This post appears on http://www.collectivefeminism.wordpress.com
The blog site for the SCSU Women’s Center. I am an intern for the center, as part of the social media team.
I have a confession to make; I have been obsessed with the hair on my body for as long as I can remember.
I never considered myself a lucky person when it came to body hair. Growing up the popular girls in the world were blonde, skinny, and certainly had no “unsightly” hair. My hair was unmanageable, dark and thick. Too many times have I heard, “Oh, it’s so dark. I’m sorry.” I started shaving in probably 5rd grade, when my mother started noticing how dark the hair was on my pale skin. By the time I was in 8th grade I was plucking, waxing, shaving, and epiladying almost all the hair on my body (Epilady is a truly torturous device that pulls the hair out of your body at very high speeds). For most of my adult life I spent more than an hour a day removing hair from my body. And then something changed.
At forty I started college. My passion in English and Women’s Studies were apparent from the start, and I quickly declared a double major. I have always been a supporter of feminism and equal rights, but suddenly I became aware of what effects sexism had on my own life. I began to think about the effects that advertising had on me. And then I started analyzing the things in my life, and I wondered what was beneficial to me and what was harmful. Shaving became one of those things that I evaluated, and I discovered that too much of my life was wasted trying to be this perfect woman that I could never be. Because the perfect woman that advertising tells us we need to become does not even exist!
And why did women start shaving? As clothing began showing parts of a woman’s body that had hair, advertisements started warning about “unsightly body hair”. These ads told women that they could not be seen with such hair, and women turned the shaving industry into a booming giant that suddenly had twice as many customers. I have to wonder, why is hair so unsightly on our bodies, but when it’s on our heads we want it to be as long as possible? I cannot answer those questions with anything other than speculation, but I worry that it has to do with the idea that women must stay young to be attractive, and not having body hair is a sign of girlhood. It is sad to see the things that advertising has done to teach children and adults what it is to be a woman.
Overall, I wasn’t happy with the way that shaving controlled my ability to be a woman, with the time and effort that I expended to be without body hair, and with how I thought about my body hair. So I decided to see what life would be like if I stopped shaving. I wanted to know if I could handle looking at those long black hairs and decide that they were a part of me. It was really hard at first. But over time I came to see that they were just hairs. I was still beautiful and still a woman!
Women shave for all different reasons, but I encourage each of us to take a look at our shaving habits and really ask ourselves why we do it. Sometimes I look at the hair on my body and a moment of crisis comes upon me where I feel as though I HAVE to shave, and yes, sometimes I still shave. But I don’t shave as many areas on my body, and shaving does not rule my daily routine. In reality the only thing that really changed is how I see myself, and how long it takes me to shower in the morning.