For as long as I have been alive, and surely much longer, women have been expected to be hairless nearly everywhere but their heads.
Essentially, our heads should be overflowing with luscious, bountiful waves of hair down to our belly buttons while our legs should look no different than a hairless cat. All the while, the hair bursting from a man’s chest, underarms and legs is deemed socially acceptable and biologically natural.
These are hair norms so many of us have come to live by. It has never been questioned that as peach fuzz turns to dark hairs at women’s armpits and legs, a razor must be taken to it. In fact, a woman’s need to constantly shave has been declared a part of growing up. Along with getting your first stick of deodorant and your first bra, you get your first razor as well.
It has been ingrained in our minds that every time we hop in the shower, shaving should be part of our daily routine. It has been disguised as a sanitary necessity. However normalized shaving has become, it does not make it right that this societal expectation to be hairless continues to exist.
Women everywhere know the feeling of tucking their legs a little further underneath their chair to avoid glimpses of their unshaven calves. They have experienced putting away a tank top in favor of a short-sleeve shirt because they forgot to shave their underarms earlier that morning.
Women have even become accustomed to joking with their friends about their embarrassingly hairy legs. I have frequently heard the same confession among a fit of giggling women, “It is scary how long my leg hair is.”
But what is so embarrassing? That your legs are growing hair like they are supposed to? Brainwash is a strong word, but we have been programmed to think of the hair growing on our bodies as a gross nuisance.
The point is not that women should not shave, but that women should feel like it is a choice, not an expectation. I realize most women would likely say they prefer to shave regardless of what others say or expect.
But, I wonder if they would feel differently if they had not been introduced to a razor around the age of 13.
I wonder if they would feel differently if there were not companies like Gillette Venus Women's Razors and their slogan, “Choose to smooth.”
I wonder if they would feel differently if society had not put so much pressure on how their bodies should be groomed.
If a woman really likes to shave, I say more power to her. Do what makes you feel the most comfortable.
But I question if the motivation to shave comes not from within, but actually from the relief of knowing she won't get a horrified glance when she stretches in a sleeveless blouse or wears a dress without tights.
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