I’ve never been particularly consistent about shaving my legs. They were already pretty hairy when, at age 12, I asked my mother for my first razor. It was pink and disposable. After my evening shower, I grabbed it and the shaving cream, and attempted to de-hair my legs. It took a long time. The razor kept getting clogged and I nicked my heel. It gushed blood, as heel nicks do, and the bleeding took forever to stop. But, by the end, I managed to get most of the hair, save for a few random patches. I pretty much always miss a couple spots.
I never shaved my legs in the winter. Sure, I agreed with the commercials that “silky smooth” felt great, but I just couldn’t be bothered. I’d have fits of embarrassment in gym class because we had to wear shorts, but an extra five minutes of sleep trumped that embarrassment. Thus went my first experience as a hair nonconformist.
I maintained my non-diligence through college, shaving (mostly) during skirt season and covering my hairy legs with long skirts and tall boots through the winter.
Then I moved to Seattle, where pretty much every season is skirt season.
I started dating my soon-to-be-husband and gained my leg-shaving motivation. After all, why would a great guy like him stay with a fat, hairy woman like me? One strike or another might be OK, but tolerance of both just seemed like too much to ask for.
And, well, I couldn’t be less fat, so I would be less hairy.
For the first few months of our relationship, I shaved without fail. Then I started testing the waters. A day without shaving. 2 days. 3. A week.
The STBH didn’t say anything.
Finally, the secret came out: the STBH didn’t actually care about silky smooth legs. In fact, he thought the whole hair-removal thing was pretty weird.
I didn’t really understand. Didn’t he know that women were supposed to have smooth legs? Didn’t he know that I was supposed to be ashamed of my stubble? Didn’t he know that “hairy” is one of the worst things a woman could be?
I continued shaving regularly for a bit, but it became a less and less frequent regimen. I haven’t yet reached the point where I feel comfortable with my hairy legs all the time, but it’s a process. I haven’t replaced my razors in a while, though I did shave before the last wedding I went to. Sometimes I have a fit of wanting to feel feminine, and my brain still thinks that I can only do that with smooth legs.
Most of the time, my logic goes as follows:
1. “I should shave my legs! I will look prettier with shaved legs!”
2. “I have no razors. I need to get razors.”
3. “I totally don’t have time to get razors. Maybe on the way back from work…?”
4. “Wait, fuck this. Why should I go out of my way to shave my fucking legs? I’m no less of a woman when I have leg hair! Smash the patriarchy!”
As I said, it’s a process.
I really wanted this to be some story about how I made an enlightened decision that razors are tools of the patriarchy and cast them away in a fit of rebellion. But really it’s the story of claiming back a bit of time and money for myself.
I’ve been challenged on that, mostly by other women, even feminist ones. I’ve gotten side-eyes while in bathing suits and comments while in dresses. I’ve been asked whether I’m making a statement, and sometimes I feel like I am.
But most of the time, the statement is that I just don’t feel like it. And that’s OK.
In many ways, my resistance to shaving feels like my resistance to dieting. It’s work that I’m supposed to do in order to maintain patriarchal standards of beauty. Even if I’m not intending to be subversive, I am, simply by enjoying and living in my fat, hairy body. It’s selfishness, and women aren’t supposed to be selfish. It’s abstaining from a beauty requirement, and women are supposed to uphold a certain paradigm of beauty. It’s a challenge to what patriarchy says a woman should look like and it’s a challenge to women who buy into those standards to consider why they spend the time and money.
What’s sickening is that even something as simple as letting leg hair grow out has its consequences. I don’t wear skirts while on job interviews or while presenting at conferences, for instance. My clean, soft leg hair would be seen as unkempt at best, a sign that I neglect self-care at worst. But I think that’s just another reason to be more public about my hairy legs. An army of hairy-legged feminists sounds scary to a lot of people, other feminists included, but I think it’s just the thing we need. I hope that the more women are upfront about not wanting to shave their legs, the more accepted it will become to abstain completely.