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.

See the thing is, oh, I give up for a bit. Perhaps if I find my glasses things will get better.

But before I do Bertie I wasn't posting an "argument". I was trying to engage in a discussion about what happens when a woman who believes in radical feminism's analysis of society makes a choice to do something that they know that movement regards as symbolic of the oppression they fight against.

I don't want to convince anyone. I am not trying to debate with you or prove you wrong. There is no need (from my perspective anyway) to pick apart my language (though of course you're free to do so if it makes you feel better).

Obviously I am doing an absolutely terrible, terrible job of explaining myself.

gosh this thread is frustrating.

Buffy -- I get it. How can you be a feminist, understand the insidious influence of patriarchy, and yet want to shave?

I don't really think it's too much of a paradox. Very few people are 100 per cent activist and 'perfect'. I actually think it's impossible, in our modern age, to be so. You can try to live a really moral life but -- if you own a mobile or laptop or any piece of modern technology, you are a cog in a giant structure of global exploitation, for example (ie conflict minerals). Many of our clothes depend on environmental and human exploitation. What is shaving compared to that?

You pick your battles. You've been conditioned to like smooth legs. You can exert mental energy trying to overcome that, or focus it on issues that are of more interest to you. Other people, for their own reasons, will focus on shaving as something important to them.

<clutches at dreaming like drowning person>

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 09:36:02

<staggers onto thread>

Yes, Buffy, you can be a rad fem and shave your legs.

<staggers off to make coffee and hopefully come up with something more intelligent>

BelleCurve Sun 19-Jan-14 09:36:33

Even if you know something is patriarchal, some battles are easier ti fight than others.

I have a similar battle with high heels. They hurt my feet, I know men don't need to wear them and I have been wearing them less and less. But I can't quite give them up entirely.

On leg shaving, I admit defeat. I like to go swimming and wear dresses on the odd day of sunshine without spending hours of prep time and missing all the fun. So I got them lasered which has been lifechanging.

I don't care if that is not radical enough for some. You pick your battles.

MorrisZapp Sun 19-Jan-14 09:36:59

Yes, what dreamingbohemian said. I do lots of things every day that I don't intellectually support. But I do them because either they make life easier, or more fun.

Nobody is perfect. I think liberals of all colours should basically give themselves and others a break when it comes to living an ethically correct life.


I actually know a few communists who have bought their own properties in recent years. Think how conflicted they must feel.

EdithWeston Sun 19-Jan-14 09:38:33

I think I get what OP meant.

But that doesn't mean I accept the starting point that influences on appearance are necessarily, inherently and solely patriarchal.

And if you don't have that as the starting point, then OP's decisions on appearance do not have one cut and dried significance.

If however OP does not want to accept the multiplicity of other factors in choices relating to appearance, then it is likely she will continue to feel conflicted.

Here's my continental-european take on this:

Of course the less hairy standards of beauty are a complex patriarchal social construct (the whole less hairy = 'younger' = more fertile and more compliant), but it is also a fashion and as such, do whatever you want. Be entirely body hair free - you can still be a feminist. Let it ALL grow, you can still be a feminist or not depending on where you stand on feminism.

My hair grooming is v hit and miss, particularly in the winter. I am v pale skinned and have v dark body hair, but not a lot of it. I do shave legs/tidy other sites up when going out etc, but I do find it a bit of a pain.

I think the main feminist issue here is how judgy people (here and in RL) can get about a bit hair. Photos in the papers with slebs showing a bit of underarm hair?? Really? Who on earth gives a flying fuck about that?
Apparently more people than I'd like to believe... sad. That's an issue; not the actual state of Gyneth's or whoever's armpits.

I think liberals of all colours should basically give themselves and others a break when it comes to living an ethically correct life.

I absolutely agree with Morris. We should think in terms of the good we can do collectively and not worry if at the individual level we are not perfect.

Doctrine was a bit more succinct than me grin

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

Have to dash off soon and not read the full thread/formulated answer properly.

Just a point - all premiership rugby players, especially in league, shave their legs. As do swimmers, some cyclists, ballet dancers and male models. Perhaps shaving legs for utility/comfort ie not snagging on tights etc is a valid gender neutral choice?

plantsitter Sun 19-Jan-14 09:49:05

I guess if it were not difficult to make decisions outside of what the patriarchy tells us is OK, it would not exist anyway.

It is not surprising that even as a feminist you find it hard not to shave your legs. Admitting it is one of the steps to freedom- after all if you didn't you would be claiming other women are all weaker than you when really is about the strength and insidiousness of patriarchal norms.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 09:50:31

Personal hygiene and grooming norms are not imposed on women by men.

msrisotto Sun 19-Jan-14 09:55:54

You do what you can to get by in the patriarchy society we're in. I am radfem I suppose but I dye my hair and shave my underarms (all the time) and legs (when wearing skirts), wear make up occasionally, do a million other things which are not necessarily following through of my ideology. My reasoning being because I don't want to ostracise myself and want to live an easy life. I don't feel guilty about it. I'd get discriminated against more if I rebelled against these norms and i'm not a masochist.

Nobody is saying that they are. They are saying that grooming norms are a complex societal contract and if you believe society is patriarchal (which despite what appears to me as overwhelming evidence in favour of this notion, you may not) then this social construct is part of a male-dominated society. Not one where genders are equal.

Patriarchy does not equal a conscious and deliberate conspiracy organised by men to keep women subservient.

I don't feel guilty or conflicted about it.

I do think its interesting to explore the implications of agreeing with radfem analysis and doing something counter to it. I am knowingly colluding in my own oppression.

I think that's an interesting subject for discussion.

larrygrylls Sun 19-Jan-14 09:58:33

"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."

Is wanting to look decent a patriarchal construct. As a man, I shave and brush my teeth daily (well, twice daily for tooth brushing). When I want to look smart, I put an uncomfortable shirt with collar on and a really bizarre piece of rope tied tightly around my neck (aka a tie) pointing at my phallus (apparently that is the function of a tie). Is this a matriarchal construct or just driven by the simple evolutionary desire of my genes to replicate themselves?

Calling the removal of body hair "decent" has some significance, doesn't it.

In my view, there's a difference between things everyone does (such as take actions to avoid being smelly and unkempt and to take care of one's teeth) and doing things that make one "fit in" with fashion or societal standards of attractiveness.

I don't care if you wear a shirt and tie or not. Who imposes this standard upon you? Isn't it a way to show you belong to a high status group? To people who are in charge of important work? What happens if you don't conform?

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 10:03:23

Wearing a tie signals lower status these days in many areas of work.

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 10:03:29

I don't think anyone much cares if you shave or not

Well then they are free not to derail the discussion smile

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 10:08:11

I agree with scottishmummy - no-one much cares either way. And if you want to be ethical you should probably apply your thinking skills to dilemmas that are more important to the well-being of humanity.

See I agree with Edith that there are multiple determinants of all social norms.

Class and wealth, for example, have an obvious influence on norms related to appearance.

But that doesn't mean they replace patriarchy as a source of norms. It's perfectly possible for gender and class structures to work together, and I think this is the case here.

I imagine that's not a proper rad fem argument but I'm more into intersectionality personally.

NearTheWindmill Sun 19-Jan-14 10:11:29

This is what makes me wonder if I am a feminist. I believe in complete equality between men and women, I have two teenagers (boy and girl), work full time, have professional qualifications and earn a professional wage. I owned my own flat at 22 and my own house at 27 with a very high equity. At 30 I could have got pg without a man and been entirely self-sufficient taking some equity from my home and being able to work part-time to care for infant children whilst funding nurseries, etc..

Then I got married so didn't have to do that.

All my adult life though I have worn contact lenses (well have ditched those due to age and dry eyes), had well cut, highlighted hair, wear make-up, try to look nice, shave pits and legs, like pretty dresses and nice skirts and have good legs so I flaunt them - even now at 53! My DH shaves and dresses as society expects him too and I am glad he is quite handsome.

I really object to people inferring that women can't have equality whilst still wanting to look nice. Not looking nice isn't a badge of honour; I'm afraid I perceive it as a mark of disrespect to oneself and a sign of sloppiness.

Well Bonsoir and sm please do feel free to consider other threads if you consider my bath time musings to be so very worthless both to your own desire to engage on the topic and to the well-being of humanity.

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 10:12:53

I love cosmetics,and the whole regime.its not imposed its v much a choice
Self care, and grooming is important to me

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 10:13:22

Am crying at this thread grin

Poor Buffy.

I don't think it can be anything other than a compromise of feminist beliefs to take part in an action which you believe contributes to the oppression of women.

But, as others have said, you do what you have to do to get by. We are products of the patriarchal society we live in. Whilst we cannot fight all battles on all fronts all the time, I don't think we should be under any illusion that complying with patriarchal demands doesn't harm the cause of feminism- it does. I suppose the question is, by how much?

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 10:13:44

No I won't trot off because I had temerity to be nonplussed at your feminist dilemma

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 10:14:25

Good post, dreamingbohemian.

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 10:15:11

I cannot get het up about a shaved leg

NeartheWindmill I agree with you that feminists shouldn't add their voices to the chorus of negative judgements women face every day.

I just wonder why our idea of what looks "nice" involves women removing more hair from their bodies than men. And given that I think those different expectations subtly reinforce inequality (no, they're not the most important thing) it's interesting how hard it is even for a hard core feminist not to remove this hair.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 10:15:25

I agree - the refusal to make the most of one's appearance is not a badge of honour or a sign of superior morality or feminism. It's just being slovenly.

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 10:15:52

I'm going to go and post in the Camping topic telling them to book a bloody hotel grin

tethersend it says…something, I suppose.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 10:16:54

Why does removal of leg hair "subtly reinforce inequality"?

I suppose it's interesting in its way. And I haven't even gone on the attack or quoted Judith Butler or anything. Funny how feminists are accused of trying to shame other women, eh.

NearTheWindmill Sun 19-Jan-14 10:17:45

I don't like my superfluous body hair so I remove it; fortunately I don't have much. But I don't think it is important enough to merit much if any angst.

FWIW my DS's girlfriend doesn't like his hairy chest so he removes it.

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 10:18:00

Bonsoir- why is being slovenly a bad thing for women?

Assuming you are clean and not smelling, what constitutes 'slovenliness' and why is it A Very Bad Thing?

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 10:19:21

Life is fluid,has nuances.i simply think one can't live by dogma of a shaved leg is a betrayal
I wear make up daily,because I like it,because I want to.
I in no way feel compromised by having a grooming routine that includes make up and hair removal

NearTheWindmill Sun 19-Jan-14 10:20:10

Oh I think you should Tethers. Frankly I can't understand the desire to camp: chilly, damp, lack of security, communal showers and bogs, on some ghastly field too far from the beach, anymore than I can understand not shaving your pits to be honest but if some enjoy it good on them but it will take a long time for me to begin to understand why it is fun.

