Shaving has become a bit of a contentious issue regarding feminism, or maybe it was always one, but as someone relatively new to being an active feminist and having active femmo friends, it’s something I’ve only been aware of in the last few years.
There are a number of sides to the argument. The most vocal side, at least in the media, is the patriarchal side, which dictates that women* who don’t shave/wax their pits/legs/vahjayjay are gross, disgusting and *horror of horrors* not ‘feminine’ enough. This idea has been ingrained into our society largely through the media. We’re told that shaving is more hygienic, and yet this seems to only hold for women*. Apparently men*’s pits/legs/pubic area are just dandy when they’re hairy, but if those bits belong to a woman* – woah, totes unhygienic. In ads, shaving our legs is shown to be a terribly sensual, sexy, not-at-all awkward experience, which involves tanned, skinny ladies showing off the amazing blades of the razor by shaving their hairless legs. I’d be way more impressed by Venus’ razors if they showed off their shaving skills on a massively hairy leg.
J-Lo, you are dry shaving a hairless leg, what are you doing?
The (somewhat) polar opposite of this is the stereotypical bra-burning feminist notion of not shaving at all, of being a ‘wild woman’. Or the slightly less straw feminist notion of choosing not to shave and as such, flying in the face of the patriarchy and saying a massive ‘fuck you’ to ridiculous western beauty standards. Until maybe a year ago, I didn’t know anyone like this. Now I know loads, and it’s no longer a big deal to me.
I, however, fall somewhere in between these two ways of thinking. I haven’t shaved my legs in like a week and ‘No Shave November’ effectively lasts all winter for me because tights and jeans and jumpers are all that’s worn, so feck it. But I get bikini waxes when I can afford them (because what’s more fun than lying feet together, knees apart, naked from the waist down as a stranger puts hot wax on your vulva??) and I do shave my pits if I’m wearing a short sleeve top/dress.
I know that I’m a feminist, and yet I feel like because I shave/wax, I’m a fauxminist sometimes. I buy into the idea that I *should* shave, because ‘that’s what women* do’. But I also feel like I’m doing it for me. Shaving my legs (like properly shaving them, not that quick kind you do for 30 seconds in the shower when you end up nicking yourself) is like pampering for me. I’ll have a stupidly-bubbly bubble bath and do a face mask and all that jazz and make my legs feel fab (which then prompts me to run into my sister’s room in my towel yelling ‘FEEL MY LEGS, THEY’RE SO SMOOOOOOTTHHH, FEEL THEM!!!’). I don’t have or wax for anyone but myself, for the most part. While I know full well I probably feel better about myself because that’s what society deems ‘beautiful’, at the same time, I’m not perfectly groomed 24/7 and anyone, particularly guys, who has a problem with that can go fuck themselves. It would be an instant turn off for a guy to say to me that I was only sexy if my legs were shaved and my vahjayjay waxed.
What it comes down to is choice. I choose to shave sometimes, and others choose to shave every day or not at all. We shouldn’t judge people for what they do with their bodies, even if it is as a result of patriarchal expectations of women*. I wish I could go out in shorts not giving a fuck about whether or not my legs were shaved. But I feel 100 times more confident when they are. That doesn’t make me a bad feminist, it makes me human.