Saturday, December 30, 2006

My Hairy Experiment

2006 has been an unusual year for me in that for the first time in my life I made a conscious decision not to remove my body hair. Body hair is something that I have removed since it first appeared as a teenager and my granny declared that I was turning into a hairy monster.

Removing my body hair was something that I just did every few days. I liked the way my shaved legs felt smooth and sensuous. I tried various forms of hair removal but stuck with shaving as it's quick, painless and cheap. However frequently my shameful stubbly legs would be hidden away underneath trousers during the working week and then shaved sensously smooth on a friday evening to celebrate the arrival of weekend.

In many ways I felt that in the hair removal game women had been dealt an easier hand than men. Most men shave every day and cannot easily hide their face stubble from view. As a woman it is quite easy to hide your body hair from public view. So shaving everyday is not a requirement. But going to the beach or wearing summer clothes would always mean thoroughly removing any exposed body hair. I never really thought about why I removed my body hair. It was simply something that was expected. I have only ever seen one real woman with hairy legs and nearly every image that I have ever seen in the media is of smooth, hairless women. Consequently my own sense of attractiveness was intrinsically linked with being smooth and hairless.

So over the years I shaved, waxed and imaaced in an effort to be attractive and sexy. In my own head there was a clear understanding that body hair was something to be ashamed of. It was dirty, abnormal and unattractive. Even the appearance of stars such as Julia Roberts in her hairy armpit dress did not cause me to question this view. Hairy armpits and legs on a woman were simply unattractive and unfeminine. One interesting aspect is that although I experimented with the brazilian concept I found that I just did not like my nether regions being bare. It just didn't look right to me and seemed a bit too childlike. So except for my bikini triangle I removed most of my hair.

Then one day my legs developed some sort of irritation and my legs became incredibly itchy. I would scratch my legs until they bled. I had huge scratch marks all over my legs. I thought that some sunlight would help my legs to heal. So I started wearing shorts and skirts to let the summer sun soothe my legs. It struck me as being quite bizarre that I was prepared to expose my horrible scratched,scabby legs to public view but only if they were hairless. I began to think a bit more about body hair and realized that our society has major taboos about body hair.

I began to notice that a huge variety of women's leg were on display: attractive, unattractive, shapely, fat, bruised, dimpled, old and young. But they were all completely smooth and hairless. With exposure to sunlight my scabby legs gradually improved. But the seed of an idea had been planted.

This year I read a few blogs where women discussed their experiences with their body hair. Eventually it dawned on me that practically every women in the world has naturally hairy armpits and legs. This is the natural state of an adult woman. The increasing trend to hairlessness is certainly part of a fashion trend. But it goes beyond that. Hairlessness in woman is deemed to be an essential part of personal hygiene. Men can be clean with hairy legs and armpits but a woman who exposes her hairiness is considered dirty. I find this concept difficult to comprehend.

As women we are meant to pretend that our body hair doesn't exist. It is simply not feminine. This has caused me to question what feminity is all about. The world tells me that an adult woman with body hair is not considered feminine. Perhaps I aspire to being a woman rather than being feminine then. They do not seem to be the same thing.

Ultimately as a heterosexual female I want to be attractive to men. I want to find a mate. Is hair removal just part of the game we play in finding a mate? Is it simply part of the process of making ourselves appear more attractive. Just another tool like hair dye, lipstick or ear-rings? Perhaps but it doesn't seem like that to me. I can choose whether to dye my hair or wear lipstick. My family would not object to me arriving at a family wedding with undyed hair and without lipstick but hairy legs would be a bit much.

The strong emotional reactions which the visible presence of body hair on a woman would cause also surprised me. One female journalist in The Daily Mail claimed Trinni Woodall was letting the side down by appearing in public with hairy armpits. A female blogger refused to buy an album because the lead singer of the band had hairy armpits. These reactions of disgust towards the natural state of a womans body saddened me.

So I decided to conduct a little experiment on myself. I would stop removing my body hair. I wanted to see what I looked like as an adult hairy woman. It struck me as odd that I had no idea what my natural unshaven armpits and legs looked like.

