From Our Readers
September 29, 2015 2:12 pm

Around this time last year I was super excited for fall. I was excited for crunchy leaves, pumpkin flavored things, and not having to shave! Hallelujah, it was jeans/tights/yoga pants season! Soon it would be sweatpants/sweatshirt season where I could get away with not only not shaving my legs or pits, but I could also get away with not wearing a bra under all those baggy warm layers. Now that’S comfort.

Don’t get me wrong, I miss the warmth of summer every single time it leaves, but boy, summer is the most labor-intensive season when it comes to beauty. The shaving, waxing, anti-frizz, sunscreen, all natural bug repellent perfume…it’s exhausting. So I thought, why do we do it?

Shaving ones leg’s or armpits has not always been in style in the United States (and still isn’t in many other countries). It first became popular in the Western World after the First World War as hemlines and upper arms were more exposed in fashion, prompting the desire to remove hair that since then hadn’t been visible.

But it really took off in the ’50s along with a myriad of other beauty/health products, trends, and companies, that were marketed to women to boost the economy after WWII. These trends and products were ultimately used to glamorize the ‘perfect housewife’ model so that women would find being a homemaker more ideal than working in factories, like they had been the previous decade. Just Google 1950s leg shaving ads. It’s then that it starts to feel compulsory, not like a trend you could choose to not partake in if you didn’t want to.

More than a few feminist girlfriends of mine were proud non-shavers, so I looked to them for advice. One of my friends talked about how her mother encouraged her not to shave. She talked about the famous painter Frida Kahlo, known for her self portraits that show off her unibrow, and how she defined beauty as the only thing she really knew: herself. She talked about how, as a woman of color, she encountered all kinds of unpleasantness over her body hair.But she wasn’t willing to let that stop her from being the woman she wanted to be.

She talked to me about how soft her leg and armpit hair was, and how she would never shave to please a man (because anyone who makes you feel bad about your body and what you choose to do with isn’t worth your time.) She was all about doing what she was comfortable with, and I greatly admired—and wanted to have—her courage.

But I was still scared. Still scared that people would see my body hair and judge me for it, even though it was much lighter and more difficult to see. I was scared to talk to my then boyfriend about it, even though I knew him to be a supportive person. But when I told him I wanted to try it, I was surprised by how chill he was about it. He couldn’t care less about armpit hair, and although he admitted a smooth leg feels nice sometimes, he was completely supportive because it was my body, and what I did with it should be up to me.  Anyone can have a preference and let their partner know about it, but everyone has a right to look the way that makes them feel the most comfortable. You do you, girl.

So I started walking around with hairy legs and armpits. Any by next summer, I wasn’t scared anymore. Nobody can see it unless you’re really close, and most people don’t care at all. Some people will talk about it, but I found the people who were taken aback by it were not the type of people I really wanted to hang out with anyway.

Anybody who thinks it’s unhygienic when women don’t shave but men can be just as hairy as they want—well, I sent them to Google. But the one comment I was truly disturbed by was, “Is your boyfriend okay with it?” As if he had a say in what I do with my body.

This isn’t at all to say that if you shave or wax or trim you’re doing something wrong. Not at all! You do you. But I do think we need to remember that it’s not a requirement. I like not shaving to show my rejection of the consumerist model of controlling women. Rejection of the idea that women have to look or act a certain way to be seen as beautiful. But you can reject that model in a different way. It is, after all, your choice.

I believe we should be accepted as people who can make our own decisions about how we want to look. Also, I just like my body hair. Fuzzy hairs are soft—they aren’t as visible as you think they’ll be, and they are so much less work, and I’m all about that. I’m not saying that all women need to stop shaving; you should be allowed to do whatever feels comfortable for you. What we need to rid ourselves of is the idea that women have to shave (or do anything for that matter) to be seen as beautiful.

No beauty standard should be compulsory. Especially since not all women can afford razors or other beauty trends in the first place. We create what “beauty” means and we should be allowed feel beautiful regardless of what we look like or what we can afford. We are beautiful exactly as we are, and no one should be allowed to make us feel like we have to change something about ourselves to be accepted.

Sarah Baxter is a 23 year-old actor, blogger, singer/songwriter, and Psychology/Sociology graduate who lives with her best friend and her best friend’s fiance in Sterling, Il. You can follow her personality psychology blog at infjadvice.tumblr.com or follow her on Twitter @realsarahbaxter

[Image via Fox]

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