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It is not compulsory to shave your legs/armpits.

(28 Posts)
Schooldidi Thu 14-Mar-13 16:15:43

I am a teacher. I have a year 8 form class. This morning we happened to be chatting and one of the girls talked about shaving her eyebrows. I mentioned that I had never done anything to my eyebrows and it was perfectly ok to leave them natural. That bit was fine, they were all satisfied that it is personal choice whether to pluck/shave/wax eyebrows.

The next part of the conversation caused quite a sensation though. Somebody moved us on to shaving legs and i shared the fact that I don't shave my legs either and that's personal choice as well. Every single child in the room looked at me as if I had admitted picking my nose and eating it, or some other equally disgusting habit. The comments of disgust about "but what if you're wearing shorts?", "but ALL women shave their legs" and "you must have shaved them when you were younger though, it's alright for older people" (I'm 33 here, not 80!).

Why are our young people so disgusted by the thought of a woman's body in it's natural state? It doesn't really surprise me, but it does sadden me that every girl in that class thinks they absolutely must shave their legs/armpits (we didn't talk about private parts but I got the impression that they thought they should shave those too) and they will be considered disgusting if they don't.

colditz Thu 14-Mar-13 16:18:54

Find me a picture of a celebrity, ie a celebrated and attractive woman, with body hair.


Can't find one?

That's why ;)

BoringTheBuilder Thu 14-Mar-13 16:29:15

Well I wax and my friend do it for me at home. My dd sees it as she sees me doing my nails, toe nails and make up. My mum never did none of the above nor does my sister but I like doing it. Wasn't learnt behaviour from home and I never was into celebs or barbies...

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 14-Mar-13 16:31:12

colditz is right - it's because they've not seen women in the public eye who don't shave. I've met boys in their late teens and young men who honestly didn't realize that women's leg hair grew the way it does! They sort of knew woman had some kind of hair, but I think they thought it was a light downy fuzz, like women have on their faces if you look closely, not actual hair.

And the fact that when celebs do show a bit of hair, it's always pointed out as a shocking 'wardrobe malfunction' means that it's even less normalized.

I think of it as being quite an American trend, to think not removing hair is actively rude and uncouth, but it is certainly becoming more entrenched in the UK.

TeiTetua Thu 14-Mar-13 16:33:58

Presumably you wear trousers or opaque tights, or they wouldn't need to be told about the state of your legs. A woman out in public in a short dress with unshaved legs might see a fair number of disapproving expressions. Maybe for some women, summer is a time of difficult decisions.

FireOverBabylon Thu 14-Mar-13 16:35:29

Just wait for them to go on exchange visits to France. I studied in France whilst at university. The English lads really had their eyes opened by the public desiplays of body hair on young women.

BinarySolo Thu 14-Mar-13 16:35:36

Actually there was that famous picture of Julia Roberts with hairy armpits, but the press acted disgusted by it and I think asked her if she'd forgotten. She replied no, she just doesn't shave.

TheCrackFox Thu 14-Mar-13 16:52:37

When I was their age I'm sure I thought the same TBH. Obviously I don't now.

Meglet Thu 14-Mar-13 17:13:58

You would probably have got the same reaction 25+ yrs ago. I was bullied dreadfully for not having perfect hair-free legs, the hair is too thick to get a good shave so they were often prickly even when shaved in the morning. There weren't many glossy celeb mags in those days.

And I bet some girls in your class weren't bothered with your naturally hairy legs, but they were too scared to speak up in front of the gobby ones.

Schooldidi Thu 14-Mar-13 17:43:08

Yes, I suppose my question was rather naive. I know it's because they don't see women in the public eye with any hair anywhere. I don't remember it being the same when I was at school, but maybe the difference was that I was at an all girls school or maybe it was that I just wasn't aware of it as an issue. I know I wouldn't have been horrified if a teacher had mentioned that she didn't shave her legs, I know my mum certainly never did.

I do mostly wear trousers, but have worn shortish skirts to school before with bare legs underneath. Nobody has ever commented, but that may well be because I don't have naturally very hairy legs so people tend not to notice. It's possible that if I did have hairier legs then I might make different decisions about shaving them.

InvaderZim Thu 14-Mar-13 17:54:49

I rather suspect you might make different decisions if you had thick, dark hair which curled outwardly from your legs! (Like mine. grin)

I do the minimum amount of shaving in the winter and do shave frequently in the summer. I used to wax though, that was ace no do my armpits because I can't wear antiperspirant and hair collects The Stank.

BoringTheBuilder Thu 14-Mar-13 21:00:12

If I don't shave/wax my legs, I will look like a footballer.

