Monday, September 24, 2007

Hairy Legs

I've been wiped out and incoherent the last couple of days, feeling like I got run over by a bus. I haven't even managed to read the political blogs like I usually do; I hate this feeling like I'm so dissociated from the world, wrapped in clouds and unable to connect with words on a meaningful level.

One thing that has crossed my mind and stuck long enough for me to grab hold and examine it, though, is the American insistence that women shave their legs.

For some reason- I really have no idea why- the skin on my legs has suddenly become quite sensitive, and whenever I shave I get razor rash, which then gets infected in places and gets all nasty and red, like so:

This is quite annoying, because although it doesn't really hurt that much in the grand scheme of things, every time I shave it happens, and it doesn't heal up between shaves, so it kept getting worse. The obvious solution was to not shave my legs until they get better, so I decided not to. This was about two weeks ago. As the picture above illustrates, they got quite hairy for a while, until my husband expressed his intense discomfort. My hairy legs, he said, were unnatural.

This response is about what I expected, although I did hope that he would relent once I explained that I was just doing it so the oozing sores on my legs would heal up. No such luck. He's a good guy, mostly, but not a liberal hippie the way I am. Questioning everything about the status quo doesn't come naturally to him, and I guess women with hairy legs are so out of the ordinary these days that the average man sees it as unnatural. So I shaved my legs again, so as not to cause a huge fuss.

It puzzles me that a society can get to this point, where the way things would be without outside influence is strange and offensive. People grow hair, it's in our genes; both women and men both, once they go through puberty, are naturally hairy. But if I grow out my leg hair, I'm not a normal American woman, I'm a freak, a butch dyke. When I complain about this in the hearing of my husband or other friends of mine who are male, they always come up with some variant of, well men who don't shave their faces are scary mountain men, so stop thinking you're especially persecuted. However, plenty of men grow out a beard at some point in their lives, just to see what it looks like. Growing a long flowing beard might make people look at you oddly, but men who do this are still men. They're not freaks, their sexuality isn't questioned.

I don't know of a single woman who has ever grown out her leg hair, just to see what it looks like. Even when I was in Africa with TMI, no one's leg hair grew out to it's full length; at one point a group of us girls grew our hair out long enough to wax it off, but mostly we all shaved at least a couple times a week. Even in Africa, we couldn't escape the cultural conditioning that says: body hair on women is disgusting. Its a curious disconnect from the way the world really is, and it puzzles me that more people don't sit back and ask why we do these things. Who decided that female body hair is so awful? Why do we all just sit back and agree to spend so much time and money shaving our skin so we look like infants?

It makes me wonder what other strange ideas might be hidden in my culture, what absurd assumptions lurk just beyond my detection.


Anonymous said...

It is totally crazy. I am a man, and I love to see hair on women: legs, forearms (luckily they often don't shave that, pubes, armpits and my favorite one : around the nipples, uhhmm. They also have it and hide it on their toes and on the sides of the upper lip which I love to play with with my tongue while kissing. It's the most exciting thing for me. Natural beauty is hated by TV magazines girls trying to match hollywood and guys ashamed to admit what they really like. Exatly for the reason that it is unusual and a little masculine for a woman to sport hair, that's the exciting factor to me and a reason to develop complicity and get excited by the surprised reaction of people. Keep growing your hair and thank you for the photo.

Anonymous said...

I get the same sort of sores on my legs, so I too try to avoid shaving when possible. But when your hairy legs are laughed at by your so-called friends, you're pressured into coping with the painful sores. Sometimes, I hate society.

(read my blog.

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