As it’s summer the streets are now full of scantily clad women, with bare legs, shoulders, backs, midriffs etc etc. All very nicely tanned, smooth and polished.
I, on the other hand, am wandering around with – gasp, shock, horror – unshaven hairy legs.
To shave or not to shave is one of the archetypal feminist dilemmas.
I have a hugely ambivalent attitude to the whole shaving thing though. I suspect it stems from my childhood when my very unfeminist father proclaimed that he didn’t like women’s legs shaved, and that they looked like plucked chickens.
Consequently, my mother didn’t shave her legs, and I wasn’t brought up to regard it as the norm. I have no idea whether my mother wanted to shave her legs or not, as because my father didn’t want it to happen, clearly it didn’t. I have no idea why he said he didn’t like hair-free legs – maybe he didn’t want other men looking at ‘his’ woman’s legs.
So I gaily went through school, university and life with hairy legs, suffering endless boring jokes about how awful they looked.
Occasionally I dabbled with shaving them, and then thought they looked most odd and denuded. I really couldn’t decide which I preferred. Or which looked least worst.
I did go through a phase a while ago of shaving them in summer. I went to a beach party and met a German woman with a light covering of hair on her legs, and promptly thought my shaved ones looked odd again.
To explain, for the benefit of non-feminists who don’t understand the problem, the crux of the issue is the pressure put on women to conform to certain (male-imposed) standards regarding their appearance. Or to put it rather more bluntly, to make themselves look as sexually attractive as possible for the benefit of men. Because after all, as we know, a woman’s prime function is that of a sex object.
So to shave or not to shave is on a par with all the other so-called beautification issues. Somewhat like wearing make-up, high heels or any of the other things that women do to supposedly make themselves ‘look better’.
I really can’t get worked up about it though, or rather, I think every woman can decide for herself what she wants to do. I also accept that we all have to make compromises in our life in many areas, and the truth is that appearances do matter.
For example, some ghastly survey I read ages ago shows that women who wear make-up earn significantly more than their female peers who don’t paint their faces. I rarely wear make-up, not really from an ideological perspective, but because I don’t like putting a load of clart on my skin. I do not wish to walk round with such a thick veneer of make-up on that I get called cement face – as did one of my former colleagues. She also validates the survey’s findings however, as she is on well over a hundred grand now.
High heels – yeah I wore them in the past. Prob three inches max. But at five foot nine inches tall, they are hardly something I need to boost my height.
Hair – long, glamorous, sexy. Actually, my hair is longish. At the tender age of nine or so, my mother marched me off to her hairdresser and my nice long hair was cut into a vile page boy style. I was perfectly happy with my long dark blond hair and my swinging pony tail, or sometimes plaits, so I don’t know why it suddenly got cut. I was told it was fashionable. Not helped either by going to school the next day and one of my classmates telling me I looked like some historical male monarch.
But after that, it was never really very long again, sort of shoulder length. It’s not straight, so it never looks smart. So when I quit work, I just let it grow. It’s long and untidy, and occasionally I cut off the split ends. And pick out the odd grey hair. It’s much easier to manage. In summer I can tie it up, or pile it high – ok clip it up at the back. But it’s hardly long, glamorous and sexy.
And of course, that good old one – glasses. Or in Dorothy Parker’s words ‘Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.’
There are so many things wrong with that loaded witticism that I cringe with embarrassment to think I swallowed it totally as a kid.
1 – The objective is that all ‘girls’ want in life is for men to ‘make passes’ at them
2 – Naturally to achieve this, one has to conform to conventional standards of sexual attraction
3 – The unequal use of language, men are men but the women are girls
So I decided to wear contact lenses which I happily did for more than 20 years. I still do wear them, but last year I thought it would be interesting to try using glasses again. As readers of one of my other blogs may know, I bought some nice designer frames so that I could develop a snooty aloof intellectual image. (I probably didn’t actually need the glasses for that).
In summary, here I am, bespectacled, no make-up, with hairy legs, and flat shoes. Do I feel less attractive because of any of that? You see that’s not the point. I am not interested in whether or not men see me as attractive, sexy, desirable. My self-esteem comes from within – and not from how others see me.
And for an excellent example of what I’m talking about – here is an example of exactly the expectation and objectification that I am talking about. Thanks whyimbitter for sharing your educational dating experiences and sorry you met such a jerk.
Note – for anyone querying the grammatical use in the title please check here.