To Shave or Not to Shave.

Via on Oct 20, 2010

Photo courtesy Justin Rogers

J.Crew Hairy Leg Tights-gate.

Last week, a pair of tights on J.Crew appeared to make a model’s legs look hairy, unshaven. The internet went nuts.

Click above for news coverage. Click below image to go to J.Crew‘s tights. Following this silly but predictable outcry, I asked Krystal, our resident writer passionate about feminist issues, to respond to our strange—and increasing—obsession with encouraging grown women to look like “pre-pubescent girls.” ~ ed.

This is not a feminist question—as some may have come to believe.

What’s up with our social obsession with hair? It obviously plays a big part in defining who we are—whether we even want it or not.

For example, in undergrad I called a friend back home and started telling her about my first feminist theories class.

The one question she asked:

“So, are you not shaving your armpits now?”

Not shaving is associated with hippies and feminists.

But, if I may just make a generalizing statement (my one and only), we feminists have more pressing concerns than whether or not to shave…such as, you know, ending oppression and tearing down the patriarchy.

So when J.Crew comes out with hairy leg tights, as a feminist, I’m mainly concerned as to why anyone would spend $22 on them since they serve absolutely no purpose.

Are there actually people who sit around and think, “wouldn’t it be nice if on some days I could have hairy legs and on others I could have smooth shaven ones…we should make detachable hairy legs…I know—tights!”

WTF?

But in all sincerity, to keep your hair or to shave it is an interesting choice amongst humans. Shaving off hair actually prevents pheromones from sticking around as much, thus limiting one’s chance to find a mate. Yet at the same time the cultural standard for women is to be hairless everywhere but your head, so releasing sexy pheromones will do women no good if the hairiness makes others retreat in fear (fear of a woman rebelling against the norms—oh my!).

Do men really like their ladies to look like pre-pubescent girls? Or is that what they’re taught to believe by, let’s face it, the porn industry who purposely has everyone hairless for better camera shots and a “cleaner”  less animalistic aesthetic.

And what about the growing popularity of men shaving their pubic areas? Of course it doesn’t look as pre-pubescent on men because of the whole penis thing but it’s still a little weird.

Mainly the weirdness stems from the fact that it takes quite a bit of effort and time to remove a part of one’s self that comes naturally. Perhaps shaving is symbolic of the fact that we, as humans, are trying to pretend we’re not animals, that we’re above animals, above our mammalian qualities.

But we shouldn’t hide our animalistic natures or we risk becoming puritanical and boring. We risk becoming too clean, even sterile. Do we really want our bodies to be like hospital rooms, overly sanitized, neat and proper?

Maybe we all can learn a thing or two from the hippies and the feminists.

Personally, I think there can be a balance between a smooth field and an amazonian jungle’s worth of hair, it’s called trimming. But I really don’t care one way or the other. I shave when I feel like it. Which actually isn’t that often…and guess what, no one notices. My theory is, if you’re hanging around people who care about the amount of hair on your body, then you’re hanging around the wrong kind of people—feminist, hippie or otherwise.

And if you’re buying hairy leg tights, well, I suggest finding something better to do with your money (as someone who is currently jobless, I can give you some suggestions).


About Krystal Baugher

Krystal Baugher lives in Denver. She earned her MA in Writing and Publishing and her MA in Women and Gender Studies from DePaul University/Chicago. She is the creator of Mile High Mating, a website dedicated to helping people "do it" in Denver and beyond. You can find her on facebook and twitter (as long as you aren’t a stalker).

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21 Responses to “To Shave or Not to Shave.”

  1. Layla says:

    While I agree that shaving should be a personal choice and has nothing to do with feminism, I wish you hadn't included this line: "Shaving off hair actually prevents pheromones from sticking around as much, thus limiting one’s chance to find a mate." It's yet to be proven that humans communicate via pheromones, and including shaky arguments in the debate may make people dismiss your point altogether. It certainly distracted me.

