A victory for patriarchal standards of beauty

(421 Posts)

So I was mulling this over in the bath last night. For a few months (at least) I haven't bothered shaving my legs. It started because I was feeling very low and could barely be arsed to brush my teeth and maintain personal hygiene (y'know, the standard we expect of men) let alone anything else. So they grew.

And then I decided to leave them and see how I felt about it. A feminist experiment, if you would call it that. So they grew some more. While I'm blonde and the hair was light, they looked like men's legs. They also caught in tights on the couple of occasions I wore them.

I really didn't like it, so last night I shaved them. Now, to me, they look and feel so much better. I won't be hanging up my razor.

But I am feminist. I understand and agree with the analysis of radical feminism. But I have been conditioned to find very hairy legs unattractive and having them myself made me feel uncomfortable. Of course, this means I've succumbed to what the patriarchy wants so what I will mulling over in the bath were the points raised on the 'choice' thread:

Would you judge by behaviour as harmful to women, a small betrayal of the movement? Or are other things (such as writing about feminism in my work and raising my children to challenge stereotypes and to believe that people shouldn't be disadvantaged by sex, race, sexuality, disability etc) more significant?

PS. I am not looking for validation of my decision. I know it was influenced by cultural factors, despite feeling inside like complete personal agency.

Apologies for typos, I don't have my contacts in and am too lazy to go and find my glasses, so not the most effective proof reader.

biscuit biscuit

^^

My eyes, reading back my post.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 08:54:30

Calm down! Hair removal is for yourself so that you look / feel more beautiful for you.

I've just realised that it could sound like I'm wheedling for forgiveness. I'm not, it's fine, I won't take it personally if you disagree with my patriarchy approved personal choosy choice smile

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 08:58:11

It's not healthy or useful to blame the patriarchy for every dilemma smile

Thanks smile but I am very calm. I don't need reassurance. And hair removal isn't for me so I feel good, it's so I feel that I fit in with patriarchal standards of attractiveness.

I'm cool about that, I just want to discuss the feminist implications of someone who is confident in their agreement with radfem analysis making a conscious decision to shave their legs anyway.

I'm sort of presenting myself as a specimen for analysis. A paradox, a yin and yang. I won't run away angrily or tearfully if people say I'm not a feminist, or not the right sort of feminist or whatever.

I'm just indulging myself in intellectual exploration.

dementedma Sun 19-Jan-14 09:00:45

Barely arsed to brush my teeth and maintain personal hygiene - the standards we expect of men.....

Well, how about we discuss gender stereotyping in more detail????

I'm not blaming patriarchy for the dilemma. I want to discuss the dilemma, not have my hair stroked because I'm a radfem leaning feminist who shaved her legs.

VoyageDeVerity Sun 19-Jan-14 09:02:59

I don't think we shave for men as such do we - it's about how we feel and look. I am a feminist and don't understand how body hair relates to the patriarchy.
Interesting debate and I wool like to hear someone genuinely explain to me the reasons why body hair is a feminist issue.

diddlediddledumpling Sun 19-Jan-14 09:03:32

How can you be certain that your feeling about hair is influenced by the patriarchy? Smooth legs feel much better to me too. If it feels inside like complete personal agency, maybe it is? In this case.

Timetoask Sun 19-Jan-14 09:03:48

You are very lucky!
Unfortunately I inherited the hairy gene!!!! Grrrrrrr.

Do you disagree then dementedma that at a general level the standards of personal grooming expected of men and women are different? In order for people not to be surprised at unkemptness, men need only be clean and tidy (though of course, some choose to do more).
Women are expected to do more.

It's not stereotyping to point this out… If you think it is, would you be kind enough to explain?

EdithWeston Sun 19-Jan-14 09:04:48

I wouldn't toss in the term patriarchy on this either.

Appearance, and what is deemed acceptable/normal/attractive/quirky/ugly/creepy etc, is very much a social construct and varies between cultures and over time. The influences are not just from one gender.

Verity in really simple terms, hair removal can be thought to be a feminist issue because men aren't expected to remove as much of it as women are. So it takes women more time and effort to maintain expected standards.

