Let's get naked-er
April 13, 2017 9:18 AM   Subscribe

I am a woman, so my body hair is feminine.
posted by aniola at 9:31 AM on April 13, 2017 [24 favorites]

I'd hardly say that men have it more difficult on this front. Or hardly ever, in general. But "hair = gross" is an aesthetic that affects everyone. Men, too, struggle to have the "right" body hair, and the major difference is just that society allows men to be a bit gross, rather than allowing that back hair (for example) is not gross.
posted by explosion at 9:35 AM on April 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

I think it's up to the woman to decide whether or not they want to shave/wax any hair on their bodies. Do I think we've been conditioned to think less hair = more feminine? Absolutely. I disagree with that, though.
posted by Kitteh at 9:38 AM on April 13, 2017

Not a huge fan of the characterization here of societal expectations of women as something that women just sort of collectively decided to do, rather than something that was guided primarily by external (read: dudes') standards of what was considered attractive. Stuff like this:

By the early 1900s, unwanted hair was a significant source of discomfort for American women. They desired smooth, sanitized, white skin. They wanted to be feminine. “In a remarkably short time, body hair became disgusting to middle-class American women, its removal a way to separate oneself from cruder people, lower class and immigrant,” writes Herzig.

"Women wanted to be feminine" here seems to imply that femininity is 1. on some level, artifice, and 2. determined by what aesthetics are popular/attractive for women to have. It also manages to blame women as a whole for being sorted and defined within the aforementioned racist and social darwinist pseudoscientific movements, rather than the researchers, scientists, and writers who propagated them. (The latter are somewhat implicated earlier in the article, but it seems kind of glossed over in favor of scapegoating Vain Women)
posted by cwill at 9:55 AM on April 13, 2017 [39 favorites]

I shave my face because having a big old beard is annoying as hell.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:56 AM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

It wasn’t until the late 1800s that non-native (mostly white) American women became concerned with body hair.

I don't know about that: not many hairy women visible in Western art at any rate, whatever period you look at.
posted by Segundus at 10:01 AM on April 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

I think it's up to the woman to decide whether or not they want to shave/wax any hair on their bodies.

Well, there's the problem isn't it? Is deciding to shave/wax in a culture where it is expected (and where failure to do so is condemned) a non-coerced decision? To an extent arguing that women decide to shave/wax is similar to arguing that the wage gap is due to women deciding to enter professions that pay less. Yes, in both cases there's choice involved, but in both cases that choice is strongly shaped by society and not entirely voluntary or free.

I'm certainly not going to argue that women have any obligation to avoid shaving/waxing, or that there's anything wrong with shaving/waxing and that women who do so are failing as feminists, or anything of that nature.

But it's certainly a decision that involves a degree of coercion.

We've seen something related in the way black women have had to deal with social expectations and shame about their natural head hair. My partner, like a lot of black women, has gone through several different hair styles, grew up with "bad hair" and used all manner of things to make it "good" (that is, white looking) today wears a natural style but still feels that the style she'd prefer (very short buzz) is not one she can have due to her employer, her desire not to be misgendered more than she is already, and general social pressure.

Its an all around shitty situation, and every woman has to make her own accommodations with patriarchy and/or white society. I'll damn sure not tell anyone they're doing it wrong. But I will regret the situation and support and applaud efforts to fix it.
posted by sotonohito at 10:05 AM on April 13, 2017 [37 favorites]

[Couple comments removed; rolling in hard with a "nuh uh" as your entire engagement with a complicated subject isn't going to make for good discussion.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:15 AM on April 13, 2017 [9 favorites]

Women always get hit hardest with this stuff. But I will say this: it's baked into our beings. Every one of you reading this is wearing a uniform. Every one of us.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:21 AM on April 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

My wife has happily put up with the beard I've worn for nigh on 20 years now. She can grow hair anywhere she damn well pleases. We're mammals. Mammals have hair. It's kind of our thing, biologically.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:40 AM on April 13, 2017 [9 favorites]

This was linked previously on MF, but I think it belongs here, too:

The Comment Section for Every Article Ever Written About Intimate Grooming

Text only - and satire at that - but possibly NSFW if your work objects to content about intimate grooming.
posted by mosk at 10:48 AM on April 13, 2017 [53 favorites]

Ugh, I just had that same train of thought I have from time to time this morning. It's getting warm out, and I'm going to my first meeting this evening of a local professional group, and I want to wear my black capris. But of course I am also rockin' the leg hair, as I do, and I always wonder: Try to avoid being prejudged for this by wearing pants, or wear whatever I want and be myself? Ultimately maybe I'll wear jeans. Bleh.
posted by limeonaire at 10:50 AM on April 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

I don't know about that: not many hairy women visible in Western art at any rate, whatever period you look at.