  2. Tracy says:

    I found from the brief research I did on the subject of shaving that women started shaving in America around the 1930's when fashion magazines first started being published. The models shaved so women felt they had to be like the models (some things never change) so they started shaving as well. Although I would never tell someone they were right or wrong in their belief, I am angered by a culture that makes people feel as though they have to conform! Personally, I think that if God put it there then there must be a reason why. Yogi Bhajan taught that every hair had an energy and when it is cut we lose a little bit of our "aura"….or at least thats how I have interpreted his teachings. It has never made sense to me that women shave their underarms then lather toxic chemicals (deodorant) onto the open pores that lead directly to lymph nodes and breast tissue and then we wonder why breast cancer is so prevalent in our society.

  3. Annoyed. says:

    Okay this entire section i posted below is absolutely ridiculous:

    "So when J-crew comes out with hairy leg tights, as a feminist, I’m mainly concerned as to why anyone would spend $22 on them since they serve absolutely no purpose.
    Are there actually people who sit around and think, “wouldn’t it be nice if on some days I could have hairy legs and on others I could have smooth shaven ones…we should make detachable hairy legs…I know—tights!” "

    Try going to the J-crew website. Are the tights in question called hairy leg tights? Is the point to give you hairy legs? NO. They are just lace tights that do not photograph well.

    And as for people wanting hairy legs one day and smooth legs the next, is buying tights really your only option? Could I not just ditch my razor instead?

  4. Anne says:

    Good article. As a feminist and former fuzzy woman, I find the discussion about body hair a good reflection on gender norms. I spent most of my teens and half of my twenties covered in fuzz and happy to not shave. I also dated a competitive cyclist at the time who did shave. There was a lady’s shaver in the shower, but it was used exclusively by a man. Which of us was more acceptable, leg hair-wise? Just as many men experiment with their identity and appearance via facial hair, it would be lovely for society to equally embrace women for doing the same with their body hair.

  5. Carl says:

    When I lived in Europe it was completly accepted for women to walk around wooly. The only time of the year that really women shaved was in the summer months. I really appreciated that because i think there was a mass shortage of deodorant in the entire country! you could always tell when a woman didnt shave her pits in the summer. I dont think it was the pheromones,because the guys were not chasing these women,they would rather hold their noses. So shaven or not i think it is just hygiene not feminism or hippie. No hair no funk.

  6. elephantjournal says:

    via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

    ##
    Emma B It's polite to trim.
    about an hour ago · LikeUnlike ·
    #
    Tamara M You know what? If you are that beautiful, no one cares that you have hairy damn legs…

    #
    Jennifer W To hair or not to hair, is not a feminist issue.

    #
    elephantjournal.com Jennifer, did you read the article? Sounds like you did…just can't tell…that's what Krystal says, in any case, first line!

  7. elephantjournal says:

    Me, too. ~ Waylon

  8. From a fashion perspective and trying to be as open minded as possible, woolly armpits and legs really do not compliment cocktail dresses and the like… So I say No to the shave. Yes to the Zap or at least a trim now and again…

  9. Melanie says:

    Great post! I'm glad you raised the question and gave us feminists a shout-out :) You may enjoy this piece from one of my bloggers at Feminist Fatale: http://www.feministfatale.com/2010/04/the-great-u

  10. KAS says:

    "Men have some similar, albeit probably fewer, expectations, don't they?"

    no, honey. they don't.

  11. [...] more of Krystal’s articles, check out her thoughts on open relationships, eco-friendly sex, shaving, being more queer and psychics. Krystal Baugher recently moved to Boulder from Chicago where she [...]

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  17. Alli says:

    Honestly, I think the whole issue of shaming women who don't shave is just another obligation and hoop women have to jump through before they're seen as people. it's like if we're not putting enough time in focusing on our appearances, people (men and women alike) think that you don't deserve to be treated like an equal. Which is sad. As a fuzzy lady it sickens me to death. And when shaving comes up in conversation with other women, all I hear is a bunch of internalized misogyny. It's like I don't honestly care how my face or my legs look when I leave the house. I shower everyday; isn't that good enough for you people? But no, as long as the patriarchal system is in place, women will have to perform ridiculous "hygiene" rituals in order for anyone to actually take them seriously. A lot like how people of color have to conform to the "comfortable for white people" standards in order to not be seen as a thug or fresh off the boat.

  18. Sara says:

    Sugar waxing changed my life. I consider myself a feminist and prefer no hair–personal choice.

  19. elephantjournal says:

    That's right. Waylon here. I linked to info about 'em.

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