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.

hazchem Thu 23-Jan-14 23:53:44

Buffy I just watched this ted talk and thought about you and your leg hair conundrum smile

ArtetasSwollenAnkle Thu 23-Jan-14 12:57:29

BUT I think we do have a responsibility not to join in with hair-shaming...

Good point, Dusk. And perhaps we can extend this to not coming down like a ton of bricks on people who we assume don't care about what we care about. Someone on here might highlight an action they have witnessed and some people immediately chime in with 'ooh, s/he hates women/wants to oppress/forgets their privilege'.

No, sometimes people just do what suits them at that moment in their lives. Not considering the bigger picture does not make them evil. Like Dusk says, life is hard.

DuskAndShiver Thu 23-Jan-14 12:16:44

I think that conforming / not conforming to patriarchal beauty standards is more symbolic than anything. that is not where our power lies.

I think it is analogous to consumer boycotts. I don't buy Nestlé but in pragmatic terms I accept that this position has no power. I don't, emotionally, want to give my money to the people who did all those awful things, but not giving them 79p for a KitKat won't stop them doing things, still less does it go back in time and bring those babies back. It just makes me feel better. If a person does buy Shreddies or whatever, perhaps in desperation in a corner shop in the middle of a frantic life, I don't judge or consider them to be a baby-killer.

Similarly, if an individual can't manage the penalties that attach to not shaving, I don't expect them to. Life's hard.

BUT I think we do have a responsibility not to join in with hair-shaming and I think that there are other things we can do as feminists to bring about change. Expecting individuals to act as if it is after the revolution when it is still before the revolution is just depleting their resources. Each person has to make their own decision about their own resources and where they are forced to, or can afford, to spend them.

Dromedary Thu 23-Jan-14 11:40:08

Personally, I do think that it's a big issue, as I've mentioned above.

Isn't it strange Dromedary how I find it harder to keep my legs hairy than I do saying really quite challenging stuff to fairly hostile audiences at work.

Quite a few people have said don't worry about the shaving thing, it's very small, really. But maybe it isn't, maybe it's a huge, significant feminist issue and we're totally losing the battle to fix it?

Dromedary Thu 23-Jan-14 11:15:06

Buffy - you are being a bit weak and not standing up for your principles? That doesn't mean that you shouldn't do the good stuff that you do do though.
If you believe in sharing your wealth with the poor (who are as important as you are) but can't quite face giving away a lot of your income, giving away some of it is still worthwhile.

CaptChaos Thu 23-Jan-14 11:15:03

Judging men who harassed women in the 70s by today's stricter standards is arguably a bit harsh.

By that token, Op Yewtree is also a bit harsh. It was accepted that women 'threw' themselves at the famous. That you couldn't be raped or sexually assaulted by someone you knew/had agreed to spend time with/ were in a relationship with. So, shall society just drop the charges? Tell the women involved to just suck it up, it was normal then? Or should society send a serious message?

Dromedary Thu 23-Jan-14 11:12:04

What Rennard allegedly did is not so widespread as to be the norm. But it was more usual in say the 70s than it is now. Judging men who harassed women in the 70s by today's stricter standards is arguably a bit harsh.

Yes. Broadly, I agree and accept your point. That's why I posted this thread, because I felt a bit ashamed that I couldn't resist the pressure to conform to a patriarchal ideal of femininity.

Does that negate the other stuff I say and do? Does it mean I am hypocritical if I write a blog post or article about another aspect of feminism? These aren't rhetorical questions, I am interested in exploring these ideas. For some reason

CaptChaos Thu 23-Jan-14 11:06:39

I do find this idea that the OP feels as though she has caved in to the patriarchal norm as a bite of a hollow get-out. Could Lord Rennard claim that he did the same - he knows it's wrong, but, well, it's common practice and therefore he is just going with the flow? Could a company hire/promote a man over a more capable woman simply because it is what society expects, and the hiring manager simply caved in to societal pressure?

I think the major difference is the consequence. Lord Rennard and the hypothetical boss would be breaking the law, one for sexual harassment and sexual abuse, the other for sexual discrimination. Not shaving my legs isn't against any law, but it does mean that I am a target for a lot of criticism from friends and random strangers alike.

In this discussion, I and people like me have been called slovenly, sluts and accused of not caring about ourselves and out appearance. None of this is true, but it is also par for the course.

ArtetasSwollenAnkle Thu 23-Jan-14 10:59:36

Well, so you say Buffy wink

But, severity of the offence aside, the point still stands. The hiring manager is not abusing anyone either.

One difference is that I haven't sexually abused anyone grin

ArtetasSwollenAnkle Thu 23-Jan-14 10:15:42

I do find this idea that the OP feels as though she has caved in to the patriarchal norm as a bite of a hollow get-out. Could Lord Rennard claim that he did the same - he knows it's wrong, but, well, it's common practice and therefore he is just going with the flow? Could a company hire/promote a man over a more capable woman simply because it is what society expects, and the hiring manager simply caved in to societal pressure?

