The first time I tried to shave my legs, I was about seven, so had no actual hair to shave off. As a result, all I did was cut myself and cause a literal bloodbath. Why did I try to use a razor? Well, it wasn’t because I was influenced by the smooth, shiny pins of celebrities. At that age the only magazine I read was Animals And You (which only featured furry friends) and it wasn’t because I wanted to be more feminine. I did it because it was my mum’s and I wanted to feel grown up.
Now shaving is a ritual which I don’t often think about. It’s become as routine as brushing my teeth – the only difference being that one is an act of vanity whereas the other is a necessity. I would never think ‘Oh no, people will see how unclean my teeth are if I don’t brush them’ in the same way that shaving really has no personal hygiene benefits. If you wash, hairy or not, you’ll be clean.
even at 22, I still haven’t quite managed the art of shaving.
So why is body hair a feminist issue? Well, since the dawn of time both men and women have had it. I’m sure even Adam and Eve were hairy (fig leaves hide nothing). Then as the patriarchal society developed, women were subjected to unfair beauty ideals. Renaissance painters depicted nude women without any body hair and having it came to be seen as something unfeminine and ghastly. In 1848 it was even supposed that the art critic John Ruskin failed to consummate his marriage to Effie Gray due to being so repulsed by her pubic hair. However, in a world permeated with unrealistic images of female beauty, be it in internet porn or lads mags, has much really changed?
When Sandro Botticelli painted The Birth of Venus, it expressed the feeling that women were meant to be pure, untainted goddesses, and this ideal still permeates shaving culture today. Take the Venus razor blade for example. It’s gone through ten different modifications since 2001 (from ‘original’ to ‘swirl’) and despite the fact that it is marketed at women with ‘on-the-go lives’ it still boasts of providing a ‘goddess-worthy shave’. This is somehow a contradiction in terms. How can women be expected to be ‘on-the-go’, busy and productive yet still take the time out of their busy lives to make themselves look like goddesses? What does a goddess even look like?
Probably not like a seven-year-old girl with a big cut in her leg.
And yet, even at 22, I still haven’t quite managed the art of shaving. This is largely due to the fact that I’m not very dexterous with a razor and my impatience to get the job done often leads to the shower resembling a scene from Psycho.
But, as a girl who grew up in the post feminist era the choice is mine. I could stop using the cheap Bic ones and invest in a Venus Swirl or I could just make a feminist statement and stop shaving altogether. I could embrace the fact that if left unattended, my legs become a little furry, or I could just chill out and not constantly question what I do to my legs.
With summer fast approaching I don’t think I’m the only one who is looking forward to sleek, smooth, hair-free legs. . . .
Shaving is a strange psychological thought process though. Sometimes I actively think ‘Well, I’m going to wear tights today so it doesn’t matter’, but even in those months when it’s too cold to have my ‘goddess-worthy’ legs on show I like to have that smooth, soft feeling. Especially when I rub both legs together like some sort of happy female cricket.
There’s been a recent trend towards dyeing underarm hair with bright colours. Countless celebs from Lady Gaga to Miley Cyrus have joined the fun and the hashtags #pithairdontcare and #freeyourpits have been all over social media like… well, like winter body hair. The idea is to push beyond the confines of our comfort zones and challenge perceptions of female beauty.
However, surely this just puts more unrealistic beauty ideals in place. Why can’t pit hair be cool without having to be dyed bright green? How long will it be before we start seeing girls dyeing their leg hair and #leghairdontcare or #diylegwarmers? Another side to the argument is also the fact that women of colour or girls with dark hair can’t actively partake in this trend since they’d have to bleach the hair before they dyed it. This would then be ironic since the whole debate is about women not having to go to arduous lengths in the name of self-maintenance. #Idratherbleachmysink.
With summer fast approaching I don’t think I’m the only one who is looking forward to sleek, smooth, hair-free legs which are free to receive all of that vitamin D. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad feminist. I just do what makes me happy and surely isn’t that what feminism’s all about?