Removal of leg hair "subtly reinforces inequality", in my opinion, because it is symbolic of what I (and indeed many others) perceive as both the high standards of faffing about with one's body expected of women and the way that hairlessness harks back to extreme youth. Men don't tend to try and look like boys, do they? Sure, they try to look youthful if they want, but not to the extent that women are asked to.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 10:21:19

Being slovenly is a bad thing for everyone - it's not exclusive to women.

Standards are not patriarchal but societal. So much so-called feminism is just an attempt to wriggle out of the effort of being a civilised human being.

NearTheWindmill Sun 19-Jan-14 10:21:45

I'm rather enjoying a thread where me Scottishmummy and Bonsoir are in agreement. I don't think it's every happened before.

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 10:22:18

Well, since you feel that way about feminism Bonsoir, posting on the FWR topic is an interesting choice grin

NearTheWindmill Sun 19-Jan-14 10:22:39

Men just go and buy a sports car if they can afford it once they hit about 45 though.

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 10:23:28

I never get the face shaving analogy.

If men are stubbly, they might be viewed as not very smart; if they allow full natural beard growth, they might be viewed as a bit old fashioned. Indeed, many men don't shave at weekends or on holidays.

If women have stubbly armpits, they make the sidebar of shame; if they allow full natural growth, then they are viewed by many as repulsive (cf Julia Roberts)

The reaction is a different magnitude.

Oh, and if women have visible facial hair, they are very much expected to deal with it.

I remember a holiday in Sweden as a teenager when I had a girl-crush on a gorgeous Danish girl: think long blond hair, tanned skin with lovely golden hairs all over her legs - it invited stroking.
There is something uniquely Anglesaxon about the whole obsession with hair removal IMO and IME - my first holiday to the USA aged 10 left me rather bemused due to the body weirdness that went on there grin.

So, yes, why do we see a 'shaved leg' as more 'pretty' than a not shaved one? In women only?? Why is a well-muscled hairy leg in a man considered attractive?

I do think it's more than just patriarchy, there'll be social, biological and evolutionary constructs too, but it's part of it.

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 10:24:12

I think there is bigger ideological angst to be had,than a shaved leg

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 10:25:43

"So much of so-called feminism is just an attempt to wriggle out of the effort of being a civilised human being."

That's going in my Bonsoir quotes book!

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 10:25:50

I am most definitely a feminist. I disagree with the so-called feminism that us just a cover-up for laziness and slack standards.

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 10:26:05

TBF sm, there's bigger ideological angst than virtually all threads on MN.

If men are stubbly, they might be viewed as not very smart; if they allow full natural beard growth, they might be viewed as a bit old fashioned. Indeed, many men don't shave at weekends or on holidays.

Except that full beards are now fashionable by the hip young things grin.
Young men, not bearded ladies.

Btw, I don't see much 'angst' on this thread, just musings.
And I do think it's interesting to think about these things, much as I don't care one iota what you all do individually wrt to hair or make-up or high heels etc.

Thisisaghostlyeuphemism Sun 19-Jan-14 10:27:22

Why is having hairy legs 'being slovenly' in a woman yet normal in a man?

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 10:27:25

"I am most definitely a feminist. I disagree with the so-called feminism that us just a cover-up for laziness and slack standards"

Bonsoir, please- and I know I'm going to regret finishing this sentence- elaborate...

thanks tethers smile

I agree that standards are societal. But given that men have ruled and owned most of society for most of human history, I think it's not really a leap to say that society has been structured to suit the needs of men above the needs of women.

Yes, things are changing. But the structures are still there.

It's easy to think we have complete free will in our choices but as long as we operate within these structures -- which we all do -- then we are subject to their standards, however unconsciously, when we are deciding things.

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 10:28:27

Worrying if a shaved leg is a betrayal that's pretty angsty

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 10:28:36

Why is an unshaved leg indicative of slack standards in a woman but not a man?

AnAdventureInCakeAndWine Sun 19-Jan-14 10:29:41

I think part of the argument is that growing up under the patriarchy ingrains the patriarchal standards of beauty within your psyche. I think perhaps you have a responsibility as a feminist to face up to that, and perhaps a responsibility to attempt to break away from it, but I don't think any moral blame can attach to you if you are unable to completely undo the psychological impact of the messages you've been raised with.

NearTheWindmill Sun 19-Jan-14 10:30:15

Because men's legs are generally covered up by trousers. Women's legs aren't. But that's another argument grin

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 10:30:15

I disagree hugely that men have set domestic or personal grooming standards throughout history. Women, who traditionally owned the domestic and care spheres of life, set the standards.

No doubt there is.

I'm struggling to see why I can't seem to make myself clear sad. I may try again, here goes:

Leg shaving is symbolic of patriarchal oppression, according to radfem analysis. I agree. Yet still I feel such pressure to conform that I've done it anyway, knowingly. My legs are so smooth I might even pass Bonsoir's non-slovenliness exam. I regard that as an interesting topic for discussion. I want to discuss, y'know, feminism. And I've chosen a topic about, well, feminism, to discuss feminism.

Many people don't agree. Many think my musings are foolish and pointless. Many think I am wrong, not to shave but to attribute my desire to do so as anything other than personal choice that's totally free from any societal influence whatsoever. Several have implied that my thoughts are hysterical or pointless.

Where's FloraFox when she's needed?

Worrying if a shaved leg is a betrayal that's pretty angsty

Worrying maybe, wondering not so much.

Lovecat Sun 19-Jan-14 10:31:28

grin Tethers. I may go onto the Pushchair threads and tell them how much time they're wasting nattering on about bugaboos vs. Phil & Teds when they could be talking about IMPORTANT things, and a naice Sling is what they really need.

I'm a no very low maintenance person, but occasionally I like to wear make up, high heels etc. - but I've always felt in those circumstances like I'm 'performing' femininity. Like an adult's version of dressing up. I'm always aware that I'm wearing lippy/heels etc. - possibly because I don't do it that often.

I stopped removing body hair a while ago on purely comfort grounds - when I shave/immac/wax I develop huge bubo-like zits in my armpits, crotch and legs, which to me is both painful and nastier to look at than a bit of body hair.

The reactions I get to not removing body hair are... interesting. I've just made it through last summer without shaving and when we went to Greece on holiday I did get a lot of funny looks from (mainly other women) people in the swimming pool when I lifted my arms etc., and in the evening too, especially if I was wearing a pretty sundress, nice sandals etc. for dinner, but with hairy legs and pits on display.

PMSL @ the idea that shaving makes you a civilised human being!

Having said all that, I do tweeze my tache, which is growing at an alarming rate as I age. I have dark hair and it makes me look unwashed, which I really don't like. I'm not sure if that's patriarchy or just not wanting to look 'like a man', which is an interesting thought in itself...

specialsubject Sun 19-Jan-14 10:31:34

as others note, it is only anglo-saxon that thinks hairy legs are unattractive. There are places where very fat is beautiful, covered in tattoos is beautiful, shaved female heads are beautiful. In fact, there are people in the UK who like all those things - and why not? Each to their own.

if you prefer how you look with shaved legs, shave them. It doesn't devalue all those who chained themselves to railings!

MothershipG Sun 19-Jan-14 10:32:53

Buffy I feel the same as you, although I actually prefer how my legs look and feel when they have their full winter coat. grin But despite strongly identifying as feminist I can't bring my self to inflict my hairy legs on the general population in the summer.

I regularly muse on why I submit to the pain of having thousands of little hairs pulled out when their existence doesn't bother me at all. So if I'm honest I can only conclude that I don't have the strength of character to face up to what I imagine other people will be thinking.

But do I get bonus points for not wearing makeup or heels? wink

AnAdventureInCakeAndWine Sun 19-Jan-14 10:35:10

Standards are not patriarchal but societal, and it's just an amazing coincidence that they are consistently more onerous on women than on men.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 19-Jan-14 10:35:31

I think body hair is a fairly overt symbol (I'm sure there's a better word, sorry) of the patriarchal beauty standard. But it's an uncomfortable one, for the reasons you've said. Your other examples of your activism, like writing about feminism in your work etc, are probably less uncomfortable. And not everyone can do them.

So, if you identify as a radical feminist, is it reasonable for you to choose which bits you do (the writing) and leave other bits (the not shaving) to other women? I'm not sure it is reasonable really.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 10:35:32

Why does conforming to male grooming norms (hairy legs) make you more of a feminist? The logic defeats me...

I can only conclude that I don't have the strength of character to face up to what I imagine other people will be thinking

Yeah, that's sort of it, I suppose. But it's also that they looked, well to be honest, they looked to me like someone had stuck a man's legs in-between my knees and feet. It looked really weird, because I'd shaved since about age 14.

I also wear makeup and heels. Sometimes high ones, but my everyday boots have them.

You really wouldn't be able to pick me out of a line up. grin

So, if you identify as a radical feminist, is it reasonable for you to choose which bits you do (the writing) and leave other bits (the not shaving) to other women? I'm not sure it is reasonable really.

I think that's the crux of the issue. Intellectually, it isn't reasonable. Emotionally, I couldn't do it grin

Just for the record I don't identify as radfem, I just agree with lots of their analysis. I prefer the idea of intersectionality in terms of activism.

<checks the court stenographer has noted this>

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 10:41:11

I agree, TheFallenMadonna.

Whilst I wouldn't say it makes you not a feminist, I think it does damage feminism.

And I say that as a leg-shaving feminist.

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 10:41:36

Bonsoir,I don't understand your point . Men don't shave their legs so it is feminist for women to do so?

NearTheWindmill Sun 19-Jan-14 10:41:59

You can only be or feel oppressed if you let yourself be. I can only express this as who gives a flying fuck whether your legs are shaved or now. If you like it; do it. If you don't; don't do it. Nobody has the right to dictate whether I shave my legs or not be they a feminist or a mysoginist [sp - sorry]. I couldn't care less and if they do then they need to for a walk or do something more constructive with their time.

Perhaps there is a semantic confusion? Feminist vs. feminine.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 10:42:53

Aping male behavioural conventions is not by definition "feminist".

MothershipG Sun 19-Jan-14 10:43:49

So Buffy I'm letting the side down more than you because I like my hairy legs and still brutally dehair them! At least you have more of an argument for personal preference. wink

To be honest it is people like Bonsoir who will mark me down as slovenly/unkempt/ugly that keep me pulling out those hairs. While intellectually I know what they think is not important, on a more emotional level I suppose it matters more than I like to think.

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 10:44:14

Nor is it not feminism.

You can only be or feel oppressed if you let yourself be

I think that this is probably true about stuff like leg shaving. It's unlikely someone is going to threaten to rape me if I don't shave.

But while it would be lovely to believe that it was the case for all oppression, it just isn't.