I am probably overlooking something, but I cannot see the difference at the moment.

Grennie Thu 23-Jan-14 09:59:19

Glad you are going to get more involved in feminist action. What actually gave me the confidence to stop shaving was working with other feminists to do cativism. It gave me a confidence around my beliefs that no discussion on the net ever had.

Grennie I agree, it is very sad (and I hope I didn't offend you by saying so).

I intend to become more involved in feminist activism by way of my work: research and writing.

Speaking of which, if you see me here too much today, kick me off!

TheDoctrineOf2014 Thu 23-Jan-14 09:52:31

Dromedary, once upon a time, the same was probably true about shaving legs. Maybe at the moment the female equivalent is shaving pubic hair rather than legs ie more prevalent among younger adults etc.

rachelmonday1 Thu 23-Jan-14 09:49:44

Personally, I don't see the shaving of legs to be a feminist thing at all. I do think though, that shaved (or waxed as I prefer) legs just feel so much more comfortable.

Grennie Thu 23-Jan-14 09:46:09

Buffy - It is sad that you see your hairly legs as ugly. Personally though I don't care whether as a feminist you conform to patriarchial beauty standards or not. Instead look at, if you are not already doing, getting involved in some feminist activism. That will have a greater positive impact in improving things for girls and women than just how you live your life.

And I am not saying this out of personal self defensiveness. Personally I don't shave or wear make up.

Dromedary Thu 23-Jan-14 09:41:39

I think men have a choice at the moment - they can shave their chest hair or not (not quite as onerous as all the hair removal women do anyway). If they make the conscious decision to copy the minority of men who shave their chest hair then they are contributing to turning this into something that more men will feel pressurised into doing. Which would be a shame. For women there is little real choice, for those who wish to conform to what is overwhelmingly accepted as the norm.

NearTheWindmill I am just like you. I look really feminine, often wear makeup and will shave quite often (though I don't really care about a bit of stubble as it's blonde grin)

I would never criticise another woman for what they were wearing. There's enough woman shaming all around us for a feminist to pile on the criticism.

What I will discuss with other feminists is why women and men seem to experience different pressures to look a certain way. Some people would argue (and they have on this thread) that those pressures are different but equal. Personally, I don't agree: there's no media outcry when a man has a few inches of dark stubble, whereas I think there would be horror everywhere if Penelope Cruz (for instance) appeared with hairy legs.

But I did open myself up to criticism from feminists on this thread because when I shaved my legs after several months of not doing so, I believed that I was doing it not because I naturally preferred it, but because I had been conditioned to think that hairy legs were ugly. I did think that my hairy legs were ugly; it made me sad that I thought that and that I wasn't strong enough in my convictions to get over my discomfort sad.

I posted it here, inviting criticism from other feminists not on my appearance but about how important it is for me to live my beliefs rather than just to believe them inside but outwardly conform.

I felt comfortable asking this question because (contrary to popular belief) FWR is a friendly and supportive place. Unless you are a goody troll, of course grin

I don't think you were wrong to teach your daughter the things you have taught her about female grooming. I would do the same for my dd. I think the only thing I'd try and do differently is to teach her the feminist analysis of these acts: not to shame her into not doing it, but to try and give her the tools to make her own choices once she has built enough self-confidence to make them. Which probably won't happen until she is about 30.

Grennie Thu 23-Jan-14 09:20:27

It sounds Near as if they are using feminist ideas to feel superior about themselves? This is not what I see feminism as being about.

I do think that the expectation that girls and women look a certain way is oppressive. I don't think criticising individual women for how they look, or feeling superior for how I look, is feminism.

PacificDogwood Thu 23-Jan-14 09:19:38

Damn, Grennie, did you have to burst my bubble? wink

I think it's hard for mother's of girls as there is a find line to tread to teach children right from wrong in many respects while still allowing them to find their own way and not push them in the other direction. I think that goes for many things, not just feminist practices; say religion for instance.
Also, our children are exposed to so many outside influences that I think it is so crucially important to encourage critical thinking and, I suppose, analysis of what goes on around us.

A 15 year old girl no doubt wants to be just like her friends and being popular is The Most Important Thing In The World. Having said that my mum was not big on hair removal, she never mentioned it to me and I took a blank razor blade to my legs when i was about 14 or so. I still have the scars... hmm

TheDoctrineOf2014 Thu 23-Jan-14 09:18:14

...non-jeery feminists!

TheDoctrineOf2014 Thu 23-Jan-14 09:17:44

Then stick around on here to meet some n

NearTheWindmill Thu 23-Jan-14 09:15:51

You are proba bly right grennie but they are the only people I know in rl who go on and on aboout femnism yet for them it is all about appearancerather than anything they have achieved but they are very good at dissing me.

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