What I Learned When I Stopped Shaving

The first time I shaved, I was in 7th grade. I hadn’t completed puberty yet, and the soft peach fuzz that lived on my legs showed itself prominently through my PE shorts. Looking around, I began to feel self-conscious of the thin hair that I had grown as all the other girls in the class were showing off their smooth, hairless legs.

That night, I asked my mom for a razor. She looked at me sadly, knowing that her little girl had finally been subjected to feeling uncomfortable by her own body hair for the first time. However, she complied, and gifted me with my first razor. I meticulously spent my shower that night carefully running the metal blades across my skin, getting rid of any trace that my legs had once been home to body hair. The next day, I excitedly put on my PE shorts to show off my shiny new legs. I felt mature and womanly, confident in myself and in showing off the parts of me that I had altered to fit a societal beauty standard. 

That was the first time I had been ashamed of my natural body hair, and that feeling would stick with me for close to ten years as I, like many women did and still do, continued to spend endless amounts of time and money and emotional investment in this cause. I soon became obsessed with shaving. Any trace of body hair, I wanted gone. My toes, fingers, nipples, stomach, arms, butt crack. If I had hair in any of those places, I thought I would be disgusting. But in reality, no one was inspecting my butt crack for hair. I had fed myself an internal dialogue fueled by societal expectations and the microaggressions from those around me for so long. I believed that women needed to be “clean” from all body hair, and I would become repulsed if I went more than a few days without complete removal of all of it. 

Shaving has a long and sexist history for women, and it’s one of the ways that women are controlled by consumerism and the patriarchy to behave in a certain way to comply with societal expectations. As my world view expanded and I started to realize these things, I made a bold choice for myself; to stop shaving all together. This may not seem very brave or impactful to you, but it affected me in ways that I didn’t realize when I first made the choice.

First of all, why would anyone care if I have hair in my armpits, or sticking out of the holes in my ripped jeans? I don’t know the answer to this question, but I do know that for some reason, they DO care, a lot. My friends would constantly shoot unfriendly comments to me about it. A lot of them were legitimately mad and told me that I was disgusting.

However, all of this criticism impacted me in a positive way. It affirmed my belief that I don’t give a shit about what anyone thinks of me, I am a strong woman, and women should be able to choose what to do what they want with the body hair they grow. When I shaved my legs for the first time at the young age of 11, my leg hair hadn’t even seen the light of day. Now, my relatively full and hairy legs often surprise people. They don’t realize that women can even grow that much leg hair since it is so rare for them to do so. 

Today, I look at my body hair and I am grateful for it. It reminds me that I an amazing person capable of many things, and that I don’t need to look to anyone for approval. It makes me feel feminine and beautiful, and I hope that one day all women can decide for themselves what to do with their body hair without the imposed societal expectations that limit their choices today.