In second grade I discovered that body hair on women is considered undesirable in the United States. I was at the pool wearing my hot-pink one-piece bathing suit with a circle in the back that always neglected to get sun-screened. The pretty, older girls made fun of the hair on my legs. Although the dark chocolate hair on my head is fine and thin, I was blessed with thick leg hair. I went home from the pool and lathered my legs in white foam, dragging the razor through my leg hair like an ice-skater doing figure eights. I scrapped the skin off of my shin, leaving a trail of blood down my leg. Still, I did not stop shaving… until now — 13 years later.
On June 5th, I put down the razor and shaving cream my mom bought with a coupon. “All this time and money for something as trivial as hair,” I said out loud to myself after finishing shaving the essential parts — my legs, underarms, and yes… that bikini line. Hearing my words echo back to me in the foggy bathroom I realized that I could just stop. So, from now until August 1st, I am not shaving.
As a 20-year-old living in Atlantic Beach on the east coast of North Carolina in the summer heat, this is the opportune time to measure people’s reactions to noticeable body hair on a woman. I’m betting a lot of females will be offended and men disgusted, which, as a waitress at a sports bar, I have mixed feelings about. The men with mouths smelling of alcohol feel entitled to drop things and watch girls bend over to pick them up and make comments such as, “You have a beautiful butt.” I think I won’t be a victim of that and instead have wide eyed stares and maybe a “Chewbacca” allusion. The tips I will miss. I don’t believe I’ll be making $100 a night. At the beach, surfer dudes with highlighted flippy hair and sunburned peeling faces might make jests such as, “Is that a squirrel in your pants?” at the tangle of black peeking out of my bikini bottoms.
I can’t say these things will for sure happen because I don’t know yet. Though it says something about the society we live in that those are my expectations.
I have heard people joke about how French people are smelly and hairy. In the United States hair is associated with dirtiness and a lack of caring. Since shaving developed for aesthetic reasons, it makes sense to infer that a woman does not care about her appearance if she does not shave. When clothing became more revealing, shaving became widely practiced in Western societies. Just so, cleanliness does not have a place in the argument.
When I told my sister that I’m not shaving through July she said, “Mary-Wrennnn, don’t do that! Is this another one of your feminist things?”
The answer is no, not really. Feminism, to me, simply means equality. Although I do identify as a feminist and see how that ties into this social experiment, more than anything this is about questioning the unwritten law that shaving is. When one turns 16, one get’s his/her license. It’s taboo not to. Shaving is the same way. When a female reaches a certain age, she is expected to start shaving her body hair. My point is that if we grew up seeing women with natural hairy body parts instead of smooth plastic-esque ones, we would not think women with hairy legs are weird.
My mom’s reaction was, like my sister’s, an adverse one. “No! Don’t make life harder than it needs to be!” Once she realized that she could not talk me out of it, she whined, “I like [your boyfriend] Chris! Don’t run him off!”
There lies my other problem with the anti-hair culture we stand prison in, the idea that women are shaving for the purpose of attracting a significant other. Body hair, like the hair on one’s head, should be a personal decision, not one bullied into by society or to benefit another. That gives the impression that one should care more about what others think than what one thinks, an impression that needn’t be pressed into girls who already have so many other cues telling us that.
My boyfriend Chris surprised me by shrugging at the news. He supports me and thinks it’s cool that I’m doing this. We are in a long-distance relationship and only see each other every month… so maybe that does factor into his reaction. He did admit he doesn’t know what his physical reaction will be but he’s interested in seeing the outcome. Other than reiterating my boyfriend’s awesomeness, it also made me realize that people are more accepting of not shaving if there is a reason.
My mom, sister and boyfriend all know I am not shaving so I can measure people’s responses and write about them. That puts a method behind my madness, making not shaving semi-acceptable. I want people to be able to not shave without having an excuse. Therefore, I am not telling anyone else the reason behind my hairy body. I’m letting it be and hoping people will respect my fur but expecting people to make my body and choices their business. We shall see.