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 10:45:24

So because men don't shave their legs, women must do something different?

Hang on, men don't shave their arms either. Or paint themselves blue.

<orders some IKB>

Mothership I'm not really in a position to judge your depilation decisions! wink

Maybe we should start the bad feminists club smile

TheFallenMadonna Sun 19-Jan-14 10:45:31

So I think we need some actual radical feminists really...

Otherwise we're all either agreeing or just missing the point.

SnakeyMcBadass Sun 19-Jan-14 10:46:18

I get you, OP. I often don't bother with make up, but feel unclean with stubbly legs/pits. I consider myself a feminist. Smooth skin is somehow part of the feminine uniform in our culture, and even though I know it's bollocks, I feel uncomfortable unless I conform. It actually affects how I feel about myself. Odd <ponders>

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 10:46:22

I would feel oppressed if someone required me to wear high heels or a tight top. But they don't, and I don't, so that's fine and "feminism-neutral". Ditto leg hair removal - which I do. Because I like it.

If you don't like it, fine. But your choice is not a feminist statement.

AnAdventureInCakeAndWine Sun 19-Jan-14 10:46:43

Why does conforming to male grooming norms (hairy legs) make you lazy or slovenly or stop you being a civilised human being (but only if you don't have a penis. If you do, then it's fine to behave in exactly the same way and it won't make you lazy/slovenly/uncivilised)?

Yes, we do.

<cranks up radfem signalling device>

They're probably having a lie in at a rally or something.

slightlyglitterstained Sun 19-Jan-14 10:49:31

Okay, so as I understand it the argument is that: if the general societal expectation is that women will adhere to a certain (higher) standard of grooming, then breaking that expectation deliberately by doing something that's acceptably hygienic, but socially disapproved of, may help to reset people's expectations or at least stir them up a bit?

So, having the opportunity to overturn people's expectations, and not doing so, can be seen as Not Doing Your Best, Woman! Similar to having someone say something mildly sexist (for the millionth time) in a meeting and deciding not to pull them up on it this time.

Have I got the right end of the stick? So far am just trying to make sure I understand the argument.

Obviously I can't wait to wade in with my own opinion grin , so here it is:
I think that while congruency with your beliefs is a healthy and desirable thing - nobody is ever 100% consistent over every single thing. You have to pick your battles, or get utterly demoralised and exhausted. There is just too much of it out there to fight everything all the time and do anything else.

Which battles you pick is interesting. You may feel that e.g. being an elegant, groomed (in accordance with societal standards) successful professional woman in a male-dominated profession is more likely to give teenage girls you know a role model to aspire to than being a successful professional woman who also clearly rejects social expectations around appearance and grooming. Or you might not. Feck knows really but it is an interesting discussion.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 10:49:44

They are being lazy. I tell you, radfem is lazy behaviour dressed up and disguised as virtue grin

Funny, how I felt better about shaving my legs when I still swam competitively in my late teens/early 20s, whereas my brother who shaved before competitions as well was embarrassed about it grin.

I think the confusion here is about 'individual preference' (do what you want) and 'societal pressure and where does it come from' abstraction.

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 10:52:53

To use a political analogy- years ago, did a member of the working class doffing their cap at nobility harm the cause of socialism?

I would say yes. Even though it was their cap, their head, their hand, their choice to raise said hand to said cap. The act damages the socialist cause.

As a socialist, would you not doff your cap and risk the consequences? And if you chose to doff your cap, or bow or scrape or grovel, would it be right to have other socialists telling you it was ok? I don't think so.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 10:55:00

Socialism is another excuse for low standards. It's a failed experiment...

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 10:55:35

Dear god.

Hahahahahaha! <falls over laughing>

K8Middleton Sun 19-Jan-14 10:58:02

Come be a liberal feminist. We're usually not so bothered about leg shaving/not shaving wink grin

I only ever shave mine if they're going bare (so for about 6 weeks in the summer!). I don't bother the rest of the time and I have no idea what my dh, other men or other women think about it nor do I care.

But removing body hair is obviously a feminist issue and couched in patriarchy so it would be daft to try to deny it. The question is, does my periodic leg shaving really matter in the great scheme of things? Probably not.

Now if you'd said it was removal of pubic hair, well I think the normalisation of that is more of an issue. Normalisation of porn in society and all that.

K8Middleton Sun 19-Jan-14 10:58:53


Oh gosh. What an interesting view of socialism grin

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 10:59:25

Rather than laughing take a long hard look at contemporary society. So-called socialism has got us right back to a society of extremes of wealth and lowered social mobility.

K8, and I was trying SO hard not to bring up bare fannies grin - yy much bigger issue

So, having the opportunity to overturn people's expectations, and not doing so, can be seen as Not Doing Your Best, Woman!

Sort of, perhaps. But I think for me, it's more that I talk the talk, but in this case I'm not walking the walk with something that (societal expectations aside) is actually easier than conforming.

I suppose I could equate it with someone who has strong environmental beliefs, who talks and writes about them, brings their children up according to these beliefs, would challenge someone who they saw fly tipping or wasting water… and yet that person, in their own behaviour, tacitly supports a symbol of anti-environmentalism (I can't think of a gesture that's symbolic but isn't also hindering the movement in some actual way, sorry)

I know that belief in a political movement doesn't have to be all-encompassing, but if someone's belief is strong (as mine is) shouldn't it equip me with the strength to do this very small thing? Or is it actually that the small, symbolic things don't matter? Or maybe even that shaving isn't a small thing, but a significant one for women in our culture?

tethers the cap doffing is way better analogy than my half-articulated one grin

So-called socialism has got us right back to a society of extremes of wealth and lowered social mobility.

Yes, 'twas so-called socialism wot did it, of course <agrees and back out>

CaptChaos Sun 19-Jan-14 11:03:04

I must have low standards and be slack because I don't shave my legs or armpits.

Or, I could end up with enormous boils every time I do shave.

Or, I could just not want to play up to a malecentric view of beauty standards in women.

This was all so much easier in Germany when I was merely accused of going native.

Because I am of my time, removal of pubic hair is something I feel I can refuse to do quite happily.

In 20 years time, will our dds feel the same?

Thanks for the offer K8 but I am not keen on liberalism as a philosophy. We can still be friends, though. We will always have Beth.

K8Middleton Sun 19-Jan-14 11:04:17

Sorry Pacific blush grin

Worrying about leg shaving when there are bald fannies all over the place <ahem> is a bit like worrying about a dripping tap when there is a tidal wave heading towards you.

Normally I'm a "you can care about more than one issue and raising one doesn't diminish the value or importance of another" but I just can't quite manage it with leg shaving.

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 11:04:19

I tell you what, that Karl Marx was a right lazy bastard. He had a BEARD.

This was all so much easier in Germany when I was merely accused of going native.


Germany is a patriarchal society too btw...
But yes, I get the cap doffing analogy.

K8Middleton Sun 19-Jan-14 11:05:08

Lolol grin Yes, we'll always have Beth <wipes tear>

K8Middleton Sun 19-Jan-14 11:06:43

grin tethers

Worrying about leg shaving when there are bald fannies all over the place <ahem> is a bit like worrying about a dripping tap when there is a tidal wave heading towards you.


But isn't that part of the issue? Leg shaving is now so accepted and normalised that even the strident among us can't really bring ourselves to get het up about it.

And yet, if we chalk that battle up as lost, bald fannies will be the new leg shaving.

Leg shaving is interesting. I often don't shave for a month or so,,mainly as it is not high enough on my list of priorities. My DH has never noticed or commented, he could not care less even if I grew my armpit hair. Men in general don't seem to notice, still chat me up whatever whatever.

My gay hairdresser notices and raises eye brows, and some of my female friends notice.,

I am just not convinced that most heterosexual men actually CARE, and therefore I am not sure it is a Patriarchy issue.

The same way that IME most heterosexual men do not care about women's dress size. Or even like fake boobs, long nails etc.

If I do shave my legs, it is to avoid other women's looks and comments (Fiscal! Such a lovely dress, ooops, you forgot to shave your legs though). I find women censor other women's looks and behaviour a lot more than men.

This is something that confuses me when i read about the patriarchy!

Bonsoir, but who set the standards for beauty or attractiveness in those eras? We're not talking about cleanliness here -- you can have hairy legs and still be clean -- but beauty norms.

Given that women were considered the property of their male relatives for much of history, it would have been difficult for them to depart from the expectations of men in terms of personal appearance.

Norms favour the dominant -- those in power to enforce them. It's unlikely that a class of people with virtually no power whatsoever would have equality in setting social norms.

CaptChaos Sun 19-Jan-14 11:09:10

Oh lord!

I'm growing a beard as well! I must either be Karl Marx or the most utterly shit woman ever!

I know Germany is hideously patriarchal as well, women there are becoming as influenced by porn culture as they are here and shaving every inch of themselves as well.

Be Karl Marx. At least you'll have an -ism named after you.

CaptChaos Sun 19-Jan-14 11:11:00

Good point! I feel a name change coming on grin

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 11:11:10

I think it's a harsh interpretation of feminism to think shaving=betrayal
It's unreasonable to hold anyone to that standard of behaviour
I wear make up daily,I spend lot money on grooming and clothes.i want to

K8Middleton Sun 19-Jan-14 11:14:18

Ah that's my wish-washy liberal feminism you see; picking battles, drawing lines and compromising ideology for pragmatism.

I'm not sure it's hugely successful mind.

GoshAnneGorilla Sun 19-Jan-14 11:15:16

Dh comes from a hot country where regular armpit and pubic hair removal is the norm for men and women. He was astounded to find men in the UK didn't usually do this.

Back to female beauty standards, I have a hairy face, which I regularly spend time and money eradicating. My dislike of this hair goes far beyond aesthetics, I find it shameful - I don't think that shame is is unrelated to societal expectations of women.

Thisisaghostlyeuphemism Sun 19-Jan-14 11:19:19

I have hairy legs all winter- I think they look and feel nice but when I get them out in summer they will be shaved because I can't face the comments from women. My teen nieces would die rather than go out with hairy legs.

NearTheWindmill Sun 19-Jan-14 11:22:05

I think the ironing is going to be less tedious than this thread has become grin

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 11:22:10

People comment?really. Gosh I'd never impose like that

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 11:24:24

"I wear make up daily,I spend lot money on grooming and clothes.i want to"

Me too, sm. but I can still recognise that this has a negative impact on the cause of feminism.

I choose to put my immediate need to be accepted, nay, celebrated wink above the cause of feminism. This does not mean that my actions have little or no negative consequence. They do.

<celebrates tethersend>

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 11:27:30

It has I negative impact imo,because I dint live my those harsh standards
Nor do I expect others to live by that harsh standard.my clarins habit isn't maintaining patriarchy

Ooops, posted too soon.