Initially the growth of stubble was iritating but within a few weeks this passed. After five months the hair on my legs doesn't feel iritating at all. It feels quite smooth and much less irritating than stubble. I was surprised by how hairy my new "man legs" were. A womans hairy legs can actually be as hairy or even hairier than a mans. My hairy status has changed how I dress in that I don't wear sleeveless tops or short skirts in formal settings. I am quite wary of the negative reactions which my body hair may elicit.

My expectation is that men will find my body hair unattractive and masculine. However in reality I don't think men find my body hair anymore difficult to deal with than I do myself. Man legs on a woman is not something that we are used to. We have a lifetimes worth of conditioning to expect smooth hairless female legs.

But interestingly even with this lifetime's worth of conditioning I am growing to love my bleached blonde leg hairs. Ironically now my legs feel silky smooth all the time and not only when I have just shaved. I feel that I have been freed from my enslavement to the razor. Certainly some might say I have merely swapped my enslavement to the razor for one with bleach. Perhaps that it is true. But I like my new hairy smooth blonde legs. Sex however is much more spontaneous as I don't need to worry about stubbly legs. I am now constantly smooth. My freedom from the razor comes at a price; short skirts and sleeveless dresses in a work situation would probably cause uproar. But this is a price that is worth paying. They will be denied the beauty of my wonderful hairy legs!

Yet I am aware that in our current society my hairy body makes some sort of statement. Do my hairy legs mark me out as an anti-male feminist? Certainly I expect my hairy legs and armpits will limit my pool of potential partners. My current view is that my body hair will act as a filtering device to eliminate any of the more superficial potential mates. My hope would be that anyone who can't see past the societal conditioning about female body hair is simply not worth wasting any time on. The alternative view would be that my potential mates will made up of those who are so desperate that they don't care. Naturally I am adopting the former view.

From a personal viewpoint I don't regard my hairiness as being anti-male or anti-female. It is just a personal decision. Certainly I picked an easy time of the year to try my experiment in that when needed I have been able to easily cover my body hair. But I regarded this experiment as being more about whether I could accept my own natural hairiness or would I view my body with disgust. A hot summer next year will bring new challenges and decisions about strappy tops.


Blogger Michelle said...

I'm with you on this.

I haven't shaved my legs/armpits for months, and it has taken some getting used to. I like the way they feel, but the way they look has taken more getting used to.

As you say, the media is full of smooth, hairless women, so as your hair's growing you're kind of in the dark, not knowing what's going to appear, because we just don't see hairy legs/armpits on women.

But while it has taken some getting used to, I think that's because, as you say, "We have a lifetimes worth of conditioning to expect smooth hairless female legs." At the end of the day, I'm a woman who grows natural hair on my legs and armpits. And I can get used to that.

7:51 pm  
Blogger modestyrocks said...

Yes I have definitely found the look the most difficult thing to get used to. Which is why I have bleached my leg hair. I know this means that I have been cheating and I'm not a bona-fida natural woman. But I don't really care for me it's a journey of self discovery.

10:07 pm  
Anonymous Suki said...

Nice to read your thoughts I shaved for maybe a year to two in high school and have not shaved since. I am 33. I was fortunate to live for many years in towns on the west coast where many women don't shave and it was a non issue. I never dated a man where is was brought up and my former husband of 10 years did not see it as having anything to do with my femininity. I have since moved to a large midwestern town and am single and without community. It became an issue for me as to whether or not I would be judged by my body hair - it has kept me out of the pool at the gym with my kids, with long pants on more often than not and never in a tank top. I refuse to shave because I believe men and women have been conditioned regarding physical appearance and I don't want to pass that condidtioning on to my girls but at the same time I am feeling vulnerable to the judgement in a new community. As a friend so eloquently put it- I need to either shit or get off the pot. So I remain clean, natural an feminine and hoping I will find a fella in the area not narrow and judgemental. Happy Hairy New Year and enjoy all the time you have not shaving.

5:36 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please tell me why you said women can have hairier legs than men? I've read several times men have hairier legs than women, and that women's legs may be hairy but they don't compare to men's legs. Please reply?


2:44 pm  

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