I could not wait to start shaving my legs. My mom wouldn’t let me before I turned 13, and I was so mad at her for it. All of the other girls started around age 12, and I feel like an outcast for not being able to. When I started, I began to shave my arms as well. From all the advertisements and photos of women that I’d seen in the media, I thought women were supposed to be completely hairless. I stopped shaving my arms when I heard that it was weird to do so. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t fully understand now why leg and armpit hair is so disgusting, but arm hair is normal.
A few months ago, I started a conversation on shaving. I said something about shaving being a man’s idea, and it’s absurd that women have to do such things. I received all the comments expected too. “Well, you could just not shave your legs like a hippy.” “Don’t blame men for your problems. Most of the time, women are harder on each other anyway.” Some of the responses were in jest, but even those underlined the deep level of disciplinary body practices that we have as a nation.
As far as my research said, shaving was started by advertisers, which doesn’t shock me at all. Skirts were shrinking in the 1920’s with the Flapper style, so advertisers saw an opportunity to sell more “hygiene” products. They began talking about “smooth” legs and making women feel insecure about their “unattractive” hairy ones. Nowhere I could find said that men, specifically, started the leg shaving trend. However, if you’ve ever seen “Mad Men,” you know that there were no female advertisers in the 1950’s, so I can’t imagine there being any during the 1920’s. Shaving was an American man’s idea.
I wish that I could just not shave my legs like some commenters had said. In fact, I usually don’t. I rarely shave above the knee, and I go without for months at a time during winter. I would love to buck the emphasized femininity trends that our country polices us on. As much of a feminist as I am, however, I still shave during the summer or when I know my legs will be showing. I don’t want to be judged by anyone, even if I don’t know them, and I hate that. I hate playing the game. I have heard all my life what people think about women with hair; it’s the first topic asked about when talking of a foreign (especially European) woman. When people tell me to just not do it, I know they really aren’t serious, because deep down they know the consequences. I just ask them this question. Imagine that I’m interviewing for a job with a nice suit and skirt on, but I haven’t shaved my legs in months. Do you actually believe that they are going to take me as a serious candidate? I think everyone, whether they admit it or not, would know the answer to that.