“You don’t shave your legs yet?” she asked in a familiar, I’m-more-mature-than-you 12-year-old voice.
“Yes I do,” I lied.
As soon as I got home, I begged my mom to let me start shaving. She relented. And the tedium of following gender norms marched onward through a new generation.
“Do I shave my arms, too?” I analyzed the dark hair on my arms, then looked at my barely fuzzy legs. I figured it would all have to go.
My mom told me that some people shave their arms, but most people don’t. I wondered if my mom knew what she was talking about, but since none of the girls at school mentioned shaving their arms, I figured it was okay. But I did wonder – for just a second – why do we shave our legs and not our arms? What’s the difference? I guess I knew that there was no difference; it’s just what Americans decided was a cool thing to do when someone decided that razors would sell much quicker and would bring in much higher revenues if 50% of the population consented to shaving 50% of their bodies on a regular basis.
But I bought in. All the other girls were shaving. So of course, I should, too.
After 20 years of worrying about stubble on my legs, I stopped shaving last December. I remember there was some special occasion that I shaved my legs for (I really was only shaving on a semi-regular basis anyhow), and then somehow, just never shaved again. The hair kept growing and growing, and I realized that my leg hairs were suddenly longer than they had ever been. It hadn’t been on purpose. I just didn’t feel like shaving, and it didn’t seem that important.
Around February, though, I realized that it was time to make a decision. Am I quitting? As an outspoken feminist, I thought, “Yes! I am going to do this!” But then the fear crept in. Isn’t this what we were told was bad about feminism? All these ladies refusing to shave their legs or wear bras? And hadn’t I prided myself on fighting for equality without being a “fanatic” about it? I was like a feminist liaison!
But what kind of feminist am I if I automatically buy into the gender norms for shaving? I figured I owed it to myself, and to feminism, to at least find out if I had been shaving “for me” all this time, or if it really was just bullshit cooked up by the razor companies.
I decided to give it a 6 month trial run. I would quit shaving my legs for 6 months. I realized that this would put me well into shorts weather since I live in Tucson, Arizona, and that gave me pause, but ultimately, I knew I had to go all in with this experiment, or it wouldn’t be a true experiment. So I went for it.
Quitting shaving was the easy part; the hard part was stepping out of my house with bare legs. I avoided shorts and skirts for the first 4 months, and when I finally decided to face the world with my hairy legs, I nervously looked around to see if anyone was glaring at me or looking confused. But no one seemed to notice even a little bit. And this brought on my first of many realizations about shaving:
No one really gives a fuck and no one will say anything. Say, what?! I know. I was shocked, too. I thought for sure, that everyone would stare at my man legs and yell demeaning things at me. But seriously. No one noticed. Granted, I’m not a super hairy person in general – but the hair is definitely visible.
From that day forward, I went through various stages of experiences and feelings just as anyone who is quitting a life-long habit would. It takes time to adjust.
Here’s what to expect when you quit shaving:
In the first couple of months, you will have many conflicting thoughts and weird experiences:
- You will feel the wind blowing through the hair on your legs, and it’s weird. The first time, I thought a bug was crawling on me. Nope, just hair. So strange.
- You will spend an inordinate amount of time looking at your legs from different angles to see how hairy they are, if it’s noticeable, if it’s beautiful etc.
- You will ask your partner if he or she minds your furry legs – as counterintuitive and unfeminist as that may seem.
- At first, you will avoid wearing shorts or skirts for months, but when you finally do, you will be surprised that no one says anything about it.
- You will feel liberated.
One major bonus: You will save money and time. Oh yes, lots of time.
Once the hairs on your legs are really starting to grow, and your legs start looking suspiciously similar to your male friends’ legs, the practice of shaving will actually start to seem incredibly strange. Why did women buy into this in the first place?
- You will stare at women who have silky smooth legs and begin to think how unnatural it is.
- You will stare at men’s furry legs and wonder why society didn’t decide that men should shave them, too.
- You will wonder if it’s weird or “bad” to continue shaving/waxing your armpits and other areas of your body.
- Men will still whistle at you and harass you on the street, for better or worse. I have only had one man on the street who appeared to notice my unshaven legs. And he just stared at my legs instead of catcalling me. I’d call that a win.
In time, you will settle in…
- You will notice other women who do not shave and will be jealous of their confidence.
- You will be proud that you at least had enough confidence to stop shaving even though you’re terrified of how you will react if someone says something rude.
- Eventually, you will gain the confidence of the women who you were jealous of.
- You will forget that shaving your legs was even a thing you used to do.
- You will find that a few people do notice your hairy legs, and you’ll secretly hope that they ask you about it so that you can tell them the good news. Shaving is over!
So my experiment officially ended in May. I successfully went 6 months without shaving. I saved at least $40 in razors, and about 4 hours of time (5 minutes x 2 times per week x 24 weeks = 4 hours). Although if I’m being honest, I probably only shaved at most, once per week. So maybe I only saved 2 hours, but I’m guessing a lot of women shave more frequently than that. Don’t we all need more time? If for no other reason, everyone should quit shaving just so they have more time and more money for more enjoyable things.
As you may have guessed, my legs are still furry. And I have no intentions to start shaving again. At least not right now. I may change my mind again in the future and decide that I want smooth, silky legs. But for now, I’m pretty content with exploring what it feels like to buck our beauty standards.
Of course, everyone is entitled to do what they want with their bodies, but I think it is an interesting and worthwhile experience to quit shaving at least for a little bit of time. Most of us have never even seen what our adult legs look like with hair on them. Do you shave your legs? Would you consider quitting?
I’m one of those people who grows a winter coat and then shaves it all off in summer. I’ll admit that some of it comes from peer pressure and some of it comes from feeling unbelievable sexy with smooth legs. It gives me a boost in confidence.
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Haha I hear ya! I’ve always been a bit of a sporadic shaver, though I did always like the feeling of smooth legs. So I definitely understand why people continue shave; I’m just not sure that the smooth feeling is worth the time and cost. 😉
I’ve honestly used shaving as a procrastination tool so I don’t have to get out of the shower and if you’re like my mum, she just buys a big pack of disposable razors and dad used one twice before she adopts it for her legs. She refers to it as breaking the blade in.
Haha. True! I do love a hot shower, so I can understand using shaving as a reason to stay in. 🙂
LOL – or you could just wait until you get to be in your 50/60’s and go hairless naturally. Either way – I didn’t want you to start shaving at all…it meant my Littlest was no longer my baby girl. So there.
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Haha. Well, now I can look forward to losing my hair! I didn’t know that was a thing for leg hair.
That “feeling the wind blowing through my [leg] hair” is a weird one at first, isn’t it?! Haha.
I quit shaving, for similar reasons, in my early 20s. I ultimately went back to shaving — because I decided I *liked* the feeling of smooth legs more than hairy, wind-blown ones. It bothered me when I didn’t have any reason for shaving other than social opprobrium. When it became a conscious and informed choice? Not so much.
My favorite experience from that time: my then-boyfriend’s sister was very outspoken about her feminism. (I did not yet have any strong opinions on feminism myself, in the early ’90s.) She had a spiel down pat, all about the oppressive nature of expecting women to shave their body hair so that we all looked more like children than adult humans. After my college graduation, where she saw my legs in all their hirsute glory, she had her brother pass me a message: She thought I was “so brave” to not shave — and would TOTALLY do the same thing herself…if only her own leg hair weren’t so dark!!
Love this piece! Thanks for sharing.
I also stopped shaving some time ago, but it depends which company I am in as to whether I want to wear shorts. It probably just means I need some new friends…