GoshAnnGorilla, interesting about your DH and his approach to hair removal. Is it to do with heat or more of a social more?

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 11:33:19

You are wildly overstating the lack of power of women. In the domestic and caring spheres women in almost all societies have held the power and set the standards.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 11:35:28

The betrayal of feminism is holding women to traditional male behavioural norms in all spheres of life.

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 11:37:11

Well, I guess it boils down to whether your belief is that society is formed on patriarchal constructs or not.

I had thought that was a given on here, TBH.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 11:37:41

You can be a clever, educated, thinking woman with power and a voice and also be well-groomed, well-dressed and interested in the domestic sphere. It is not incoherent to enjoy and be good at it all.

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 11:39:41

The unquestioning acceptance of 'traditional male behavioural norms' is concerning, Bonsoir.

Thisisaghostlyeuphemism Sun 19-Jan-14 11:40:33

I had thought you could be all that bonsoir- and have hairy legs.

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 11:40:51

Nobody is saying that you can't confused

We were trying to assess what impact such women's (many of us included) actions have on the cause of feminism. Was that not clear?

And the domestic and caring spheres get lots of respect, do they? Women are well respected and compensated for all they do there? Men are eager to be part of these spheres themselves?

A woman can rule her own household, if her power evaporates as soon as she steps out the door, I wouldn't say she has much power at all. More that she is allowed to rule the arena that men don't care about.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 11:41:59

Exactly. Why are hairy legs (the traditional male norm) better than hair-free legs? Why not question that?

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 11:44:18

Feminism should be about getting respect for things that women do that are valuable to society and deserve respect.

Feeding people properly and bringing up DC to high standards etc are indispensable to a functioning society.

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 11:44:46

Why on earth do you think hairy legs are traditionally the male norm? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that throughout history, women have had hairy legs for longer than they haven't. Are they not therefore the traditional female norm too?

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 11:45:35

I am responding to the arguments on this thread.

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 11:47:02

I don't impose such ideological dogma on myself.there are too many unreasonable expectations without adding more self imposed rules

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 11:48:51

But you're the only one arguing that hairy legs are traditionally the male norm and that women shouldn't try to ape men. Aren't you?

I'm pointing out that hairy legs are the default state of the legs of both sexes, and that seeing them as male is an artificial construct of a patriarchal society

Which is sort of the premise to the discussion. Isn't it?

Feeding people properly and bringing up DC to high standards etc are indispensable to a functioning society

Yes, I agree. But it's not highly valued. Or rewarded.

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 11:50:00

Bonsoir, removing hair takes time and effort; leaving it doesn't.

Why don't men conform to "female norms" and shave theirs as well, if it's more hygienic, less slovenly or whatever?

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 11:50:44

It is the very quandary of the OP.

Hairy legs IS the default setting because it's dictated by biology. For both sexes.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 11:51:47

You see - the "time and effort" argument. Like I say, feminism is laziness in disguise!

I agree Bonsoir, they should get more respect for it. I'm just saying that mostly, they don't. Which is why I think their dominance in this sphere doesn't translate into wider societal power or status.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 11:52:32

We live in a civilised society and are happily not at the mercy of biology.

Scarletohello Sun 19-Jan-14 11:52:48

Because women's value is much more judged on their appearance than men's is, that's why it's a bloody feminist issue. Words used like 'slovenly', to shame women into conforming to this.

Personally I only shave my legs if sex is on the cards, I hate shaving my fanjo ( think porn has got a lot to do with this current fashion), and again this is another area where women are brain washed into believing its about cleanliness. It's bollocks. It's about looking like an unthreatening prepubescent girl. Hair is considered threatening, animalistic and too overtly sexual.

That's my opinion anyway!

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 11:53:22

They won't get more respect for it if they don't defend it and diss it instead!

Men are equally 'not at the mercy of biology' but they don't bother to shave their legs, slovenly gits!

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 11:54:21

So are men lazy because they don't shave their legs?

Feeding people properly and bringing up DC to high standards etc are indispensable to a functioning society.

Certainly they are. They are not solely the responsibility of women though.

And for me, this question isn't so much about whether hairy or hairless legs are better, it's about the expectations placed upon men and women being different.

As a feminist, it's pretty much a given that one considerers women oppressed in some form, no? So the root question I wanted to raise was about the implications of knowingly colluding in one's oppression.

We don't have to use leg shaving to discuss this, it was merely an example put forward because I believe the standard of hairlessness is oppressive to women and by shaving I believe that I am colluding in the oppression of women, albeit in a very minor and personal way.

We could discuss bigger instances of apparent collusion, but in the abstract we wouldn't know if a decision to conform and collude was made knowingly against the beliefs of the person doing it.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 11:55:51

If you lived in a big city you would know that more and more men practice hair removal and other grooming treatments. Male cosmetics are a growing market in Europe while female cosmetics is a shrinking market.

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 11:57:21

"They won't get more respect for it if they don't defend it and diss it instead!"

Um. But nobody has.

Unless I've missed a post somewhere?

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 11:58:31

Shall. We talk about handbags instead?

That's a nice, non-contentious MN topic for discussion grin

CaptChaos Sun 19-Jan-14 11:59:44

Bonsoir do you get a slightly breezy feeling and a whooshing sound as the point sails over your head?

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 11:59:49

What an admission of defeat, tethersend grin

Well, yes, Buffy, we could use 'wearing skirts' and I do get what you are getting at and don't disagree with it reinforcing certain patriarchal structures that are so entrenched that we can barely see them.

On a day to day level, it's just not important enough to me though, so I am in the 'slovenly' camp I suppose.

I hate handbags - Chanel or otherwise grin

<starts bun fight>

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 12:01:08

Handbags at dawn, tethers?

Buffy, sorry. Yes, I think we all knowingly do less than "the right thing" sometimes.

How do you know that I don't live in a big city? Or is it only us unsophisticated country bumpkins who discuss such things as the influence of social constructions of beauty on female behaviour. hmm

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 12:02:06

Yes, you're right Bonsoir. You win feminism grin

<Playfully chucks Bonsoir under the chin>

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 12:02:56

My city's bigger than Bonsoir's grin

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 12:03:40

Ignorance shines through posts on the feminism boards. People living in backwaters somehow imagine their life experiences are normal, modern ones...

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 12:04:33

Chanel handbags are ghastly,really only for those with little imagination

We could use skirt wearing. We could use 'deciding' to remain in an abusive relationship.

So-say free choices all. Feminist issues all. Of large or small importance to the wellbeing of the woman involved.

I suppose a thought I'm now having is to what extent these things are linked, a continuum of oppression if you will, and giving in on one means its harder for someone else to stand up to another?

We can't know, of course. But I wonder.

Ignorance does indeed shine through upon this very thread. wink

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 12:05:12


Some men go in for hair removal, yes.

Question remains: those that don't shave their legs, are they lazy?

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 12:05:40

Bonsoir, what are you doing? You're hilarious today!

Where do you think I live? grin

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 12:06:16

What do rad fems say about perfectionism? Its always seemed to me that perfectionism is imposed on women more than men.
So perhaps in seeking to be 100% congruent with your beliefs you are still falling into the trap of being influenced by the patriarchy?

I haven't a clue really

Backwaters, like, New York, London and Berlin?

<disappears into existentialist wormhole>

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 12:07:22

<hums ignorance shines through to the tune of a Joan Baez song...>

Hang on, hang on, you can only be a feminist when you live in a metropolis?

Ahhhh that's very interesting Winter

On the one hand, I agree that women are more susceptible to perfectionist expectations.

On the other, I think ideologues of both genders are prone to absolutism.

So yes, I'd be interested what proper rad fems think about perfectionism as well.

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 12:09:20

Yes. Where ignorance doesn't shine through like a bald fanny.

Buffy, bless you for your persistence in trying to being this back to what you actually want to debate <pins Medal Of Tenacity on Buffy's lapel>

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 12:09:56

Perfectionist angle is very interesting indeed.

Yes, that's where I've been going wrong. It's nothing to do with believing in a binary gender hierarchy and the need for women's liberation from oppression. Size of your city is in fact everything, girls.

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 12:10:43

Ooh, winter, I like it!

Even by criticising ourselves for conforming to patriarchal standards, we are conforming to patriarchal standards by criticising ourselves?


Now I am experiencing vertigo, Doctrine confused

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 12:12:52

Last handbag thread I read was a melee.
dolly birdie with auld boy Hefner boyfriend buying her Chanel bags.apparently
I think she called everyone ugly and fat,and then flounced
Was dead funny

Yes, the perfectionist angle is a good one, and one I hadn't considered.

In the litmus test, do men who believe in (let's call them) alternative ideologies face, in theory, similar standards of behaviour than feminists might ask of one another?

If the standards of behaviour needed from a man who believed passionately in free trade were similarly challenging to those required of a passionate feminist, then I'd say we're broadly alright.

But there's always the Lord of the Flies argument, isn't there. It's human nature to oppress, it's just who oppresses whom that's up for grabs sad

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 12:14:31

Winterwobbles - it is other women, not men, who hold women to unattainable standards.

Women are more capable and more able than men. It is a tragedy when they lower themselves to male standards.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 12:14:48

A tragedy for humanity

Ah, I see. It's women's fault they're oppressed.

Perhaps they need to move to bigger cities?

Re handbags: I do think it's part of patriarchy that most women's clothing does not have decent, functional pockets. DH manages to secret his wallet, phone, change about his person - I need a fecking handbag. Why? I don't want a handbag, I like my hands free (yes, yes, I have any number of shoulder/across body bags, they still impede me) and I don't see why always having to lug a small piece of luggage about with me is necessary.
<rant over>

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 12:17:10

Women are excessively competitive with one another. That is one of the better arguments for co-ed education - you need to throw in some boys for light relief.

Women are more capable than men?
Bonsoir is a sexist, you heard it here first.

Wrt to cities: do I go by the size of the suburb/town I live in or the nearby city?

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 12:17:48

I love handbags and accessories.have numerous bags,all give me pleasure
Don't smoke,don't drink,so handbags and grooming is a permissible vice

Good grief, Bonsoir, generalising much, are you??

I tend to put stuff in my pockets if I can.

<picks up 'good feminist' badge from the gutter>

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 12:18:45

If you live in a suburb you have opted out of having a voice in this world, haven't you? No wonder you are cross grin

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 12:19:25

Boys for light relief,oh god yes,I love men

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 12:20:41

I agree with scottishmummy - on the scale of self-indulgences, grooming seems fairly innocuous a sin.

Fashion is more complicated.

CaptChaos Sun 19-Jan-14 12:20:44

Wrt to cities: do I go by the size of the suburb/town I live in or the nearby city?

I think you go by the loveliness of the lovely restaurants and whether your multilingual group of lovely friends dress in their loveliest clothes to drink lovely champagne during lovely lunches.

Or something.