Bumply Thu 14-Mar-13 21:13:10

I have very fine fairish hair and have never shaved beyond teenage experiments.
I'm now of an age where I almost feel the need to trim nasal hair.

Schooldidi Thu 14-Mar-13 21:59:05

Boring are you my sister? That phrase is exactly what she always says.

Invader I probably would make different decisions if I had much hairier legs. I wouldn't like it in the slightest though, I would most definitely resent having to shave my legs because of other people's reactions to body hair on women.

Fire our school don't really do exchange visits. I don't quite know why, but every foreign visit seems to be more of a tourist thing and they don't spend a lot of time with teenagers while they are there.

I'm not saying that nobody should shave/wax/laser their legs. I just don't think we should all be expected to do it, which we seem to be at the minute. If people claim it is a personal choice about whether to defuzz then it should be a proper choice. Right now, ALL of the girls in my class think they HAVE to shave their legs and if they dared to go against that they would face quite a backlash.

I don't know how we would go about changing it in our current culture though. Unless people see more women with unshaven legs it's not going to change, and most women aren't prepared to stop shaving when they know they are going to face unpleasant reactions from other people.

TeiTetua Thu 14-Mar-13 22:24:24

Surely there's nothing wrong with looking like a footballer. They're just ordinary people, except that they're very athletic.

Oh, are footballers always men? Sorry, I didn't know.

RiaOverTheRainbow Thu 14-Mar-13 23:16:33

Shaving definitely felt compulsory to me as a teenager because I knew so very few women who were hairy, which is precisely why I've stopped. And yes the hair is long and dark and very visible, I don't care.

Schooldidi Thu 14-Mar-13 23:26:35

Good for you Ria. Do you wear skirts/shorts so people can see your hair?

I hate the thought that teenage girls feel compelled to shave their legs whether they particularly want to or not. This is probably the tip of the iceberg of things they think are compulsory for them that boys just don't have to worry about. Girls are expected to do their hair nicely and make up becomes a big thing around this age too, boys just don't have the same pressure to attend to their personal grooming.

RiaOverTheRainbow Fri 15-Mar-13 00:59:55

In summer, and I wear sleeveless tops quite often (though not in this Arctic weather!) I felt awkward to begin with, but now I'm don't even think about it - way easier than worrying about stubble smile

evertonmint Fri 15-Mar-13 01:40:27

I sometimes shave, sometimes don't. I have dark fast growing hair on my legs and I generally find I have better ways of spending my time and money than ensuring my legs are hair free as I would have to shave every other day or wax every 10 days to control it. I wear short skirts and shorts in summer, I go to the swimming pool. Quite frankly if people have no problem displaying hideous tattoos which they have added to their body then why should I feel any shame in hair that is a natural part of their body? If somebody thinks it's disgusting, it's their issue, not mine.

Sometimes I like the feeling and look of smooth legs so I will shave. I don't like shaving under my armpits as I am much more noticeably sweaty when unshaven. And particularly for things like weddings I would shave. I'm not sure why - maybe because it feels a bit like I've not made an effort to look presentable, which is all about society's expectations of how women will look. I'm working on my feelings about that but have come a long way in accepting that hair is ok smile

And - Shock! Horror! - my DH does still have sex with me smile He prefers me shaven, but recognises that that is social conditioning and that it is up to me and that he still fancies me anyway so it's not a huge issue. I will on occasion shave to give him something to smile about ;) but he has no expectations! I had a Brazilian once just to see what we thought and we both hated it so aside from the occasional tidy up I am very unruly in the bikini area smile

evertonmint Fri 15-Mar-13 01:43:29

There was a long, interesting discussion about this on the fwr boards in aug/sep 2010. I remember as I was on mat leave waiting for baby to be born so had plenty of time to read it! Worth digging out if you have time.

evertonmint Fri 15-Mar-13 01:46:15

Should add - when I say I sometime shave, we're talking 5-6 times per year and as stubble is visible after around 4 days, we're talking 20 days or thereabouts looking hair-free vs 340ish not.

Eskino Fri 15-Mar-13 01:48:25

this amazing woman

For colditz

TheCatInTheHairnet Fri 15-Mar-13 02:40:24

I think there's a huge generational gap between feminists when it comes to body hair. It depends how old you are as to how much body hair you like. And I don't think it necessarily has anything to do with your feminist principles.

TheCatInTheHairnet Fri 15-Mar-13 02:43:18

But also happy to admit that was a huge generalisation!!

SaggyOldClothCatPuss Fri 15-Mar-13 02:51:33

I shave. It has nothing to do with being fashionable, its to do with not wanting to look like a fecking mountain goat.

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