Idealised nudes are hairless because when painters get realistic (and you can go look for Goya's Naked Maja or Courbet's The Origin of the World for examples that predate the 20th century, or browse Egon Schiele's nudes for turn of the century hairy armpits and pubes) hairy women's bodies are too corporeal for the viewer. It's better to think of hairless nymphs with antigravity breasts.
posted by sukeban at 10:51 AM on April 13, 2017 [9 favorites]

I just had orthopedic surgery that required slicing through some nerves to get at the bones so now I have a dead spot where I can pluck chest hairs with no real sensation of it.

I was going to contextualize that more here but then thought it was quite enough.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:01 AM on April 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

I am a man who has more than once been shamed and rejected (after mutually consensual intimacies have commenced) by several women when they discovered my full-body hirsuteness. I blame those ridiculous Calvin Klein underwear billboards from several decades ago.
posted by twsf at 11:04 AM on April 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

File under: "Yet Another Reason Why I Wish I Were a Robot, or a Cuttlefish, or a Slug, or Some Other, Nobler Creature Than a Human Being."
posted by byanyothername at 11:32 AM on April 13, 2017 [10 favorites]

I can't fully support the generalization, but I noticed fascists tend to be overly concerned with facial hair.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 11:34 AM on April 13, 2017

A lot of Western art ideas about the body can be traced back to the Renaissance's misunderstanding of classical Roman and Greek sculpture.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:34 AM on April 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

The first thing I thought of art-wise was van Gogh's Sorrow (NSFW) from 1882. No armpit hair in evidence, though it's not intended to be a flattering portrayal.
posted by XMLicious at 11:51 AM on April 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't know about that: not many hairy women visible in Western art at any rate, whatever period you look at.

Er, have you looked at nude men in Western art and sculpture? Not a lot of hair all around. But it is true that the history of body hair removal is complex.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:58 AM on April 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I only ever shave my legs when I have to, so when I wear a skirt, which so far is none times this year. But I have a wedding to go to in a week which will involve shaving my legs, my pits, and bleaching my tache (which is not terribly thick but definitely visible if left alone). I say "have to" because there would be people there who would probably say "ugh" to my face if I didn't, or at least side-eye me in plain sight, and while I am a feminist I'm also a person who doesn't like to be ridiculed. It makes me feel like a shitty feminist but 40 years of conditioning is hard to beat. But I have made progress over the years - I've gone to the gym in capri leggings and hairy calves and I'm happy to point out when I can that it must be feminine to have a moustache because I and other women have them, but going to a fancy event with my thick, dark leg hair is a step too far. Yet. And it's a pity because I couldn't really be arsed.

Having said that, I know some men have similar issues. My ex-husband had lots of body hair and he hated it. He used to get me to shave his back, he was teased at school for how early he had to shave his beard, and he had a really hairy chest. I didn't care at all, I loved him so I loved it. And my current partner couldn't care less if I never touched any of my hair again. But it shouldn't have to come down to whether specific individuals accept a completely natural part of being human.
posted by billiebee at 12:07 PM on April 13, 2017 [17 favorites]

I liked the article stoneandstar linked to, but one thing jumped out:

A 1626 account suggests that a “bushiness of hair” creates a proliferation of vermin and filth – though it has to be said that there is little evidence for removal of male body hair for this reason.

In the older, more traditional hamam in eastern Turkey you'll find shaving rooms. Men who are heading out on hajj, I was told, were required to shave their pubic hair in order to limit the spread of lice. And I need to tell you, the sight of these hairy men with completely shaved pubic areas was disconcerting, to say the least.

I'm not Muslim, and the Muslims I know are mostly urban & have never heard of this. I don't know if it's a rural tradition, or a localized one ... but the idea that bushiness=vermin definitely still exists in some places.
posted by kanewai at 12:12 PM on April 13, 2017

I'm an out, full-time trans woman and a college student, and the biggest transition expense yet is probably laser hair removal for my face, and face and body hair removal with razors and makeup to cover up shadows are no small price, either.

