03 September 2013

Me, Myself, and My Gross and Hairy Legs

So, let's get to the good old debate on whether it is fair to expect women to shave their legs. Nay – whether it is actually expected of women, or they just all (or approx. 99% of them) do it because they feel like it and no societal pressure whatsoever involved.

The entire depilation debacle comes up once in a while, but today I'll only focus on the leg part.

Let it be no secret that I'm no huge fan of shaving my legs. It takes forever, it's complicated, I always forget hairs somewhere, I don't feel different for it (except maybe it's itchy and annoying afterwards), and you have to do it again two days later anyways if there has to be any use of it. It never stops and I don't see the point; kind of like doing the dishes. (Except I do see the point of doing the dishes, it's just that that also never stops.) Anyway.

When I was a young and innocent girl (think 12 years or so) I had a conversation with my mother about this. One of those ”adult women sometimes do this”, ”why?”, ”to look nice” conversations, a leg-shaving version of the bees and birds. So basically, what I took from it was that my mom would go through this in summer when she would wear shorts, skirts etc. in order for her legs to look nice. In winter, on the other hand, no big bother – nobody would see those legs but dad, and he doesn't care. I found this a most sensible approach and generally followed it, once time came for me to be expected to worry about such things. Shave in summer, no such thing in winter, nobody sees it anyway. Bother minimised.

I even used to say, ”if a guy doesn't want me with unshaved legs, he's not worth it.” ”You'll grow older,” people answered. Huh.

Now, let it be said: for some time I became convinced that they were right, and that perhaps I was being unreasonable. The last 10 years or so have been an on and off of not shaving for 2-3 years, then doing, then not doing, depending on many things (not least of these my feeling of rebelliousness at any given moment).

The latest thing I decided was: to not remove body hair at all, if it's not 100% because I just feel like it on any particular day.

It was at this time that one day I was sitting in a park with some friends, and somehow the subject came up (ok: I brought it up. I wanted to know what the pressures are on men, since apparently that's becoming a thing, too). It did not even occur to them that women could not do this, so I said, ”wait till you see this!” as I pulled up the leg of my trousers to reveal legs unshaven for a month or two.

Audible gasps. (I kid you not, and these are even my tolerant and aware friends. So.)

Later, when the subject came up again (”should I shave my legs before trying to get into Chosen Guy's bed?”), and I declared that in such a case I would not be doing it for me, but for him – "if it has to happen, at least it has to be a special occasion" . I was asked, ”How about you as the special occasion? Don't you feel more hot with your legs shaven?” - no, it makes no difference to me, I informed. They called me funny.

Returning to Chosen Guy, another friend said (paraphrased slightly), ”If you don't do it, he will hate you forever and you will die alone surrounded by cats” as his opinion on the subject. When I later confronted him (friend, not CG), he retracted, ”Well, I didn't mean that he'll hate you, I meant he wouldn't want to fuck you, which is a bit different.” Oh, thanks. Now I feel much better.

Regarding a job, I was told, ”If you don't do it you will never get a job and they will never take you seriously” (i.e., basically, ”you will die alone surrounded by cats”).

People keep saying how all this leg shaving business is done out of choice and wanting to feel and look nice and lovely. The people believing it the most seem to be those who do it without even a questioning thought. I'm sorry, but if that were really the case, no one should be telling me I will die alone if I don't shave my legs. As has been stated before, a choice between two options is only a (free and meaningful) choice if the consequences of either option are more or less the same. Implying that (a lack of) leg-shaving could in any way affect my career, when it would not so much as occur to anyone to say the same to a man in a similar position, only highlights the highly constricted options I actually have. Sure, I can choose not to shave and still flash my legs, I just have to be willing to sacrifice in areas that ought to be completely unrelated to how I look.

And I have not even touched upon the cat-calls. I have not been systematic about researching this (as I have in other cases), but I can tell that walking about unshaved in the Baltics I didn't get so much as one comment on my lovely lady looks, as would oftentime happen to a legshaved version of my darling self in Spain. Same thing goes for my first few days in Italy (yours truly has moved again!) - my legs are now in a different version, since the ”they will not take you seriously and you will never get a job” argument kind of got to me.. so if shaved legs make a difference for the amount of Ciao bella's people throw at me, I will take note. Perhaps less street harassment is a good enough argument to let people let me grow old alone and jobless surrounded by cats without rubbing it in. And by the way, they were wrong: while I did in fact grow up, I didn't substantially change my opinion. If a guy doesn't want me with unshaved legs, he's still not worth it.


  1. Oh yeah, guys who claim to be progressive about all sorts of stuff hate unshaven legs?! And then want me to agree with them about how gross it is? I don't think so.

    I don't really like removing my leg hair, and it doesn't get done regularly.

  2. My mother and girlfriends managed to convince me that I needed to shave my legs to get a boyfriend. As soon as I found out that wasn't true, I only shaved my legs for job interviews! My husband likes all of me the way I am. There were plenty of other men who didn't have an issue with hair either when I was dating.

    The last time someone commented about my hairy legs, I started lamenting my bald spots. Something about my gait rubbed the hair off the outer half of my legs. Only children and old people lack hair.

  3. Dear coastliveoak, you just made my week! I think I'll take the bald spot approach in the future (since I also have something of the sort), and may they deal with it as they can :)