But that's the point: you like handbags, have them. I don't, but I still have to have them. Certainly when I am in my 'professional' clothes.

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 12:22:57

"Winterwobbles - it is other women, not men, who hold women to unattainable standards."

Patriarchy in action. It's not just men doing bad stuff to women.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 12:23:23

My DP has a Hermes briefcase but I don't have a Hermes handbag. Should I feel oppressed?

Ah, no, I live in a town.
Having moved out of the lovely, multi-cultural posh end of 'my' city as we did not possess a seven figure sum for a 3 bedroom townhouse hmm.
No, lovely champagne lunches here, I fear - prosecco, maybe.

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 12:23:36

I'm not necessarily fashionable but I am well groomed
I'll never wear a track suit or joggers with juicy Across my bahookie

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 12:25:53

Style is a lot more interesting than fashion...

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 12:28:43

Perfectionism is such an effort, associated with guilt and analysing things to the nth degree - to the extent that you are then less effective in general.

(I think) I see what you are saying about absolutism dreaming but does that have the same quality as being a perfectionist?
I'm sure that conforming to gender stereotypes is a considerable effort for women and considerably less effortful for men - hence the problem. Not conforming is also going to always be an effort. But, is the effort of conforming or not the same as being perfect or does adding the requirement to be perfect just add to that mix?

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 12:29:16

I am barely making sense to myself so not sure if this is actually coming out as intended...

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 12:31:58

It would be very hard work for me to not look after myself. It is very wrong to think we all find the same things equally much effort.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 12:34:13

If I left the house with unwashed hair - for example - I would achieve nothing that day. The effort required to work while dirty is beyond me. Far less effort to wash.

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 12:40:57

Precisely Bonsoir - it is an effort to not conform.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 12:43:29

It's got nothing to do with conforming. I hate feeling greasy or smelly.

My DSS2, on the other hand, is impervious to his own grease or smells and only the confirming argument will incite him to wash.

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 12:44:10

And as grooming standards are higher for women than men, then it is more effort for women- both to conform or not.

I guess I do think ideological absolutism is a form of perfectionism.

I have a lot of friends who adhere to 'alternative' ideologies and a lot of time is spent within movements debating whether X or Y is closer to the ideological ideal, whether supporting Z is too much of a departure, etc.

So I don't think it's unique to women in that sense, no.

Personally, I really hate the timewasting involved in trying to be perfect, it's such a distraction.

Striving for perfection is a recipe for angst, whereas ideals are just that: a goal to aim for, but not necessarily to achieve.

I think hair is an interesting one: clean hair is v nice, but for me to wash, dry and style my hair is much more time-consuming than for DH.
I loved it when I had v short hair, but got bored...

I agree. However I also think that there's some value in exploring such ideas, because of the opportunities to challenge preconceptions and explore new ideas. But yes, such ideological discussions can become very Life of Brian-esque.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 12:50:04

It's most definitely more effort for my DSS2 to reach his low standards of personal hygiene than it is for me to my high ones.

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 12:50:12

Why should dirt and grease stop you working?

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 12:57:00

Because they make me feel so uncomfortable.

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 12:57:37

Yes, I still think it is worth thinking about too and I do think seemingly trivial issues are still problems. And not just when I have neglected to brush my hair before work...

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 12:58:09

Why does it make you uncomfortable Bonsoir?

I've only read the first page but can I jump in blush to say I think I understand what you're saying Buffy. I don't shave anything except for special occasions - if I'm going to a summer wedding I'd shave under my arms and my legs if they were on show, to fit in with general expectations of women in our society - because I'd then feel more comfortable in that social situation, and enjoy the day slightly more, feeling more relaxed.

That's my experience, I don't know how much it adds to the discussion, but there it is for what it's worth smile

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 13:06:21

Because my skin and scalp itch and smell unpleasant. It is totally driven by my feelings, not by anyone else's expectations. It's the same reason I hardly ever wear shoes with heels - too damn uncomfortable. And I only ever wear short skirts - longer ones are too bothersome.

I am highly driven by personal feelings of comfort. There is little or no effort required to attain them because the effort required to put up with the alternative would be so much greater.

Wishihadabs Sun 19-Jan-14 13:07:06

I don't think it's acceptable for anyone male or female to work in a professional environment being dirty or smelly ! If you do a more manual job then perhaps it's less important eg: you can't expect gardeners to have clean finger nails.

It's true that very young men, pay a huge amount of attention to personal grooming. However there are certain things only women are expected to do most of which involve emulating younger more fertile females. An example I would use is colouring one's hair to disguise the normal and natural process of going grey. This is something I am refusing to do, given that no one expects men of my age to do so.
Is that slovenly ?

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 13:09:42

It's a personal aesthetic choice to colour your hair. Grey is the intellectual choice grin. But you do need to style it or you won't look nice.

I think we can feel more socially comfortable if we conform (at least sometimes) to social expectations. It doesn't have to be a weakness to admit that we take others expectations into account in deciding on our own behaviour?

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 13:11:51

OK, maybe it itches a bit but its still surprising that in the absence of any medical condition it stops you working. Why does an unpleasant smell have any impact on your ability to work?

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 13:12:35

I have told you why.

Wishihadabs Sun 19-Jan-14 13:13:02

I feel societal pressure to continue to colour my hair. I have it cut in an easy to care for one length bob. I look clean and professional at work, no one expects men to have elaborately styled hair.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 13:14:10

My DP goes to the same hairdresser as I do and his hair takes 3x longer to cut than mine.

Wishihadabs Sun 19-Jan-14 13:16:27

Actually it's not grey, it has some grey in it. I decided I didn't want to have the tyranny of 6 weekly highlights (or whatever) my mother does this and she's 67 ffs. I thought if I let it go now then I won't end up blonde at 60 which looks ridiculous IMO and is something only women ever end up doing.

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 13:21:38

Not really, go back several hundred years and people had a bath once a year. A few decades ago people didn't wash everyday. Many still don't. It doesn't actually stop people working. Its probably conditioned discomfort that makes you feel it is necessary.
There is plenty of evidence that if you feel aware of something then the discomfort of it is greater. For example, you probably don't notice the chair you are sitting in until someone suggests you think about exactly how it feels, the pressure on your legs, the fact your back is a bit slouched, the fact it is too hard. After a while it becomes unbearable.
Exactly the same with grooming. But - the societal pressure on women is greater so they notice it more and impose higher standards on themselves.

Wishihadabs Sun 19-Jan-14 13:22:13

It's not the cutting (although my dm and I have very thick hair which takes 3 hours to colour, cut and blow dry). It's that daily maintenance, straighteners hair dryers etc.

Wishihadabs Sun 19-Jan-14 13:26:34

Winter wobbles the societal pressure on men and women to bathe daily and not smell is equal surely ?

annieorangutan Sun 19-Jan-14 13:31:07

I have blonde long leg hair but never really shave it as I think Im attractive with it so never felt the need to remove it. Not for feminism just because I dont feel the need.

Wishihadabs Sun 19-Jan-14 13:35:39

Also if you don't remove leg hair, but do show your legs, the hair goes blonde in the sun and is therefore less noticeable (IME). I have never removed the hair on my thighs for this reason. (Used to wax my legs and hardly any hair grows there now)

MooncupGoddess Sun 19-Jan-14 13:38:40

Damn, I can't believe I've only just seen this thread.

The problem is that by conforming to social expectations we also reinforce social expectations. Every one of us who shaves our legs makes it harder for other women who don't shave their legs.

On the other hand, we all make our personal accommodations with the patriarchy... I don't wear heels but I do shave my armpits (and sometimes legs) and immac my chin hair. Imagine a world where all women let their chin hair grow free! How liberated we would be!

[imagines Bonsoir passing out in horror]

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 13:38:41

Well, I'm not sure it is totally, though more equal than leg shaving perhaps!

However, my point is that even something more basic, such as not smelling or bathing regularly is also largely due to societal pressure.
When you then look at things like leg shaving, makeup, clothing choices etc the argument that it is women imposing on other women or that women are just conforming just doesn't hold water as even more basic things are not strictly 'necessary'.

I don't personally object to conforming with any number of things. I dont, for example, refuse to wear anything except yellow or insist on doing starjumps whenever I'm asked a question. We are social animals and conforming makes our world predictable and allows everyone to function smoothly. However, some of the systems we conform to are not helpful or benign at all. Many, many, many things are part of a patriarchal system that systematically allows men an advantage over women. Those things are problematic.

annieorangutan Sun 19-Jan-14 13:40:05

Agree wishihadabs I have never had anyone comment on my leg hair as I very much doubt they notice.

Wishihadabs Sun 19-Jan-14 13:42:12

Well I work in a healthcare setting so appearing clean (and being clean obvs ) is important for everyone. In the same way I feel that having a naked face looks "cleaner" than make up.

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 13:44:23

Depends on the make up and application,I spend 10min putting it on to look natural/barely there

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 13:47:54

I work in a healthcare setting too and disagree. Appearing clean is irrelevant (except that patients and staff expect it due to societal pressure ie can I trust that doctor if she smells slightly). Having clean hands and clothes is important. However, no illnesses are transmitted by smell and greasy hair can be tied back without impacting patient care.

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 13:49:58

Working in health good staff hygiene is essential,hygiene isn't irrelevant in least

Wishihadabs Sun 19-Jan-14 13:50:49

In fact reflecting on this, I would say the same is true for a naked face, if you don't habitually wear make up (but do adhere to a skin care regime eg moisturise, lip gloss and sun screen) then your face will look better without make up than someone who is never seen without their "mask".

I would say the "look" I aim for is clean and healthy. But not necessarily young. I think it's important that we see naturally ageing yet healthy people (and ideally recognise them as attractive) or the whole of society becomes horribly youth centric.

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 13:55:19

The appearance of hygiene is irrelevant and only certain aspects of hygiene are relevant such as hand washing, ties, hair tied back etc. I'm not going to be rubbing my armpits on a patient so it doesn't actually matter - from a medical and infection point of view - about whether they are washed a week ago and unshaven.

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 13:56:31

Unshaven armpit,yes irrelevant
Unwashed,v relevant as it will be malodorous over time

Wishihadabs Sun 19-Jan-14 13:57:25

All the people I work with male and female, go to great lengths to appear (and be) clean and not smelly. With showers and changing rooms on site there's no excuse really, and we do tell each other to change their top mid shift if people start to niff (which does happen as it's hard physical work).

We are telling visitors to wash their hands and roll their sleeves up, we would be pretty hypocritical if they thought we hadn't had a shower that day !

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 13:59:46

"some of the systems we conform to are not helpful or benign at all. Many, many, many things are part of a patriarchal system that systematically allows men an advantage over women. Those things are problematic."

Well said.