I could easily have spent more on clothes, or elective surgeries, or voice coaching, but the fact is those are relatively optional compared to society's expectation that women have little body hair and no facial hair. Part of it is hormonal (without testosterone, you tend to just grow it on arms and legs), but I feel like I can be a non-passing trans woman with no body hair and get accepted as a woman, but if I keep it, I think I just evoke the stereotype of a man in a dress. And I don't think I'd be comfortable with my reflection, either.

Further, one of the first things I did to alleviate gender dysphoria was to start shaving my legs. I am completely aware this is a social convention, but it's something I'd seen every woman in my life do. To some part of my brain, hairless legs == feminine. This stuff gets jammed in everyone's heads early.
posted by ikea_femme at 12:27 PM on April 13, 2017 [30 favorites]

In many Muslim sects shaving or plucking pubic hair is part of the ritual rules of hygiene (sunan-al fitrah), so quite a few Muslims keep their pubic hair shaved or trimmed. I've always liked the sunan-al fitrah because it's the only set of ritual purity rules I've encountered with the person recounting them forgetting and guessing at the final one.
posted by sotonohito at 12:34 PM on April 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I am on the fence- as a cis woman it's part of the ritual. But if I ain't gittin none, and I'm busy and it's winter- I am totally Sister Sasquatch. But it's nice to pay attention to each part of your body- I file it under self care when I do have time/desire/need.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 12:46 PM on April 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is a topic I dread for how complex and difficult it is, personally and culturally, but it's also something I've thought a lot about, so... here! Have a mini-essay :)

I try to shave my legs once a week or so. It takes 20-30 minutes, usually, or somewhat longer if I've skipped a few weeks in a row. The thoroughly female-branded razors I use cost a few dollars each, and last comfortably through a couple of shaves... so all in I guess we could be talking about somewhere north of $100 a year, plus a day of my life (worth quite a bit more).

I don't feel like I have to shave; it's not something I expect of my partners, anyway. But I do want to, for several reasons— some more problematic than others.

Of course, I prefer to focus on the personal, practical aspects. I enjoy the meditative practice of careful, simple ritual. Since it's not expected by my partners either, I also find it is an act of true self-care. (And frankly, the idea of that as a "big lie" is more than a little invalidating!) There's a few days of tactile joy in the feeling of really well-exfoliated skin... it changes my experience of walking, of the fabrics I wear and sleep on, even the air itself. In southern California, that's quite a treat!

I also just like the way my legs look, although I'm starting to enter problematic territory here. I've noticed that from a respectful distance, my hairy legs don't look hairy per se— they look smudged, almost dirty. I don't think that's an appropriate way for body hair, to say nothing of skin tone, to be framed at all! But I think that must bear more on our (likewise gendered) obsession with hygiene in general. There's no particular reason I have to bathe on a daily basis, either... but I still do. That deserves unpacking on its own, probably.

But we have to talk about the hard stuff, too: I'm perceived as more feminine in inverse proportion to my amount of visible body hair. I wish it didn't matter, but it does. As a woman whose femininity is low-key under assault at all times (which is to say, as a woman), every minor aid to that perception contributes to my sense of self-worth and personal security. My physical security, even, albeit in the vaguely abstract way I'm privileged to enjoy.

That's difficult to grapple with, which is why I dread the subject of hair removal. There's a double bind: If I speak openly about my feelings, I give aid and comfort to the idea that this is an appropriate amount of labor to demand from women in their role as objects of desire. On the other hand, if I keep my habits in close confidence, that's only more evidence for the model of myself as intrinsically smooth and hairless (indeed, my body hair is naturally fine and light) and of hairier women as naturally deficient.

What's the appropriate message to send to female friends and colleagues, to my miniature baby niece? It seems plausible that I shouldn't be shaving at all, that I ought to affect the same pride in body hair that more moral women experience. That seems like a peculiar sort of victory for liberation...

That's without mentioning that shaving is not my deepest investment in hair removal, by far... if my bare legs represent some degree of complicity in patriarchal oppression, as I believe they do, I can only imagine the harm done by electrolysis! Yet at the same time, those fortunate cis women who will never experience truly traumatic hair growth, who will never be required to live the total reality of the hairlessness-less utopia— what earthly right do they have to interrogate my commitment to feminism?

