my darling Master/fiance. But I have gone long stretches without doing so because I just didn't have the time.

I would say that where you know it isn't going to be a distraction, than go ahead and wear something like a skirt or shorts, people can deal. If you are attending something where it might detract from an occasion (like the wedding) go ahead and wear a skirt but wear nylons, high socks, or hose with it. They don't even really have to be dark colored. I did that when I didn't have time to shave and no one really looked hard enough to notice.

I give this advise not because I don't believe that you shouldn't be who you want to be, but that at some times it is not appropriate to draw attention to yourself and going out in a skirt without shaved legs and no hose in many circles here is going to draw attention.
Mar. 2nd, 2007 11:40 pm (UTC)
Hurray! Me too!
Mar. 2nd, 2007 11:47 pm (UTC)
Do you want to hear something really sad?

When I was pregnant, I shaved my legs OBSESSIVELY even though I could barely bend over. The reason I did this was because as a medical student, I overheard the obstetricians frequently making fun of laboring patients' hairy legs, etc. So I was terrified of the doctors going off into a room and making fun of me.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 02:08 am (UTC)
that annoys me. a lot. I think that it's a doctor's job to not be phased by something as trivial as leg hair on pregnant women. good lord.
Mar. 2nd, 2007 11:57 pm (UTC)
so be that girl.

me, i am just the opposite. i don't like leg hair on anyone. guys, girls. but i fully admit to being teased mercilessly when i was a kid about my really dark thick hair. i don't like my arm hair or chest hair on a guy either. but yes, i do like hair on ones head. unless they have a trump like comb over. but really, it doesn't matter what i think about your legs. their your legs. as long as you like your legs. i have friends and family who don't shave. and thats their choice.

and i totally know what you mean about being molested in the club. you could be wearing nasty scrubs that a toddler threw up on and someone would find a way to feel on your tits and ass.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 12:00 am (UTC)
I have gone for long stretches without shaving also. I have to admit that at one point it was because my girlfriend made me. But i like both ways, really. Depending on how I'm feeling at the time. I had more than one person tell me that they don't care as long as I shave or don't and I'm not shaving every 10 days where I was always prickly.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 12:26 am (UTC)
I don't shave, but I don't talk about it much (if anyone brings it up I usually brush them off with a "It's winter/ I don't have a lover" combo.)
I think it's kinda daft that among adults, what I happen to be wearing when someone takes a photo is my new statement for all womankind has to be an issue. I don't shave my legs in the summer, either, but since I'm prone to opaque tights or pants all the time, not many people notice.

Anyway, I think you should get down with your bad self and don't shave unless you honestly want to. I'd wear hose since it's still cold, but if it wasn't, honestly, whatever moisturizer you already use should be as much skin prep as people expect. Like you said, there's almost no overlap between people whoose oppinions matter and people who will care about hairy legs.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 12:29 am (UTC)
Seriously, you should do it! It's important to stick up for what you believe in, no matter who thinks what. good luck!
Mar. 3rd, 2007 01:06 am (UTC)
You know what? Just a few days ago there was an entry on the Sydney Morning Herald blog "All Men are Liars" about shaving legs. Good timing!

Really, just don't shave if you don't want to.

Then again, it's easy for me to say that because I don't have that much hair on my legs so I don't need to shave (or at least I don't think I need to).
Mar. 3rd, 2007 01:08 am (UTC)
This is exactly how I feel about pubic hair.

I hear my friends talking about their various methods of pubic hair removal, and I'm like "WHAT THE HELL, LADIES?"
Mar. 3rd, 2007 01:10 am (UTC)
PS. If you don't shave your legs a lot, your hair probably won't be that thick anyway. Shaving your legs really is a pain in the ass. I won't do it if I'm just going to be wearing pants anyway. The boyfriend has complained but I tell him to shut up, and if he doesn't like it, I'll just keep my clothes on and see how he likes that, thankyouverymuch.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 01:18 am (UTC)
I do have to know if you have coarse dark leg hair or if your leg hair is that soft blonde stuff . . .

I hate the way my legs look unshaven- my hair is dark & coarse, and because I have short muscular legs I feel like I have man legs. When I do go for a long time without shaving I don't mind the feel, just the look.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 01:20 am (UTC)
I'll shave my legs when I feel inspired to, which might be only once a month. I just went to a wrestling tournament, paraded around in a tight knee-length singlet, and wasn't really self-conscious about it at all. I let people talk, the guys on my team playfully make fun of me - but really, what can they do? These aren't their legs. :)
Mar. 3rd, 2007 02:02 am (UTC)
I stopped shaving my legs when I was 17. Since then, I've shaved twice, both within a couple months--once to wear a little black dress for a full-ride scholarship dinner (I got the scholarship, wooo!) and once (this is the stupid one) to wear the dress for an english presentation. Since then (I'm almost 20) I haven't shaved once. Also, last year, I stopped shaving my armpits. Excellent decision. My leg hair isn't feminine, though--I have as much leg hair as most dudes. And it's part of my body and it's staying.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 03:50 am (UTC)
Yay for hairy legs! And faces! And everything else!

I don't let a razor touch my body.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 05:17 am (UTC)
My legs stay natural even when I wear skirts or pants; however, my hair is pretty light so I won't claim to know what it's like to feel really self-conscious about it.

Nude (or black) fishnets are my hosiery of choice. I don't like how my hair bunches up in regular pantyhose.