Wishihadabs Sun 19-Jan-14 14:03:35

Also I do think if (as I am) you are doing the natural hair colour, naked face thing, it's very important you demonstrably clean so one sends the message "I am happy with my face and body as it is, but I do take care of myself"

Wishihadabs Sun 19-Jan-14 14:07:45

You are demonstrably clean. Btw I am not such a hygiene freak on my non working days and will wear a t-shirt 2 days running on holiday for example or not shower before the school run (if going for a run later )

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 14:13:04

There is pressure from your colleagues who find it unpleasant as no doubt do patients. They don't like it because we live in a society where body odour is seen as unpleasant. You also use the pressure to conform to encourage visitors to wash their hands - that is probably a good argument too and an example where getting others to conform can be social and helpful to us all.

But...there is no infection risk to being a bit smelly.

* The problem is that by conforming to social expectations we also reinforce social expectations.*

That's it. And we all make personal (ok, sometimes job driven) choices how much or how little we conform.

Wishihadabs Sun 19-Jan-14 14:17:49

Indeed in fact aren't some skin conditions made worse by too frequent bathing ?

Wishihadabs Sun 19-Jan-14 14:22:54

Lovely chatting to you all, but I need to go shopping while dh fixes the bath (sexual stereotypes anyone) bye

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 14:23:00

You may have low levels of self-awareness but don't assume we are all so lacking smile

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 14:24:43

And, getting back to the point, many aspects of personal grooming are more onerous for women. Hence the reason why it is likely they are part of the general systematic power imbalance between men and women.

Assuming that not smelling is an equal pressure for both sexes, think how difficult it is to break that convention even though there no intrinsic reason why it is needed. Or imagine how difficult it would be to do something that isnt in our culture - like doing starjumps everytime you are asked a question. Now think of the pressure women might feel consciously or unconsciously about all kinds of things and how difficult it is to do something different.

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 14:30:05

Pacific, I agree about handbags v pockets. Drives me bonkers.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 14:30:22

My DP spends far more time in the bathroom than I do and my father is the biggest bathroom hogger out so I have no perception that adult women spend more time than adult men on grooming. However, not all grooming tasks are common to both sexes. I don't trim my beard or pluck my ear hairs.

AnyCrunchyCarrotFucker Sun 19-Jan-14 14:32:39

I have the same dilemma OP. I am mostly a good feminist, I don't wear make up, don't wear heels, i dont dye my hair or have a fancy cut, and I dont shave my legs. For swimming, I just go hairy, for work I wear opaque tights. but i Do shave my armpits...argh.

They are oppressive practices, just think of the time, effort, discomfort and money that men do not expend on this.

annieorangutan Sun 19-Jan-14 14:36:24

I think in general the more confident you are the less you need to do things just because everyone else is.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 14:37:51

It's fine not to shave your legs or dye your shut but there is nothing oppressive about wanting to look nice.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 14:38:17

Dye you hair

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 14:39:51

The concept of a "good feminist" (obedient feminist) is of course very oppressive.

Wishihadabs Sun 19-Jan-14 14:39:59

Sorry I know I said I was going wanting to look nice maybe not. Wanting to look younger yes.

I think male grooming as become much more prevalent in the last decade or two - all this ridiculous waxing and bronzing and highlighting. Urgh. I don't like it - not personally (I don't like my men shiny grin), but also not because I think it reflects an obsession with looks and encouraged an unhealthy level of navel gazing when truly there are more rewarding things out there.
So anybody who spends huge amounts of time in the bathroom on a regular basis would test my patience tbh.

I did not manage to get my eyebrows done before the Big Christmas Night Out and guess what? It did not affect my enjoyment of the night one bit.

annieorangutan Sun 19-Jan-14 14:44:41

I look very nice bonsoir shaving my legs has nothing to do with it.

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 14:52:21

Bonsoir, do you agree that what looks nice is influenced by social factors?

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 14:53:21

No,oppressive practice is telling women that grooming is demeaning,time consuming or renders one a people pleaser
Feminism like all ideological beliefs requires a pragmatic common sense application
I spend time and money on grooming because I want to.no ones under a societal yoke because of my Clarins habit

Beachcomber Sun 19-Jan-14 14:53:55

I think it bothers (some) of us when we do stuff like shave our legs cos;

- we are complying with the idea that women's bodies in their natural state are disgusting.
- we are complying with pointless beauty standards and norms that are gendered and reinforce the notion of women as decorative (as long as they are not disgusting).
- we are complying with a (misogynistic) fashion industry (apparantly women first starting shaving their pits when sleevless dresses first became fashionable and were marketed by photos of hairless models. Leg shaving came into fashion when hemlines rose and sheer stockings and sheer legs were fashionably sexy and daring).
- we are changing ourselves in order to fit in with a society we don't agree with.
- we are making it harder for ourselves and other women to not comply to the above.

Actual leg shaving in and of itself isn't that big a deal. Except it sort of is because it shows how hard it is for us to resist socialization. Hence why it is symbolic. And we can treat it as symbolic because it isn't terribly damaging, unlike foot binding, FGM, neck stretching, etc.

Buffy, like you, I agree with radical feminist principles. I don't shave my legs in winter but I do in summer (also live in France so have legs out quite a lot). I don't actually really care how my legs look and am quite happy with them hairy - but I don't want to feel uncomfortable by other people thinking I'm weird. Keeps you humble - which is good WRT not judging other women, and not so good WRT women's liberation...

Good feminist doesn't have to equal obedient feminist.

Other synonyms of good include decent, effective, valuable, skilful, proficient.

You may be projecting your prejudices about feminists being lazy, smelly and unattractive.

<head tilt>

annieorangutan Sun 19-Jan-14 14:56:55

Just try it and I bet no one says anything. I wear teeny hot pants all summer and never have I had a negative comment even when I was at school. I would say my usual leg hair length is an inch or so its really no big deal.

I agree beach.

What's also interesting is that in some strange way, it seems easier to do things that are more risky. Challenging people who say outrageously sexist things (yes, looking at you, woman who saw a badly parked car and trilled to her male companion "I bet a woman parked that") is easier than not shaving legs.

Is that because it is less personal? Or because it's more socially acceptable to challenge drivel like the example above than to go against standards of attractiveness?

annieorangutan Sun 19-Jan-14 15:02:50

Its just because your easily swayed by advertising buffy. Lots of people are but yeah its silly doing something you dont want to.

annie I've tried it. Nobody commented. The pressure to remove the hair felt like it came from within.

sm and Bonsoir would say that it did come from within (or perhaps from other women).

I say it came from the socialisation that comes from growing up in a patriarchal society that values women primarily for their physical attractiveness. Intellectually, I know this. But the emotional reaction of "ugh, I don't like that" and the reaction of "phew, now those look like my proper legs" after I'd shaved them was so much stronger.

annieorangutan Sun 19-Jan-14 15:08:14

Its because your not 100% comfortable with yourself. Its the same as people who worry about breastfeeding in public, or being spotted in their pjs. If you think fuck it this is me love me or hate me you will find you very rarely if all get comments on thingd you do, and if you do you know its something wrong with that person and not yourself.

tethersend Sun 19-Jan-14 15:17:47

Nobody is denying that we do things because we want to.

We're just asking why we want to.

annieorangutan Sun 19-Jan-14 15:23:23

Its obvious why it makes lots and lots of money. Gillette razors, salon waxing etc and the more people that do it the more money they make. If you make people feel bad and insecure they buy more. The agenda is to make everyone feel permanently disatisfied with themselves and their lives and so never being able to be themselves. Big money maker

IMO there is a subtle difference between being comfortable with oneself and just rudely paying no attention to what anybody else thinks.

I agree as far as leg hair goes, it is possible to emancipate oneself from that pressure, but it's easier in places where it's not expected quite so much.

Re bad parking/bad driving being commented on - I challenge that every single time. I sometimes park badly, because I park badly. NOT because I am female. And I always correct my bad parking <rant>

Beachcomber Sun 19-Jan-14 15:33:07

The pressure to remove the hair felt like it came from within.

Probably because it did. It's just internalized sexism.

CaptChaos Sun 19-Jan-14 15:45:00

But the emotional reaction of "ugh, I don't like that" and the reaction of "phew, now those look like my proper legs" after I'd shaved them was so much stronger.

Perhaps it is part of how women are socialised to behave then? We are expected to be meek and mild, quiet and caring, hairless and decorative. And women who don't conform to these ideals are seen as other.

I also don't think it is women who are derogatory toward other women who don't conform in the main. You don't see many women with hairy legs and armpits in Zoo and Nuts, do you? Or on the body shaming side bar of the Daily Hate, unless it's to point out that 'she hasn't shaved her pits, the sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!!'

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 16:41:13

Yy capt, nor on the dreaded p3.

Annie, I think one of your earlier posts was about how your leg hair is quite light. Do you think that you'd feel differently if it was darker, or not?

Maybe we could reintroduce dungarees - covers the hair grin

Wha…? You mean you lot don't wear them?

Nope, never had dungarees, but live in trousers grin
The leg maintenance is one of the things that puts me off wearing more skirts/dresses, it really is. That, and the cold...

CailinDana Sun 19-Jan-14 17:38:05

I have extremely thick black hair all over my legs. My 'bikini line' is covered in very long thick pubic hair. I hate shaving. Swimming is the only sport I enjoy. Yet I avoid swimming because I can't bring myself to shave. I would love to just do as my dh does and just throw my swimming gear in a bag and go without having to spend nearly 2 hours shaving first (yes, it's that bad). I actually have nightmares about being seen in public with unshaved legs. I feel horror and shame at the thought of it. It is not a small thing to me. It stops me getting the exercise I need to keep me physically and mentally healthy.
If I did go out with unshaven legs my biggest critics would be my mother and sister.
I really envy my dh's freedom.

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 17:48:31

Cailin, I used to swim in board shorts over a swim suit, would that help at all?

CailinDana Sun 19-Jan-14 17:51:26

I don't know Doctrine. I don't know if I'd have the courage to try it.

Shaving is not a genuine choice. If it were you would see far more women walking around with hairy legs. I have never seen one in my entire life.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 18:04:03

Get it lasered if it bothers you so much.

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 18:06:46

That's awfully expensive Bonsoir.

GoshAnneGorilla Sun 19-Jan-14 18:07:40

Pacific - I suspect it's a social more that has arisen from being in a hot climate.

I would like to share this gif of Cate Blanchett being awesome:

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 18:09:35

Not really. I have a Philips Lumea at home. It doesn't cost more than a year's worth of salon waxing.

CailinDana Sun 19-Jan-14 18:16:41

Bonsoir I don't want to laser it. I want to just leave it and feel ok with it.

CailinDana Sun 19-Jan-14 18:21:04

Oh and to me "a year's worth of salon waxing" is a lot of money, particularly to spend on something I don't really want.

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 18:25:20

Plus i think it's quite time consuming, Cailin.