I'm not saying I have answers— I don't have any idea what's right. I'm sure I've written something here I'll come to rethink in time. But it seems to me that when we're talking about intersectional issues (which is to say, issues ;) we need to actively remember that the intersections are not only in our society and our culture, but in our bodies and our minds as well.
posted by emmalemma at 1:01 PM on April 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

Further, one of the first things I did to alleviate gender dysphoria was to start shaving my legs. I am completely aware this is a social convention, but it's something I'd seen every woman in my life do.

The way I see it, our compensation for putting up with being trans should be that we get to be the last ones to smash this particular chunk of patriarchy. Once the last cis woman has risen up and emancipated herself from the shackles of the sexist shaving-cream/industrial complex or whatever, then it can be our turn.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:22 PM on April 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

I suppose it is a choice. As a woman who swims in public pools, I have the choice to get bikini waxes regularly or have people stare at me in judgment because I don't meet their expectations of hairlessness. (Not everyone would do this, of course. Some people might applaud me, but not many.) I look forward to the day when I no longer care. Let it come soon!
posted by pangolin party at 1:33 PM on April 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is why I wear swim shorts. It's probably slightly less fashionable but I never have to have hot wax applied to my bits.
posted by emjaybee at 1:40 PM on April 13, 2017 [14 favorites]

I didn't think it was controversial that initially, the modern hairless woman aesthetic was in fact introduced by advertisers trying to sell more disposable razors and depilatory creams and accepted widely by women at the time as dress designers brought up hemlines and removed shoulders and got famous Hollywood types to wear them hairless. People like to feel fancy, but certainly don't need to, hence the argument that women did it to themselves.

In the century since, it has clearly become a societal expectation in a way it never was a hundred years ago. It quickly went from being a fashion choice to something that people are widely shamed about. It's plainly obvious it's gone way too far when some women feel it necessary to spend an hour a day in the shower shaving all the hair that isn't on top of their head just to be comfortable being seen in public. (I know someone who does that..it kinda makes me sad for them, tbh, it's a huge time sink that could be better spent on almost anything else)
posted by wierdo at 2:18 PM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

@emmalemma, try buying a male-branded razor. Those suckers last for months. I bought mine about 8 months ago, and granted I don't shave every day (or even every week...) but the razor is still sharp, it's not gunked up, it still works. And I'm talking about just a cheap convenience store disposable razor.
posted by subdee at 2:29 PM on April 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I look forward to the day when I no longer care. Let it come soon!

As a formerly-hirsute, former uni-brow lady, one that of the great joys and privileges of getting older is that this is really not a concern anymore. Nature did most of the work, but years of waxing and plucking my eyebrows also worked that area. And yes, this happens to fit with society's current standards, but this is, in fact, the natural state of this 52-year old woman.

Women fight so many daily battles that I do not begrudge any woman who decides not to fight this one on any or all fronts.

I will say, though, if you are a 20-ish woman with hair that is light enough to look like you shave, please don't chastise your dark-haired BFF for giving in to society's pressure!

posted by Room 641-A at 2:31 PM on April 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

This discussion reminds me of something that I'm sure Vonnegut wrote, though I can't seem to find it online: the difference between art and pornography is body hair.
posted by ejs at 2:54 PM on April 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

When I was sixteen I became an ape from my belt down to my shoes and I had no upper body hair until you got to my face. It was soft and golden brown and I was ok with it and then it vanished in my twenties. I didn't care but now I fight it. Thick and black. In my ears, my nostrils, my eye brows. The hair on my head seems to have joined forces, slowly disappearing, concentrating on cartilage and now I have good tweezers.

I used to be able to grow a beard that looked good. Now it immediately turns off to one side. If I shave every day, the thin grey hairs, which are really invisible, get caught up in cuts that become infected and ingrown and a few weeks later I tweeze 3 or 4 inches out of the bump.