Many gals claim to have individual preferences that just happen to conform to patriarchal beauty standards, i.e. "I just *like* shaving." Using that argument (dubious as it is), you have no reason to shave your legs if you think they look beautiful the way they are.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 07:35 am (UTC)
I have never shaved in 15 years of defoliating my body hair. I wax. But, I can go 3 to 8 months between waxing due to finances and lazyness, and no one really notices or comments. I have thick, dark, long hair on my legs and under my arms, and so what? It is my choice when I wax, and my choice when I don't. I wear short sleeve tops, and sleevless dresses in summer, and with hair and no one has ever commented or really noticed.

I think we are so conditioned we think people are noticing us when they really are worried about themselves.

Congratualtions on your choice and enjoy.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 11:28 am (UTC)
Well, first off it's not just girls and it's not just America. Both the Romans and the Egyptians felt that body hair was unattractive on both men and women. Likewise in modern society, depending on personal preferences, body hair on men is often considered quite unattractive (though, of course, this goes through cycles).

I would say the greater issue is, as you mentioned, that you don't like to draw attention to your legs. Which, well, that's your perogative, but I don't personally understand it (well, it makes sense in light of your previously stated insecurities over your height, but still).

As a result of all of this it seems that your issue is a desire to explicitly do something apart from the norm in order to show that you're a non-conformist (which, no offense, is one of the most conformist things you can do), it's something you identify as being pro-feminist so you want to support it on those grounds, and you're already unhappy showing off your legs.

Personally I won't think any less of you either way (c'mon, it's your choice to make), but I think the most important thing is to simply do what you think looks good. Don't do something just to conform and don't do it just to rebel, do it because you want to. That's how I think of keeping my hair long, I'm not doing it to be different, but just because it's how I like it.

As far as depilation specifically, well, it's something men do too, but the social pressures are much more subtle and, honestly, there's a lot more leeway.

So to put it that way, it's like a man with back hair. If he thinks it looks ugly he's going to shave it off, if he doesn't care, he's not going to care about it at all.

Look at your reasons for doing this and recontextualize them. Would your concerns about feminism and naturalism still hold if you were talking about big tufts of hair on your shoulders? Why or why not?

Ultimately, just do what makes you happiest with your body, just realize why you're doing it.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 03:17 pm (UTC)
Athletic guys tend to shave as well, for technical reasons (like drag [mostly a concern for swimmers] and to prevent skin numbness due to hair vibrations at high speeds). Then there are other guys who do it for vanity, like a number of body builders I know. I imagine there are a lot of guys in both camps.

Being a theist you aren't likely to buy this, but another way to think of it would be that it seems our evolution is heading in such a way as to have less and less hair, so shaving or the like would appear more "evolved" in a way, more perfect. It's not like we need the protection of hair any more.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC)
As a racing cyclist, I've shaved my legs occasion. Yes, it's mostly vanity, but it looks good.

It probably weirds people out to the same extent that a woman with hairy pits would. We both get the same reaction: "eww, she/he is probably lesbian/gay", and we share the same solution: wear sleeves/pants if you don't want to draw attention.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 05:14 pm (UTC)
have you ever been to fuck_shaving ?

This is an idea I toy with, and when I mention it, my boyfriend mentions back that he'd shave his head bald, so I need to work on him still.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 06:58 pm (UTC)
D'oh, I thought fuck_shaving sounded like a fun kinky sex technique. Then I clicked the link. Not quite what I expected :p More power to 'em, tho!
Mar. 4th, 2007 04:40 pm (UTC)
I dated a guy who liked body hair on girls. After him, I stopped shaving my stomach (I have a really apparent happy trail) for a while. I've since started again, but I got pretty attached to it, the same way you're attached to your leg hair.

It had the same effect on my pubic hair. I won't shave it my (save for a strip on either side so it's not poking out of a bikini/panties because I think it looks gross on me) for anyone. Every time I meet someone who thinks all pubic hair on women is gross, I weep a little on the inside for the state of the world. Trim, yes! Shave, no!
Mar. 4th, 2007 05:27 pm (UTC)
One of my friends is a critical feminist at Berkeley, and she was the first person I met who really embodied the neo-Fem wave of decrying body hair. We talked about it one night, and she explained that she refused to shave her legs or under her arms simply to conform to a neo-paternalistic, pedophiliac fantasy men have of women. While I think that might be extreme, I appreciated how far she went for her beliefs, and she didn't care who saw she had hair. She wore skirts and tanktops without missing a beat.

One of the issues we didn't agree on is the matter of choice. For me, personally, I have often joked I have a mild form of trichotilliomania because when I'm stressed, I attack my body hair, whether it's pulling out my lashes or plucking out my eyebrows. I don't like not having control over my body, and hair is one of the few things I can control. I can choose to let it grow or to cut it. And I choose to cut it, shave it, pluck it, wax it (which can actually be really relaxing, if you have a talented-enough waxer), whatever. I don't do these things to appeal to someone else (I've been known to have sex with hairy legs) but because it's what I feel comfortable with. She argues I feel comfortable with it because I've been conditioned to do so, but the reality is, I don't like how I smell when I sweat with hair versus how I don't, removing hair is a great alternative to more serious forms of "self-injury" and since I cannot control many things about my body, I will rabidly defend doing what I need to to control the things that I can.

Again, these are my personal perspectives, and I don't think there is one solution to fit everyone.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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