Being Hairy Doesn’t Have To Be So Scary

Yin Mama

Woman, whether we like it or not, are often put to a higher standard than the men around us.  If we get divorced and leave our kids, people wonder why.  If we decide to concentrate on our careers and don’t want to get married or have children, people wonder why.  Even if we decide not to shave our legs or armpits, people wonder why.

Now the first two examples women will sometime be given leeway or just have a family member make an excuse for them.  But I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone make an excuse for a woman who chose not to shave.  You’d think it was some sort of crime in America not to do so.

This topic comes up periodically in social conversation.  The Golden Girls had a scene about them shaving their legs and if they shaved their thighs or not.  It came up 10 years ago when Julia Roberts stopped shaving for a while.  And it came up again recently when Academy Award winner Mo’Nique “admitted” that she didn’t shave her legs (I use the quotations because admitted is a term usually used in sentences like “he admitted that he killed the girl” or “she admitted to her boyfriend she had cheated on him).  Catherine Saint Louis wrote an article for The New York Times a few weeks ago about Mo’Nique’s decision and had a great line in it that said “On the red carpet, if a woman has hairy legs or armpits, it is assumed to be an accidental misstep — a failure of time management, if you will.”

I totally agree.  People will often assume that women who haven’t shaved just forgot or didn’t have time to do it.  No one thinks that maybe they just didn’t want to shave.  For years most African American women didn’t shave their armpits or their legs.  That’s changed a lot since I was a teenager in the 1980’s but there are still some who don’t.  And even though I always have (I was allowed by my mom to shave my armpits at 11 but not my legs.  I did it anyway when I started high school) I’ve never thought it was disgusting if a woman didn’t save her legs.  It must be kind of freeing not to conform to what American society thinks is beautiful.  Maybe she’s European, where they don’t shave as much as we do.  Or maybe her husband/boyfriend/girlfriend finds it attractive for her to go au natural.

While I personally don’t have a problem with non shaving of the legs I have to admit that not shaving the armpits is a different matter for me, but not just for women.  I’m kind of grossed out when men wear tank tops and lift their arms.  And don’t get me started on men’s hairy backs!

It’s all about choices and the differences that make our society what it is.  So when you see a woman who hasn’t shaved recently don’t think “eww”; think how quick her shower must have been that morning and how much she saves on razors every year.  I will try to do the same with the unshaved armpit thing.

Yang Mommy

Oh to be a man and not have the expectation of having to shave thine legs! Especially in the height of summer when shorts and skirts are de rigueur. Let’s be realistic–shaving is such a pain in the ass.  It’s time-consuming, it can hurt and make you bleed, it can get expensive and it’s damn awkward to do if your legs if you’re pregnant!

But I do it. I’m not blessed w/ ultra fine, near-invisible leg hair. My mom kept those genes to herself. I’ve shaved, I’ve waxed, I’ve used those stinky bottles of hair remover, I even had the Epi-lady at one time.

To be honest, I don’t really care if a woman shaves her legs or not. It’s her choice. But I’ve been brought up in a culture where shaving one’s legs is expected. So to see a woman with long leg hair is kinda…well…really weird on first impression. My mind registers the fact, I think, “huh?” but then I move on with whatever. Besides, it’s not like leg hair smells, unlike the other hairy parts we should be shaving…..

Like armpits. I’m not into the au naturel look on men or women. Or the au naturel odor that too often frequents that area of the body. Perhaps if those who don’t shave their pits would bathe a bit more, it wouldn’t be so frowned on in our culture. But I honestly think it looks better to be clean-shaven there.

So while I’m not really a fan of the Yeti look, I do advocate good personal grooming, whether you be a man or a woman. And like Yin Mama, I wish hairy-backed men would do a little shearing themselves!


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