I'm very much on the "hair sucks" side of this.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:12 PM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the tip, subdee! Actually my partner (when she shaves) uses a traditional Normal Person Razor™ and makes fun of me for my whole ritual, and I'm certainly not shy about transgressing gendered marketing :) But I've found that for me, the huge moisturizer pads and different head angle you get on Lady Razors™ really makes a difference in terms of getting a close, non-irritating shave that also doesn't take all day. And it's still not the most frivolous thing I spend money on, so... shrug emoji.
posted by emmalemma at 3:21 PM on April 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I assume Western World here really means the US, right? Outside the US, there is a whole range of body hair tolerances.
posted by haemanu at 3:39 PM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

There's a whole cadre of sociological thought on this issue beyond what this skinny article touches on. It's left a big gap in terms of sexual minorities', and subpopulations of sexual minorities', consideration of social standards for hairiness. Queer men, for example, often self-segregate along a spectrum bounded by "no trimming of any sort ever" and "no visible hair below my ears, ever." In some ways, those distinctions seem to claim affinity with "masculine" and "feminine" stereotypes. As much as I want to say that those bounds and self-affiliations are societally-imposed, I don't think the individual experience bears that out. People tend to feel very strongly, in personal terms, about their place on that spectrum from an early age.

We've noticed in our cohorts (we're a gay couple, 20 years' difference in age) that people feel like they discovered their place on the spectrum rather than had it determined for them. One day, we see a thing that stirs our loins and from that day forward we can say, yes, I identify with (insert level of hairy/hairlessness).

Bodies and sexuality are complicated, complex concepts, filled with nuance and intrigue and factors that don't boil down to simple statements.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 3:43 PM on April 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

For anyone who has never shaved their legs before, I challenge you to give it a try.

Freshly shorn legs feel amazing.
posted by porpoise at 3:45 PM on April 13, 2017 [9 favorites]

> Freshly shorn legs feel amazing

And then you climb into a bed with clean sheets... glorious.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:56 PM on April 13, 2017 [13 favorites]

...and then, if you're me, you wake up with prickly stubble and you think "fuck that I'm growing it again."
posted by billiebee at 4:28 PM on April 13, 2017 [12 favorites]

Am I the only one here who shaves her lower legs because socks/tights make the hair follicles hurt? Am I just a freak of nature?
posted by k8oglyph at 4:40 PM on April 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

I sometimes shave my hobbit foot hair for that reason. And in the summer I'll shave all over for heat management but usually with a guard on the clippers because perversely to go completely hairless can draw comments about not performing masculinity to an acceptable standard. Also itchy.
posted by rodlymight at 5:16 PM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I hate it that stuff some people find fun like personal grooming and make-up gets all messed up because it's been imposed as an oppressive obligation on half the species and then half the people who like it have to think crap do I actually like this or do I just think I'm supposed to like it and the other half think crap I like this but I'm not supposed to what's wrong with me and half the people who don't like it have to think crap so do I do this even though I hate it or do I not do it and get all kinds of shit for it and the other half will never be completely sure if they really hate it or just think they're supposed to hate it.

The Patriarchy: Ruining Everything For Everyone Since Forever Always
posted by kyrademon at 5:24 PM on April 13, 2017 [20 favorites]

It's so weird how much people care. My natural body hair is light enough that I've been asked if I shaved my arms, yet going out with unshaved legs (which are about equally hairy) gets pointed looks and comments.

I've decided IDGAF. Anyone that notices is probably looking too closely anyway.
posted by Trifling at 5:40 PM on April 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

I want to like this article, because I do think its premise is largely correct, but I think it kind of blithely ignores the fact that hirsutism on women, for which doctors prescribe medicine, is often one of the symptoms of PCOS, which really fucking sucks even if everyone would be totally cool with hair everywhere. And I am grateful, not angry, for the medicine that helps mitigate it.
posted by corb at 5:57 PM on April 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I shave my face because having a big old beard is annoying as hell.

I find shaving far more irritating (physically and because of the hassle) than having a beard, but I know plenty of men for whom that is reversed. Happily we are having a beard-friendly moment right now, but that pendulum will probably swing back again soon.