CailinDana Sun 19-Jan-14 18:29:09

Strangely enough I don't wear make up of any kind, high heels, perfume, don't colour my hair or cut it more than once a year, don't wear nail varnish etc and none of that is a problem. I don't know what it is about body hair.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 18:33:24

Maybe you find it unattractive?

Bless Cate - what a woman smile.

Cailin, that sounds hard. Take to fresh water swimming where wetsuits are expected and covering up is therefore 'allowed'? Or find a way to say 'sod it'?
Sorry, not v helpful.

scottishmummy Sun 19-Jan-14 18:38:22

Oh dear of your going to paraphrase me get it right.pressure is external and internal
The extent to which societal norms/expectation impacts depend on the individual
I really don't like notion a good feminist is unshaven,and shaving and grooming is whimsy and deferring to societal pressure

CailinDana Sun 19-Jan-14 18:39:36

No it's way more than that Bonsoir. I don't have nightmares about being unattractive.

perplexedpirate Sun 19-Jan-14 18:57:19

I stopped shaving my armpits a while ago. The plan was to grow it as long as possible and then dye it blue. Only it didn't work like that.
It was pathetic; patchy and fine. I imagine men who can't grow a good beard feel similar disappointment. I shaved it off as it was a constant reminder of my failure to grow arm beards. sad
No men were consulted or even thought about during my experiment. DH could not have given less of a shit.

Blistory Sun 19-Jan-14 19:05:59

I stopped shaving my legs a while ago. Took a while after that to start exposing them to the public and even longer to stop cringing with embarrassment. Now, I couldn't care less but it involves having a thick skin and ignoring people on the train that I know are judging me as slovenly apparently. Now I quite like my furry legs but I enjoy the freedom from the tyranny even more so and the time it frees up.

It did go hand in hand with going a little grey and to be honest, my first reaction was to look out the bleach. But that would condemn me to a lifetime of hair colouring and why ? Because its not on for women to age ? Or because its a sign that we've lost youth and therefore attractiveness ? Either way I couldn't justify to myself starting on that road given the leg rebellion.

So no, not shaving your legs is such an easy feminist stance that it really should be one that anyone who is a feminist is happy to take BUT I'm damned if I am going to expect any woman, feminist or not, to subject herself to accusations of being slovenly, unhygienic, disgusting or whatever other crap has been suggested on this thread.

And while posting this I realised that I can't think of a single role model that young women have in terms of seeing body hair as natural. At least my nieces and nephews will have one but I don't think that one is enough.

When I struggle with whether an act is against feminism I try and imagine I'm having a discussion with younger women exploring feminism and use that as a gauge as to whether something is worth the fight. If I can't justify it then, then I accept that it's not a position I should adopt. For me leg shaving came under the 'cant justify that one' category so the decision was easy to make.

CailinDana Sun 19-Jan-14 19:07:19

My dh couldn't care less about my hairiness either. So judgement doesn't come from him. I think maybe part of it is that my friends would be embarrassed to be seen with me. That sort of rejection is hard.

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 19:32:59

Reading the opinions on this thread does make me feel a little depressed. I can't work out whether that makes the shaving issue more important to tackle or whether it means that there are so many other problems that this is the least of things to be concerned about.

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 19:35:05

Not that I am saying your difficulties are insignificant Cailin - the opposite in fact.

Blistory Sun 19-Jan-14 19:54:54

I think shaving is significant but is dismissed as a small thing.

Nearly every woman shaves, nearly every woman finds it a faff so you would think that there would be more rejection of it. The lack of outright rejection is what concerns me.

I can only conclude that women don't reject it because there is a very real fear of being judged. They are considered unattractive or unclean because of some body hair. It's not a big leap from there to judge women for not wearing make up, or for what they are wearing and then on to what they might not be wearing. I don't think shaving stands on its own but as part of the overall judgement of women.

When a woman's self esteem is affected by something as petty as the extent of her body hair then there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Beachcomber Sun 19-Jan-14 20:34:25

When a woman's self esteem is affected by something as petty as the extent of her body hair then there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Yes to this. And everything else you said Blistory.

When a woman's self esteem is affected by something as petty as the extent of her body hair then there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

This is a really interesting point. Because evidently, mine is smile.

I am not at all offended by your pointing this out, and I'd like to know whether you think that the 'issue' you mention is with me or with society? Or maybe it's both...

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 20:44:28

I have many friends who were bothered by their thick, dark body hair. So they had it lasered. Problem solved.

Do you have any friends who were bothered by the fact that women's body hair is seen as disgusting, slovenly etc? Could they laser that problem away too grin?

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 20:53:20

I think that they are solution-oriented and deal with the problems life throws up in a practical time-efficient manner rather than using them as an excuse for extended intellectual masturbation grin

Blistory Sun 19-Jan-14 20:54:01


Can I ask how you would feel if for some reason you were unable to shave your legs and had to venture out with visible hair on your legs ?


The issue is with society but honestly, it can't be resolved if women keep saying its wrong but I do it. But as I said, why should you be put into the position of having to be a trailblazer given the shit you will face for it ? And given that I used the word 'hairy' in the question above to Bonsoir but then deleted it and replaced with visible hair in case I insulted her, it shows how deeply we are offended as a society by women having body hair.

Maybe, if I was braver, I would just say that feminists really shouldn't shave/get married/wear make up etc as otherwise they compromise their feminist beliefs but I'm not quite radical enough to demand that of other women. Especially given that I don't entirely comply with it myself.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Jan-14 20:54:32

I don't shave any part of my body ever!

But extended intellectual masturbation is so, so much fun! (Plus I sort of make my living from it) grin

Blistory doesn't that just highlight how very strict our society still is with regard to conventions?

Imagine the reaction if we did start persuading a critical mass of women not to remove body hair, wear makeup and not get married.

I think there'd be violence, probably sad

V interesting, Blistory, thanks for taking the time to post.
I cannot find a way to disagree with what you've said, but know that my legs shall be shaved again in the summer.
This should not be this much of a decision either way, should it?

Blistory Sun 19-Jan-14 21:04:06

Ok, change shave for whatever hair removal method you use then

But as for the solution that we just remove our hair, why do we need a solution to a problem that doesn't exist ?

Winterwobbles Sun 19-Jan-14 21:04:51

Well, if someone stole your wax, IPL machine, epilator then. Or, if you somehow woke up one morning and discovered full growth of leg hair that refused to go like Evans beard in Evan Almighty? grin

The 'critical mass' thing is what has happened wrt to totally bare fannies - as most women under a certain age (?30 ?25) have no pubic hair those who chose not to go down that road seem 'odd' by comparison and it makes it harder to not comply.

Yes that critical mass is going the wrong way sad

It's sobering to think about the reaction CCP got to her campaign to put women on bank notes. Seriously, if women rebelled against some of these minor things like leg shaving, there'd be a reaction, wouldn't there. And it wouldn't be supportive.

Blistory Sun 19-Jan-14 21:12:14

I don't know.

How do you teach a woman to look at her legs and think 'oh look, my legs' and not 'oh look, my hairy, pasty, mottled legs - yuck' when every message that she receives is the second one.

And even more so to a younger woman who genuinely believes that her worth and value is tied up only in her attractiveness ? Can we address the attractiveness without needing her to challenge all the performing feminity stuff ?

Why do people/women seem to actively want to follow these social rules? I know, I know, because of social conditioning.
But at least I quietly seethe and see the problem with all this, whereas when I dare to say anything along these lines in RL, the reaction is hmm.

My boys have asked me on occasion what I am doing, shaving or epilating my legs, and it is hard to explain beyond the obvious "I am getting rid of leg hair". I usually end up ranting about stupid expectations of a certain kind of female 'beauty' at my 5 year old... oh well, the world needs male feminists.

Blistory Sun 19-Jan-14 21:32:01

In the interests of honesty, I have to admit that I was never blessed with slender, golden pins. I have short, muscular legs - just what every woman wants.

It wasn't until I started lifting weights at the gym that I found myself happy that my legs had a positive purpose and it wasn't about them looking good. It was about what they could do and the fact that they worked.

But I don't know how much of my attitude is down to age and not feeling that they need to be used as an attraction. But I do have two nieces entering their teenage years and I feel for what they have to face as its getting worse and not better IMO.

Just out of curiosity, does anyone know when it became the norm in the UK for women to remove their leg hair ? It can't be that culturally old surely ?

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sun 19-Jan-14 21:33:53

Can we redefine LTB to mean laser the bastard?

Blistory Sun 19-Jan-14 21:39:29

Pacific, I don't want to follow the rules but if the alternative is being called slovenly, disgusting, dirty or unkempt, what choice is there ?

It's a <cough> elegant solution to all problems: simply laser them away and then meet one's friends for brunch grin

Our femilaser ™ (suggested strap line patriarchy begone) has got to have a good sound though. Maybe like a light sabre. It could smell like burning nylon.

I keep offering DH to wax his back grin[evil] - he's so far always declined.

I don't know when it started - my dad was talking about going to Canada in the early 50s from Germany with a group of German graduate students, some of which were women. None of which shaved/waxed their legs. Well. Total outrage ensued and they were taken aside and the error of their ways was pointed out to them. Some complied, some didn't and one of the ones who did promptly entered in to an adulterous affair with one of the Canadian lecturers.
Which proved to my father forever more that women who shaved their legs (or wore make-up or short skirts or laughed too loudly or maintained eye-contact too long or were otherwise 'too forward') had 'loose morals' hmm.

Good grief. I love my dad, but honestly.

Yes, Blistory, I know - like I said, critical mass.

Some of it is fashion though - I have the perfect figure. Or would have been considered to have the perfect figure when Rubens was at the height of his powers grin.

It took me well in to my 30s to really understand that no matter what weight I was or how much I exercised, I would never ever have loooooooong legs with a well-turned ankle. It was such relief! They cannot be something they are not made to be IYKWIM. And my figure, no matter what weight or condition, is just not a fashionable one these days.
I get what you mean wrt wt training having shown you what your leg can do and what they are for, Blistory.

Blistory Sun 19-Jan-14 21:46:58

Your father would find me very virtuous then smile

Funnily enough it was always German and Spanish women on holiday in the 80s that I encountered unshaven. I vaguely remember my father and brothers being a little taken aback that women could consider not shaving their pits. And at the same time they considered it entirely natural for women to be running around on the beach topless. Woe betide my mother if she had tried either.

Oh gawd, I'll shut up now and interact with a person rather than continuing my mental masturbation musings here blush.

Beachcomber Sun 19-Jan-14 21:50:26

I have read the Harper's Bazaar/Betty Grable history of pit/leg shaving a few times.

