I never imagined in 6th grade, when I learned to shave my legs, it would become controversial that I shaved. Like most women, I picked up the razor and shaved for years because I was supposed to. I didn’t really understand why, but I was. I now recognize that shaving is an invention of beauty standards that formed out of patriarchy. I understand feminist reasons for not shaving and not allowing the body to be policed by beauty standards imposed upon women. I don’t care if others shave, and I applaud them for their daily resistance against beauty standards. I do care, however, when I am made to feel guilty by non-shavers because I shave.
I’ve never, luckily, had anyone flat out tell me I’m a bad feminist because I shave. I’ve had hints though. Have any other queer women out there had this happen to them? That time when their friend who doesn’t shave says in this matter of fact voice, “If you think about it, the idea of shaving is ridiculous. We grow hair and that’s more natural to women than shaving.” I usually just say yeah, sure, and move on. I don’t want to accuse them of accusing me of being a bad feminist.
I also regularly see blog posts and articles about feminists who don’t shave and why. It’s always similar reasons: it costs money, it takes up time, men don’t do it or at least aren’t regulated by society to do it, it’s a beauty standard, it’s more natural not to, and even that it’s annoying. I agree with all of these things. However, even as a working class queer feminist woman, I like shaving.
I like shaving because hair gets caught on stuff sometimes and it pinches. I like shaving because it’s time I take for myself to primp. I don’t wear make-up, but shaving is my jam. This is how I get pretty for myself. It’s easier to eat out a shaved woman. I like how it feels when my body is smooth. Hair under the arms makes me sweat more. It’s a habit I don’t have a reason to break. I shave when I have a partner, and I shave when I don’t have a partner. I shave for myself. If a partner told me they wished I did not shave, I would keep shaving because I want to. And I don’t think that’s a problem.
Within feminism, there has always been this push to regulate what other women are doing to make sure that they are “better feminists.” Just because I don’t wear make-up does not mean I shun women who do. I think women with or without make-up are beautiful and if make-up makes them happy, I’m not going to tell them to stop. Part of my pro-choice and feminist politics is allowing other women to be happy regardless of what they are doing, and I think it’s anti-feminist to do otherwise. Telling a friend who wears make-up that she is beautiful without it is perfectly acceptable, but suggesting she would be more feminist without it is wrong. I am going to keep shaving my legs, and I am still going to be a feminist activist who works to end oppression of women. These are not mutually exclusive. Feminism is supposed to represent a lack of policing women, and when feminists police other women, that is not feminist. It’s just a new manifestation of oppression.