It's an interesting article (as is the one linked in a comment about about the Renaissance). I don't know how you even begin to unpack personal preferences from societal pressures, and no matter what a woman does, she is probably going to get criticized by someone.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:34 PM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I grew out my body hair starting last September. My young niece was rocking some pit hair last summer and she brought me back 20+ years to the last time I went full hairy, right after I came out as gay. The unshaven look was de rigeur in those circles at the time. Then there was a thread here where a few brave mefites claimed they'd long ago stopped shaving and it was fabulous. Finally, my 8 year old daughter started talking about wanting to shave. So I grew it all out. 8 months later the results are impressive. I made my peace with hairy legs and skirts, shorts and capris but I'm still not sure about heading off to work in a short sleeve shirt with pit hair poking out. I have a few things working in my favour. My job is secure, my workplace is very liberal and I teach art. This last point gives me a licence to dress in weird colours and patterns and wear giant brightly coloured glasses, so the pit hair may just read as further decoration. Perhaps I'll braid it, it certainly feels long enough.
posted by Cuke at 6:45 PM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Cis male dude who has been shaving the pits and bits for decades now. Cuts down drastically on BO after a long day or two, plus with all the cardio I do I don't need sweat sponges. Never looked back after the first shave.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:14 PM on April 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

"The American woman who shaves will spend more than $10,000 over the course of her life"? No she won't. Good heavens, what a ridiculous number. A razor lasts me a month or so. But then I'm older, so I've stopped growing much hair on my legs and pits. Now I shave the peachfuzz on my face, instead. Over the course of the years, I experimented with not shaving, but as others have commented, the hair can be irritating.

But what I want to say is that women often do things for themselves, not for other people. For a few years, I didn't shave my armpits, and when I decided to shave them again my husband was seriously upset and annoyed. I told him it was my body and I could do what I wanted with it, and I wasn't doing it for him. That rocked him.

This strikes me as a little bit of that woman-as-innocent-victim who doesn't know what's good for her thing. I know what I want, and I do it.
posted by Peach at 7:18 PM on April 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

> because socks/tights make the hair follicles hurt

Yeah, before I (home) lasered off (most*) my (guard**) leg hairs, when they're long they're just wavy/curly enough to corkscrew themselves into socks and get stuck, then some get pulled out. By the roots if I'm lucky but more often than not just at/under the skin leading to ingrowns. Some bad, some that I could scratch out with my fingernails.

*about 70%**, I still have the thing, but the NiCd battery sucks/die-ing so it takes 7 hours between maybe 15 (originally 25+) minutes of lasering. It's also rather painful. Been meaning to swap out the battery, but, meh.

**I'm phenotypically a dude, and Han Chinese, I have some coarser longer body hairs and also much finer shorter (I think it's mostly a wear issue over a follicle cycle issue; when I took off a cast after 6 weeks, I had crazy long fine hair on that forearm over the other) hairs. My scalp hair is mostly uniform, but I get mutant eyebrow hairs that forgot to end their follicle cycle. Yes, I tweezer my 5 various nipple hairs when they grow out because they look ridiculous. Electric trimmer on groin//crack hair - feels more hygienic.

***total lasering time: audiobook of Quicksilver, 2/3rds into Confusion, (and I don't think I want to subject myself to System of the World in audiobook form)
posted by porpoise at 7:33 PM on April 13, 2017

this is the real reason I transitioned from female to male.
posted by AFABulous at 7:56 PM on April 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

Neal Stephenson?
posted by porpoise at 8:26 PM on April 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I stopped shaving 15 years ago shortly after I started dating my partner. I realized he didn't care and I was sick of it. Since then I've shaved my legs and pits three times for weddings, and hated it each time. The time it took to shave was annoying, but the madness of it growing out again was excruciating. I think it's rad that so many young women I know now are giving up shaving as a public display of anti-patriarchy. I do kind of miss the sensation of freshly shaved legs in a bed with fresh sheets, but that's a small sacrifice.

This, along with lots of other gendered grooming norms, drives me crazy when other women complain about the effort but act like they have to do it. It's a choice like makeup or hair styles of styles of dress. We're conditioned by shitty society to treat it as a default, but that doesn't mean you have to go along with it if you really loathe it. Of course I recognize it's easy for me to say that since I've got a partner, am not really gender confirming, and live and work in an area where lots of women don't shave for lots of reasons and it's not really worth mentioning.
posted by kendrak at 8:55 PM on April 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Am I the only person who doesn't enjoy the feel of having no hair on my legs? It feels to me like they've been wrapped in cling wrap or laminated. The sensitivity to touch is reduced because the hairs did some of the detecting and that extra info is gone.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 9:00 PM on April 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

I don't know about that: not many hairy women visible in Western art at any rate, whatever period you look at.