That's the simplest explanation, though there are also other factors like when females have hairless bodies they are usually very young: adult women in their natural state have hair. So why does attractiveness in women have to resemble a girl who hasn't yet developed pubic hair? (That's a rhetorical question, btw).

May I reframe the question?

For the purposes of this discussion it doesn't matter so much whether you believe that we live in a patriarchal culture. I believe it.

It doesn't matter whether you believe I exercised complete personal agency and did it 'for me' because 'it feels good'. Yeah, objectively smooth skin feels nicer than rough hairy skin. But I believe that if this were the only factor, men would also shave their legs.

So what I was hoping to discuss was me making this choice in the context of my radfem beliefs.

I thought it would be an interesting topic for discussion on those terms.

Really don't need hair stroking or reassurance that patriarchy just exists in my warped mind grin

Norudeshitrequired Sun 19-Jan-14 09:13:22

But who decided that hairless bodies are the more normal or attractive? I know plenty of men who prefer some hair on their women, particularly in the pubic region.

EdithWeston Sun 19-Jan-14 09:13:57

There is more to expectations of appearance than depilation.

And a patriarchal explanation doesn't account for all historical eras (look at Regency - actually anything before death of Prince Albert) nor does it cover class, sexuality or culture.

The comparison between a groomed metrosexual man and a hairy kilt wearer shows how variable appearance can be. And I'm ready to bet that anyone reading this made all sorts of assumptions about those fictional examples just from a few words of description.

Norudeshitrequired Sun 19-Jan-14 09:14:46

Waxing is becoming more common in younger men as they too like the smooth look and feeling of hairless legs and chests.

DirtieBertie Sun 19-Jan-14 09:15:35

Verity in really simple terms, hair removal can be thought to be a feminist issue because men aren't expected to remove as much of it as women are. So it takes women more time and effort to maintain expected standards.

I'm not sure that is true. Slap a bit of removal cream on in the shower once a week (or however often it is). If the hair is getting out of control, wear sufficient clothing to cover up. Women also have a lot of choice ie shaving, cream or various types of waxing.

Unless they choose to have a beard, men are expected to shave daily and at a specific time, the morning, to avoid stubble in order to look smart. I think they actually have a tougher deal than women in that department.

Can I be a radical feminist and shave my legs?

MorrisZapp Sun 19-Jan-14 09:18:28

I don't think you can tell people how to discuss this, sorry.

Every working morning, my DP boils a kettle, stands at the bathroom sink, and applies a lethally sharp blade to his face. When he's dressed, he then ties a 'noose' round his neck that makes him feel like he can't breathe.

His work requires both of these as basic standards of smartness. He doesn't bother with either at the weekend.

I can't say I envy him.

I can attempt to explain the issues I hoped to discuss when I started the thread if I feel that I have been misunderstood Moris.

As you are all free to reassure me that shaving my legs is fine and a completely free choice, that I've imagined my belief in patriarchy's role in policing women's personal grooming and that actually men have things much worse.

DirtieBertie Sun 19-Jan-14 09:22:32

On a personal note, leg and armpit shaving is the one "beauty" thing I do. I don't wear make-up, dye my hair or remove my lady garden. Other than the fact that shaving my armpits keeps me a bit less smelly, in all honesty, I am not sure what my motivation for it is.

plantsitter Sun 19-Jan-14 09:24:40

I don't think making a personal decision about your own appearance is a betrayal. You're a better feminist example if you're comfortable with yourself (and in this case your legs) than if you act for the sake of other's opinions or for an external cause.

There are loads of things women do every day that they're conditioned to do by the patriarchy, many of which they couldn't stop if they tried.

I think if you work towards the bigger things like sexual equality at work and so on, the legs will follow...

DirtieBertie Sun 19-Jan-14 09:25:07

As you are all free to reassure me that shaving my legs is fine and a completely free choice, that I've imagined my belief in patriarchy's role in policing women's personal grooming and that actually men have things much worse.

Your original argument concentrated on women having a worse deal on hair removal. If you had couched it more in terms of personal grooming as a whole, I think you would have had a very different response.

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