The summer days are here! And with them the promise of suffocating heat and random strangers staring at your body hair.
It’s 29°C outside. You’re sweating all over, but there are groceries to be done. Since wearing only your underwear is frowned upon in public, you put on a super cute crop top and pants rolled up to the knees. You look awesome. You’re only semi-melting, as opposed to what you would be wearing jeans and a longer t-shirt.
You step outside, and the looks begin. You start wondering. Maybe they’re staring at you because of your awesome fashion sense? Or your extra punk undercut + dyed hair combo? You’re not wearing any make-up, so it can’t be your make-up. Is it because you look tired? Should you have put on make-up?
Let’s be honest, though. From the disgust in some people’s eyes, you know very well that what they’re staring at is your hairy legs and the happy trail on your belly.
Flash news people: even people with vaginas grow body hair, and sometimes they don’t shave it. And sometimes, when it’s hot, people want to go outside without wearing full-body armor. They don’t need you to point it out.
So yeah. I have feelings about my unshaved body hair. I have feelings because I know that in any public space that’s not feminist or queer I’ll probably be the only person read as female that has visible body hair. I’ll feel singled out, and sometimes made seriously uncomfortable. It’s not super cool.
But luckily there’s something you can do about it.
Don’t freak out: I’m not asking you to stop shaving if you don’t want to.
You enjoy shaving and it makes you feel good? Awesome for you. Keep on shaving if you want to. But, for the love of god, refrain from telling people around you how much you could never stop shaving because “it’s gross and ugly.”
1. Not shaving is perfectly healthy. Body hair is natural. You don’t see health professionals telling all unshaved men who come into their office that their lifestyle is unhealthy, do you?
2. Beauty is subjective! Also, other people’s beauty is none of your business!!! If shaving makes you feel pretty, by all means, do shave. But people who don’t shave don’t need your opinion about the aesthetic value of their body hair. Really. They don’t. And you won’t die because you held your tongue. Pinky promise.
You want to be an awesome person and make some random person on the internet (me) really happy and proud? Don’t just refrain from commenting on other people’s body hair, but call out the people around you who do. This is how we can normalize not shaving while still giving people the choice to shave or not. Personal choices over societal expectations!
Okay, but why is it important to normalize the choice not to shave?
Because femininely-read people who choose not to shave often face a lot of stigma. Despite having perfectly valid reasons for their choice! Also, because some people who would like to stop shaving lack the confidence to do so BECAUSE of stigma.
Nobody gains anything from this situation, except the shaving products industry.
Which leads me to my next point…
Why do people choose not to shave?
1. Anti-capitalism & ecology: Shaving products are part of an industry. Fashion and advertising have normalized shaving partly as a way to sell more products. Not shaving can be a political statement against mass-consumption of unnecessary products. It can also be a decision made in name of the environment: disposable razors need resources to be produced, and then are quickly thrown away to fill landfills. (Note to people who shave: you can find stainless steel razors with removeable blades! Better for the planet, and better for your wallet in the long term!)
2. Feminism: Feminism takes many shapes, and there’s no one way to “liberate women.” The goal of feminism should therefore not be to ban everyone from shaving. However, some people do see the act of not shaving as a feminist statement: they are protesting against the double standard of women facing stigma for refusing to shave, while men don’t have the same problem. It’s also a way to protest against the way society ascribes value to women based on aesthetic factors, i.e. how much you conform to the current/local beauty standards.
3. Mental health issues: Some people might not want or even be able to shave because of mental health issues. This is definitely a factor in my own decision to greatly reduce how much I shave. I don’t want to go in depth about it here, but put mental health problems next to razors and do the math.
4. Time: Let’s be honest. Shaving/epilating is time-consuming and not particularly fun. I would personally even call it annoying as hell. I just don’t find it worth it to invest so much time in something that doesn’t even make me happy.
5. Probably some other factors I haven’t considered: These first four reasons are the main ones that motivate my own (lack of a) shaving routine, but I’m sure other people have different ones. For example, I can imagine that shaving your legs must be pretty complicated for some disabled people, and those people might not want to have to pay for professional epilation services.
Super profesh outro~
Conclusion? No matter your reason, you should have the choice to shave or not. Sadly, that’s not the case right now, because the social stigma against hairy legs for women/feminine-presenting people is still very strong. For example, my parents still make me understand very clearly that they expect me to either shave or wear tights at family gatherings. I sometimes feel uncomfortable in public due to people staring at my body hair.
The truth is, things won’t change on their own. They won’t change until people start calling out each other’s bullshit. They won’t change until people start actively working to make public space a safer environment for everyone, no matter their beauty routine.
In the meantime, go enjoy the sunlight in whatever clothes make you feel confident. Or stay inside next to a fan. Your choice. I respect you.