That may be so be but there are also a lot of women in Western art without shoulders, or with breasts coming out of their armpits or clavicles. So.
posted by drunkonthemoon at 3:33 AM on April 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

Trivia Newton John, count me as another such. My skin felt absolutely numb when I shaved. My skin also tends to be quite dry, and shaving caused a loss of flexibility that no amount of moisturizing seemed to remedy. Never again.
posted by Weftage at 6:04 AM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hair on me: gross
Hair on husbear: awesome
how does all this figure into us trying to control women?
posted by ostranenie at 7:22 AM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by fiercecupcake at 7:39 AM on April 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

It has taken me a really long time (last time I shaved my underarms was 2010) to get to the point where I really truly only shave when I want to. I like the novelty of shaved legs for awhile, so I usually start up again in March or April and then get sick of doing it by August and stop again. It helps that I live in Austin, but I still very rarely see women who choose not to shave. I just do. not. care. anymore what anyone thinks about it. I have, in the past year or so, started wearing sleeveless clothes to work and not worrying about it. My only gripe is that I wish I could go straight from smooth legs to 2+ months growth; the prickly time in between is annoying.

And I have dark black body hair and a medium amount of it.

When I met my partner in 2010, I wasn't shaving anything. I think I shaved my legs again in like 2012? Basically it was just, take it or leave it, this is how I am. And he still doesn't have any preference one way or another -- body hair is our own thing to deal with and the other person can just adapt.

I can't honestly imagine ever shaving the kitten pits again. I actively *love* them. They're soft and (I think) cute and shaving there was a nightmare -- ingrowns and itchiness and ughhh, much worse than a little tufty hair. I wish I saw more girls rock the kitten pits.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:45 AM on April 14, 2017

Good god the people saying it's not a big deal can just bite me. It's not a big deal for you. It's not too expensive for you. But like, when I was waiting tables, I literally couldn't afford one more thing that made me a weirdo, that might push me over the threshold between presentable and not. It would cut into my tips, it would affect which shifts I got.

I'm currently shaving my facial hair because for trans dudes it usually comes in a weird pattern, and I look weird enough as it is. And I haven't tried to look for a job as a dude yet because I can't make it over that presentability threshold for dudes. This is not a hypothetical, theoretical problem. It is tangible. Sometimes it's a matter of life or death.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 11:23 AM on April 14, 2017 [20 favorites]

<3 <3 <3 Rainbo
posted by AFABulous at 12:57 PM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

> I (home) lasered off (most*) my (guard**) leg hairs

Wait what this is a thing? You can laser off your leg hair at home?
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:53 PM on April 14, 2017

Whoa, this is a fascinating rabbit hole I have fallen down. The home-use ones need to be unlocked by proving you have white-enough skin.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:05 PM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think that's because the lazors have a hard time detecting dark hair against dark skin.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:45 PM on April 14, 2017

At least we have stopped using Xrays and literal rat poison to remove our hair!
posted by vespabelle at 4:31 PM on April 14, 2017

corpse, yeah, I had (well, still have) a handheld unit from Tria. It's expensive (~$500, and also the time involved) but mostly works (takes a lot longer than using a professional rig). Tried doing it watching TV, but I needed eyes to self-laser (ie., shave section of leg, hunt for individual follicle, align handheld device precisely, activate, ZAP!, move on to the next follicle in a grid pattern). But audiobooks were just fine.

Their blue light stuff for acne is BS, though.

But yeah, much lower power so thick dark hairs against paler skin works best. It's kind of weird yet oddly satisfying seeing follicles fall out a day or two after lasering them, when toweling off after a shower.

The laser heats up so the battery was designed not to last very long, so doing one entire leg takes about 3-4x 20-25 minute "sessions." Due to the nature of follicle cycling and the relatively low power, it may take many repeated sessions to achieve permanent defoliation.

My fine hairs are too fine to absorb enough energy to kill the follicle. Still hurts, but not enough to kill the follicle.
posted by porpoise at 5:11 PM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I really think society is forcing these stereotypes on us, As a girl I personally depilate but this is because it gets very itchy if I don't (also my BF complains). But I really respect woman who are Natural :)
posted by Mormor at 4:41 AM on April 21, 2017

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