Regarding the Hairy Legs Question

Sun by Caribou (Just a little soundtrack song for this post. Seemed appropriate.)

It’s been very hot here in Norwich the past two days. So today I shaved my legs and put on a dress. Yesterday I would have liked to do the same but I had work at 9am and I’ve always been someone who values sleep over appearance, so I did not bother getting up early enough to shave. Instead, I wore jeans and a thin top. Thing is, though, why couldn’t I have not shaved and worn a dress anyway?

At the time the thought may have popped up briefly, but I immediately dismissed it. To wear a dress with hairy legs is unthinkable for most women, including myself. But why is it not only OK but more acceptable for men to have hairy legs but unacceptable for women to do so? It’s not just about being attractive. After all, it’s not a big deal if a woman doesn’t wear make-up, it’s just seen a personal choice. It’s more like wearing a dress (or shorts or anything that doesn’t cover your legs) when you haven’t shaved for a while is so abnormal, it’s almost seen as anti-social. I’m convinced that if I’d worn a dress yesterday, or not shaved my legs today, I would get some dirty looks, maybe even some sniggers and offensive comments. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe people wouldn’t even notice. The thing is though, I’d be so aware of it, to the point of paranoia, I’d probably imagine dirty look and sniggers.

For me to wear a dress when my legs are hairy would be a deliberate choice, not mere laziness. It would be making a stand. I shouldn’t have to shave my legs just because I’m a woman. This turns it into an act of feminism. There are a lot of negative associations with the word ‘feminism’ and I’m sure there would be with making this kind of feminist stand. But that deserves a whole other blog post.

So where did this social norm come from, with regards the hairy legs question? Is it to distinguish women more from men, who have a natural tendency to be more hairy than woman? Why is this necessary? There are many other ways of distinguishing a woman from a man. I don’t think there’d be ‘guess the gender’ type confusion if a women wore a dress and didn’t shave, or if a man did shave and wore shorts. Do you? No of course not, it’s absurd. So why then?

I honestly don’t know. I can’t answer the question: ‘why do I shave my legs’ and this bothers me. It bothers me because I don’t like to think that I do something, anything, just because it’s socially acceptable. For me, that isn’t a good enough reason.To do something without thought just because it’s what people do is  But I guess there must be loads of little things I do all the time that I do without thought, just because it’s what people do. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, everyone wants to fit in. is there anything wrong with just doing some things to fit in?

Still, it would be nice to not have to bother. As much as I enjoy the smooth, soft feeling of my just shaved legs (especially in trousers, contradictorily enough) I think if it was socially acceptable to not shave your legs just because you’re wearing a dress that day, most of the time, I wouldn’t bother. Just like I don’t bother with make-up most days. It’s an extra effort and it takes up valuable time.

What do you think, men and women of the blogiverse? Would you rather have the choice? Perhaps you disagree with me and think you already do. Either way, I want to know.

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One thought on “Regarding the Hairy Legs Question

  1. There’s a very easy answer to this question in terms of evolutionary biology. Hairiness in women represents a deep “problem” because:
    hairiness -> androgen sensitivity -> excess testosterone -> hormone imbalance -> infertility.
    It sounds like a long shot, but it’s pretty obvious, especially when you consider the simplest example: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Because of hormone imbalance, you get various results: inside, you get infertility and outside you get hairiness.
    Evolutionary psychology would therefore make us intrinsically dislike hairiness, by the “good genes” hypothesis. Being fat is unacceptable because it’s unhealthy, but being hairy is unacceptable because it suggests a deep issue with our genes. That’s why the social pressure to shave is so high; it’s been built from millenia of evolutionary influence.

    Evolutionary psychology is hard to prove, but it makes perfect sense to me. And trust me, I know how hard it is… I have PCOS, and quite a major form of it. I’m hairy not just on my legs, but on my face too. It’s not pleasant, but once I understand the biological reasons for the pressure to shave everything makes a lot more sense. Doesn’t make me any less sad, though.

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