Why do women feel they have to/want to shave their legs/under their arms? I live in France (I am English) and in the summer I come across women with a full compliment of body hair and proud of it, yet I find it very difficult to muster up the courage to bare my legs/armpits in public without ridding them of every bit of hair they have. Surely as a paleo gal through and through I should have no problem adopting the cave girl look, or has that original cave girl look been romanticized into something it actually isn't?
Well, I now have hair under my arms and on my legs from a winter spent covered up and warm and I want to wear less clothes in the warmer weather but there is something holding me back that I know I shouldn't care about, but I do.
What do guys feel about this? Do you find women's body hair threatening, un-feminine, butch, sexy? Indeed, do you have issues about your own body hair in addition to these thoughts about women's hair?
What do girls feel about this, positive? negative? Is it really an anti-feminist issue at heart or something more than that?
I am really interested in finding out your thoughts.
In addition: Do any women go around in the summer with hairy legs/armpits and if so, how do you feel about it, have you come under any pressure from partners/friends?
There's an interesting history of female shaving over on The Straight Dope http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/625/who-decided-women-should-shave-their-legs-and-underarms Shaving of underarms and legs is apparently a quite recent (1915) development and started by advertisers who saw a large potential market for their products.
Aside from the whole waste of time issue - a big one for me - I refuse to be a patsy and hand my hard earned money to some clever marketers. (Who apparently didn't feel it worthwhile to target the men, probably because they were men and had NO intention of shaving their legs or pits!) My great grandmother and any prior women in my line never shaved; why should I suddenly find it necessary?
Honestly, I've always thought shaving underarms and legs to be totally bizarre. I have done it, especially as a teenager, but I rarely do it now. It has never impeded my ability to attract men, except for possibly weeding out the types I'm not interested in anyway. I do find that underarm hair will hang on to smell even when washed with soap, and if I'm going to be in a very sensitive situation, I'll shave for that reason. But it's pragmatic, a concession to the culture I live in.
Having social conventions about stuff is a normal human thing, even the pressure to conform to beauty ideals. It is what it is. But it's also normal for some people to not go along with all social conventions. I call them "outliers." I think that's how new tribes were formed way back when--someone would come along in the tribe who didn't march to the same drumbeat as everyone else, couldn't understand why everyone else lived the way they did and they'd set themselves completely at odds with their people, and eventually they'd get kicked out. If they were lucky they got to take a few friends along. Bingo. More diversity in human social groups.
But. I don't buy the argument that women should go along and shave because it's Paleo to go along with social conventions. So it's a social convention in the United States for women to be nearly hairless. (What's next, compulsory baldness?) But may I point out that strictly speaking, this is not a tribe. It's an artificial construct imposed on people who may or may not want to be a part of it, but who have nowhere else to go because nation-states are EVERYWHERE now. We're living in a very unnatural social arrangement now, mostly among people we don't know (also unnatural) who impose their will on us when they don't even know us. Most of you might not notice that if you've had the same neighbors and co-workers and romantic partners for the past 5-10 years, but in my particular life situation I notice it VERY much--and neighbors, workers, and romantic partners are not family or tribe, anyway. (When was the last time you called your mom?)
So in that context, hell, we're already not in a Paleo situation. The good news is that outliers aren't kicked out anymore unless they actually break a law. So it is not like anyone is going to throw you in jail for not shaving your legs. (Yet. It's looking like a few nuts in Georgia want to jail or execute women for having periods, though.) The worst you have to face is social harassment, if that.
In the past several years I quit bothering with shaving because not only did anyone around me care whether I did or not, but I was pretty broke and guys may not realize this, but on top of women having to shave larger areas of the body, our razors are also more expensive. I finally got smart and just bought guy razors, of course. It's the same thing, it's just blue instead of pink. But I'm still not OCD about the hair removal. I keep up with it in my pits because stubble in that area is just not fun. I might care more in the summer IF I wear shorts, but even then I'm usually in jeans.
But my feeling about any potential boyfriends is, again, it's MY body and if they're going to have a problem with my amount of hair I don't think I want them in a position of potentially making any life decisions of actual importance to me either.
I've dated guys of many different configurations of body hair. I used to think back hair would gross me out. Turns out that if I'm attracted to the guy anyway, the back hair doesn't matter. I don't care if he's balding either. But I don't go for a guy just for his looks, and I've always been flexible about those. I'm not shopping for an accessory. I want the type of relationship with someone where if I were to get into a plane crash and get my face burned off (warning: Mormon blogger, if that bothers you), he'd stick around. If he's gonna get into a snit about body hair, I can't trust him to do that.
It's really more about character than about period re-enactment, I think.
I think body hair on women in unbecoming. I know it's because of social conditioning, but I'm a product of my society. I don't think that's necessarily not paleo.
To definitivley answer your question: As an American, westernized, paleo guy, I am not able (or willing) to look past the conditioning to which I have been subjected. Body hair, to me, signifies dirt, odor, and overall poor grooming habits.
This is just my opinion, though. To each their own.
I think, for the ladies, leg hair and pit hair has got to go. Too manly. Ain't nothin like super silky legs. But hair elsewhere (eh-hem) is A-Okay.
For guys, stay clean and smellin good, and a little hair is usually fine with most girls, especially if you're a stud. If you look like a gorilla, and she likes it, fantastic. If you look like a gorilla, and she hates it, at least consider satisfying her wishes too, as she does for you by keeping well groomed.
I can't believe I am going to post this. lol!
Grooming is as old as humans and completely cultural. I think now that the world is more global, grooming preferences are becoming more individual based on personal preference rather than just societal conditioning. To each his/her own! (my personal preference for men is the less hair the better--embrace the bald! For women i think healthy skin and muscle tone is better shown off sans hair.) I think I would be strong enough to not shave my legs/pits despite friend's comments if I wanted to in a similar fashion as avoiding SAD food fare during social gatherings and resisting that pressure. Choosing your nutrition to best suit yourself as opposed to society should help with the resolve to choose your grooming habits to best suit yourself as opposed to society. However, I am not sure how well that would go over with a partner who may have a certain idea of attractiveness. Meaning I couldn't care less what society thinks, but I doubt my hubby would think hairy legs are as sexy as bare ones. He would deal with it because he's awesome like that, but luckily I love the feeling of smoothness too.
I mean if you're into the whole Paleo re-enactment thing, go for the hairy pits and legs, by all means. Yes, it is a social convention and all. All Paleo people have their aesthetic social conventions--look at all the various HnG peoples that pierce, tattoo, brand, stretch or engage in various other body mods. Women shaving is pretty tame compared to what many real Paleo people do.
It is worth noting that clothes are also a post-Paleo invention (at least outside of the spring and summer in the temperate zone and year round in the tropics). So you could go naked while you're at it.
It is your body, do what makes you comfortable. There are plenty of guys and gals that don't really care (and they're probably mostly in France).
As a woman, I just don't feel comfortable being hairy. I don't feel feminine if I have hairy legs and armpits. I'm sure that is some kind of deep seeded societal/cultural pressure that females have impressed upon them but it is what it is. The bottom line I think is that if you are comfortable with it and you don't care what other people think, then go ahead and don't shave. I don't know really any men that find hairy women attractive though so if that is important to you, that will be an issue and possibly a deal breaker.
I agree with hcantrall - I don't feel as feminine if I'm wooly. But I'm not one of those lucky women who only sprouts a bit of peach fuzz if she loses her razor. Still - I REALLY hate shaving, which is why I recently bought a couple Groupons for laser hair removal. It may be shamefully modern, but I LOVE that I will never have to shave my armpits or wax my bikini line again.
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