Would have started in America and then come over to the UK.


rosabud Sun 19-Jan-14 22:15:48

My Nan has never shaved her legs - she was a young woman during the war, so perhaps they had more important things to worry about back then......or maybe my Nan was unusual? I have a cousin much younger than me (but no longer in his 20s) who has had many sexual relationships with women across three continients and he has NEVER had sex with a woman who has had pubic hair. I find that so depressing, it just seems like a huge step backward in the last 70 years.

To answer your original question, yes I suppose when we go along with it, we are letting feminism down but it is extremely hard to take a stand against it, especially when we accept that not only is our own "choice" and "personal preference" to shave shaped by the culture that we live in, but also that culture insists on linking our self-esteem to that standard of "choice" and "personal preference." So it's a double-barrelled thing to try and stand up against - the standard of beauty in the first place, and the fact that our culture insists we judge ourselves on that standard.

Can I ask another question? Is this worse........as I am a bit older now, I honestly can appear at the swimming pool or in public unshaven (although, of course, I can't help thinking I look "nicer" if I have found the time to do it) but, as my partner has also been conditioned to find unshaven women more attractive and I know this.....when I am seeing him, I will make sure I have found the time to shave. Is that terrible? Am I a lost cause?

I'm OK about going swimming "au naturel" - hirsute/hairy I mean, not in the nude blush grin

Blistory Sun 19-Jan-14 22:27:06

<<wails at the thought of yet another woman wondering if she's a lost cause over body hair>>

I think the consensus on this thread is that removing body hair is not a feminist act but there isn't judgement by feminists here of anyone who feels that they have to. And there is a sad understanding and acceptance of why women do so.

legoplayingmumsunite Sun 19-Jan-14 23:03:50

After Armpits for August (and frankly this part of MN) I stopped shaving my armpits. Wasn't too much of a problem for me in that I didn't really think hairy armpits were unattractive (after all, we do actually see some celebrities with hairy pits, whereas I can't ever remember seeing a female celebrity with unshaven legs). My DDs (4 and 5) made LOADS of comments about my hairy pits. I still used deodorant so I didn't smell and DH wasn't bothered by it. I shaved them in a fit of boredom over the Christmas holidays, OMG they stung for about a week, I had to use moisturiser on them. So, now I have over 2 weeks growth, do I bother shaving again or not? Can't decide. Obviously this means I'm growing them again by default.

Where does this make me stand on the feminist wheel? There's definitely an argument thatpeople choosing to follow these fashions make it harder for people who don't (as per my celebrity comment above), in the same way that people using the title 'Mrs' give people using the title 'Ms' lower status. We need to all be Ms. (or Dr wink) Hairy. But I think it's OK to sometimes comply with behaviours that are oppressive because you can't fight all battles (thinks of the female black rights activists in 1960s America who had to put up with sexism) and having to be the one who puts up with rude comments from strangers in the swimming pool/park may not be the best use of your feminist energy.

CailinDana Sun 19-Jan-14 23:12:49

I wonder if the practice of shaving the labia and bikini line started when child birth became more medicalised around the late 50s early 60s and it became standard procedure to shave labouring women? That was linked to the idea of hygiene despite the lack of any evidence of shaving decreasing infection. In fact it's recognised now that hair removal can lead to very nasty skin infections.

Grennie Sun 19-Jan-14 23:21:50

I am a radical feminist. I don't shave my legs, I don't care that you do. The reality is we all conform to the patriarchy in some way. The idea of purity politics where you are only a "proper" feminist if you try and reject all expectations patriarchy puts on to us, is based on individualism and does nothing to help the class of women.

CaptChaos Sun 19-Jan-14 23:44:42

I just wonder who women who are hairless are doing it for. That much pain and anguish, ingrown hairs, itchiness, stubble etc can't make the experience very nice for women. Women also don't tend to spend time staring at their vulvas, so it must be being done for men. Almost certainly men who watch a lot of porn, where it is completely normalised for women to have the same amount of pubic hair as they did when they were 6.

CailinDana Sun 19-Jan-14 23:45:43

Grennie do you get any grief for not shaving your legs?

Grennie Sun 19-Jan-14 23:48:01

No Cailin. My DP would prefer me to, but accepts it. And I am in my 40's, I think most people don't even notice my thick haired unshaven legs, and if they do, they don't say anything. But I am sure if I was 20 I would get a different reaction.

AntiJamDidi Mon 20-Jan-14 00:20:36

I don't shave my legs. I caused a massive uproar when I wore a short skirt (knee length - not a miniskirt) to work last summer. I work in a secondary school and the number of teenagers who noticed my hairy legs, and made derogatory comments, was ridiculous. I'm not even a naturally hairy person, so I have fine, light coloured hair on my legs; I dread to think what they would have said if my hair was thick and black. It's a good thing I have very thick skin or I could have been utterly crushed by it, although I suspect I would never have worn a short skirt with unshaven legs if I didn't have thick skin.

I do shave my armpits sometimes, and my bikini-line because I like swimming, it's the only exercise I do, and people stare when I'm swimming if I have unshaved pits (like today when my armpit hair has about 2 weeks growth)

Somebody mentioned earlier in the thread about lack of pockets in women's clothing and that is one of my pet hates. I WANT pockets in my trousers, I live in jeans when I'm not at work, not because I love jeans but because I want somewhere to put my phone, keys, etc. without having to carry a bag around.

Grennie Mon 20-Jan-14 00:39:35

Teenage kids though can be the worse for these types of comments. I once read that the rate of plastic surgery amongst teachers is higher than most other professions. The article suggested it was because teachers are much more likely to be subject to ridicule over their appearance, than other professions.

Scarletohello Mon 20-Jan-14 00:43:33

Interesting recent article about backlash about shaving hair ( led by Cameron Diaz of all people..)


Oh, I so wish the trend predicted by that article is going to come true. I am not entirely convinced though.

I am surprised at the suggestion that teachers have a high plastic surgery rate though - who'd thunk it?

So, is it not-very-feminist to live in trousers pretty much year round to hide my hairy toes legs? Living in coolish Scotland helps... wink

Nondescriptsuburbanhousewife Mon 20-Jan-14 15:05:14

I'm happy being hairy ... except when the hairy bits on are public display. I'm perfectly aware that the world at large deems female leg/armpit hair grotesque, so off it comes. I want to go about my business not being stared at or considered a freak. So I go along with it too.

Upthread (apologies, i've not read all of it, so probably repeating) someone drew a parallel with men shaving. But unkempt male facial hair is considered untidy, rather than disgusting or freakish. I think this is enormously unfair. Would have considered this obvious, rather than radical feminism though <ignorant>.

Thants Tue 21-Jan-14 00:27:46

The activism and writing you do thats awesome!
We all the feel the pressure to conform to beauty standards and if you do then it doesn't take away from other more progressive things you do. It's great that you have the awareness to know that you're conditioned to feel the disgust that you do towards your body hair and that makes a difference in itself!

Beachcomber Tue 21-Jan-14 10:44:20

That's it really isn't it.

If I stand outside the school chatting to other parents with my hairy legs in view, they will stare, possibly comment (French - don't have their tongues in their pockets as the saying goes) and definitely discuss with each other what a weirdo I am.

'Well meaning' aquaintences will take me to oneside and talk to me about 'letting myself go', ask if I'm depressed, recommend a good beauty salon to me. The older children will probably make jokes at my expense and stare, they will possibly tease my DDs about their weird mum.

And I'm really not exaggerating.

If DH goes with stubble or a beard (something he does often, as he sometimes shaves, sometimes doesn't) nobody will give a shit. And the same goes for his (professional) job, as long as his beard is neat and tidy.

If DH goes with shaved legs a keen cyclist parent may ask him if he has taken up the sport.

I would probably feel more inclined to do it in the UK - partly because women are more feminist there IMO and partly because I would feel more confident and care less about what people thought. All the French women I know wax or epilate with machines and a lot of them have it done at a salon. They think shaving your legs is rather negligent, let alone leaving them au naturelle. They think I'm a bit weird here anyway and I don't really need to add fuel to that.

All that over some body hair that everybody has and which just sits there doing nothing other than being normal and natural. It's bonkers.

DuskAndShiver Tue 21-Jan-14 11:58:06

But does hairless skin feel nicer? tmi: but I love going to bed with a pair of hairy legs. Someone else's, I mean. I don't think it has anything to do at all with raw sexual attractiveness, which comes in so many forms that it is impossible to say "society has determined that women must have hairless legs in order to give pleasure to their sexual partners". That is a complete and utter red herring.

Here's some more tmi: when I was about 5 months pg and a bit depressed (chubby, lacking in energy, etc) I decided to Pull Myself Together and performed some of the most radical shaving I have ever done on myself in preparation for an aquaerobics class. Following this I got a disgusting skin infection on my bikini line. It actually smelt and needed prescription antibiotics to clear up. I had to wear men's trunks as pants for a few weeks to not have the pant-line irritating my infected skin, which was very sore. And here are my learnings from this whole vile experience:

- shaving is bad for you
- you really do have a suppressed immune system when you are pregnant and there is all kinds of crap floating around in swimming pools
- men's jersey trunks are the most comfortable pants in the world and guaranteed no VPL (men in having better stuff shocker!)

I believe you can be a radical feminist and shave, in the same way that you can be a marxist and employ a cleaner. It won't be like this after the revolution, but in the meantime we all have to get by

legoplayingmumsunite Tue 21-Jan-14 23:49:55

But does hairless skin feel nicer?

I quite like it when I have the first shave of the summer, although that might just be because it's the first time my legs have been moisturised for 6 months as much as the actual shaving. But my armpits are no nicer shaved than not.

Dromedary Wed 22-Jan-14 00:09:38

I think you would be a more genuine feminist if you didn't shave your legs and arm-pits, yes. Especially if you then had the courage to go out in a short skirt and sleeveless top. But I think that if you were the only person to do this the result would be that you would be hated and despised, would lose your job, etc etc. It would take a mass movement of women to reject the standard of attractiveness that has been forced on them by going "on strike". Eventually, everyone would get used to the "new look".
You will have to explain to your children that women should be able to go out into the world the way that nature made them - without spending time every week getting rid of body hair, and probably still feeling bad about what body hair is left - but that it is too hard for you as an individual to do on your own, and will be too hard for your daughters too. Certainly unless they always wear trousers and long sleeves, and meet an understanding partner. It sucks.

Bonsoir Wed 22-Jan-14 07:03:19

I don't think men have forced the aesthetic standard of depilation on women. I think it is collective female preference that sets the standard.

annieorangutan Wed 22-Jan-14 07:13:06

Dromedary - I doubt you would be hated or lose your job for not shaving your legs. I have been to work lots of times with my hairy legs, as have some of my young colleagues and the oldest person in my company is 29. We wear shorts in the summer as we are outside a lot. We are not taken a stand though we just cant be arsed. Some of my friends do sometimes, but I will go everywhere with my hairy legs, including in bikinis abroad and in UK.