mysticalchild_isis: (hedwig & the angry inch)
[personal profile] mysticalchild_isis
I've always had a difficult relationship with shaving. I'm quite fair-skinned, but I have very dark hair, and so my body hair tends to stand out rather starkly (especially as my ancestors include a number of rather hairy Scottish dudes). And let me tell you, the programming American women experience about shaving their body hair (particularly leg hair) is one of the things that has sunk its hooks deep inside my psyche. Despite the fact that I find shaving annoying and time-consuming, that it tends to irritate my skin, that the hair grows back extremely quickly, and that I don't wear skirts or dresses, I still feel compelled to shave my legs. When I look at my legs and they are hairy, there is a part of me that is disgusted.

But this winter, I decided that I was going to stop shaving my legs, and for the first time ever, I have managed to go for months without doing so. I can't say that I've fully made peace with my hairy legs, as when I look at them, I still don't find them aesthetically pleasing. But I have at least gotten to a place where I don't think about shaving them every time I get in the shower, and I am slowly becoming far less sensitive about other people witnessing my hairy legs.

It's interesting to see the responses to my lack of leg-shaving. One of my older female coworkers thinks that it is awesome, and wishes that she could also stop, but she doesn't think her husband would accept it. Another coworker couldn't even look at my legs when I was asked to show them off. And some people really don't care one way or another.

One of the things I have struggled with through my life is finding a balance between feminism, internalized misogyny, and the way in which all things feminine are disparaged and degraded. Beauty and fashion issues always seem to be particularly fraught battle grounds. One person will describe their use of makeup as empowering, while another will see it as part of the beauty industrial complex that exploits women, and I can see where they are both coming from. I grew up a tomboy surrounded by boys, and while in some ways, that was a really good thing for me (I've never had a problem speaking up in a group of men, or talking over them), in other ways, it meant that I internalized a hell of a lot of misogyny that still sneaks up on me in all sorts of ways years later. Before I went to college, I think I owned a total of maybe 3 CDs of female musicians, despite the fact I've been identifying as a feminist since I knew what the word meant.

So the leg-shaving issue has become something of a battleground for me, as I try to balance out resisting patriarchal programming while simultaneously trying not to degrade femininity.

Date: 2013-02-26 12:43 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] meri
Totally a proud femme here, and generally I love all sorts of things like make-up, and shaving, and facials,and other things that some feminists frown on. Which makes me just want to sit them down and talk to them about bodily autonomy and the denigration of femininity within feminist and/or queer circles.

I totally feel you about shaving. I stopped shaving my legs last winter to see if it helped with skin dryness (only a little) and was surprised at how embarrassed I was when I wore shorts at the gym or anyone but my partner saw my bare legs. I also had that internalized disgust which surprised me because about half of my lady friends don't shave and I don't care about their hair at all. There was a feeling of wrongness I had towards my hairy legs that I did not like at all. It's pushed me to shave less to get used to seeing my legs with hair, it's also pushed me to look for examples of hairy femme women to see more examples since my friends who don't shave tends towards the either don't care or decidedly butch presentations on the venn diagram of being a woman.


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