If You Don’t Like My Hairy Legs, Go Fuck Yourself
It’s not always easy to be hairy with a uterus.
Most of us female identifying humans spend lots of time and money on pieces of plastic with blades on the end, waking up ten minutes earlier to shave our legs and other bits. For the majority of post-pubescent life I was feeling the vibe.
But at some point I decided to stop.
There wasn’t any particular reason. To be honest, it wasn’t ideological. I just didn’t care. It was winter. Shaving cut into valuable sleep time. But then summer rolled around. I may have shaved a few times, but then I stopped. I couldn’t be bothered.
The only time my hairy legs bothered me was when my roommates joked about it—“We can make a weave!”—or when my coworker looked at my calves, exposed beneath a short summer skirt, snorted in contempt and looked at me.
“What’s funny?” I asked sweetly.
“You don’t shave?”
No, my dear testicular colleague. I do not shave.
These were mild annoyances, but having irreverently deflected many calls of “dyke” in a rebellious teenage hood, they didn’t get to me too much. Like the insidiously condescending comments in male-dominated workplaces, the frank, unabashed stares of the grossly male and worried comments of my parents about going out alone at night, I brushed them off and didn’t think about it too hard.
Instead I insulated myself in the cuddly and progressive sphere of the Montreal Left — the particular brand of decidedly, provocative queer, or at the least discreetly non-heteronormative human, that flourishes in the Mile End.
I never confronted it until I was, by circumstances of the fates and economic necessity, dropped in the backwoods of Northern New Brunswick, the land of incredibly friendly bilingual maritimers and a strict conception of sex and gender.
My roommate was very into strict definitions of gender. His hobbies include: blasting pop music, working out in his room and eating lots of pre-workout powder. After taking a profound dislike to me, he grew fond of not-so-passive aggressively making fun of me.
Luckily for me, he chose not to insult my professional ability, my political leanings or anything to do with who I am as a person. He chose to deride me for not shaving my legs.
It was only then that I realized the extent to which beauty standards act as a means of social control. In 1915, some advertisers realized they could get 50 per cent of the population to spend money if they convinced them a part of their body was something to be ashamed of. It worked.
Women spend a shit ton of money, time and mental energy removing their body hair. We pour burning wax near sensitive erogenous zones and spend hours every year clogging shower drains with unwanted keratin.
There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance because you feel like it. But let’s be honest, a lot of us do it because we feel inadequate, unfeminine and undesirable if we don’t. We don’t even do it to be extra sexy or provocative or whatever: we do it to feel not-hideous.
So this roommate of mine didn’t feel compelled to insult my work, my thoughts, my view — anything to do with who I am as a person. All he felt he had to do was invoke the widely-held principle that women who don’t uphold certain standards imposed on them by men, as a means of capitalist gain, are inadequate.
All he had to do was point out that I grow hair, a trait all mammals have, and that I don’t go out of my way to take it off. And in the logic which imposes this artificial ideal of female-ness, the shame and self-hatred ingrained in women from their conception would do it’s work for him.
Luckily I had just been privy to two years of pretty exhaustive social de-conditioning in a progressive milieu. My identity had room to flourish beyond my desirability as a sexual object — not that sexuality had been erased from my identity: it had just been redefined.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you don’t like my hairy legs, go fuck yourself.
Gloria Steinem the Second
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