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Molly Longest / Her Campus
Experiences

How I Overcame My Internalized Misogyny

December 31st, 2020. It had been a beyond horrible year and I was quite ready to move on from everything that had happened. My family and I had plans to spend New Years Eve with my brother-in-law’s side of the family, so I showered, got ready and dressed, and we went. Part of that routine included shaving my legs, since every December 31st since my Freshman year of high school, I had an ongoing joke with my friends on “who could last the longest without shaving their legs?” 

At the time, I didn’t think much of the joke—most times we only made it until February—but seven months later, I learned more than I ever thought I would. 

I always prided myself on not being misogynistic. I always made sure to support other girls around me, not bring them down in any way. I was known at my high school for being extremely feminist, calling out anyone who said anything sexist or misogynistic. 

I never realized though, until I reached two and a half months of not shaving, that I had an immense amount of misogyny internalized towards myself. And when I really thought about it, it made sense that I had so much. Growing up, before middle school, I was a hardcore “pick me” girl. In sixth grade I groaned loudly about not wanting to sit at the girl’s table and planted myself next to the boys. I hated skirts and painted nails, makeup and high heels, dresses and flats. I hated the color pink. I grew into myself without growing into any feminine confidence. I grew insecure and any femininity I did have was fragile. I wanted to be the type of feminine that others liked. I was entirely unaware that it had been brewing all this internalized nastiness inside of me. 

That is until I went to LA for the weekend in a skirt that showed off my,very notably,hairy legs. 

I felt disgusted. I felt uncomfortable. I crossed them over each other when I sat so as to not show them. I was embarrassed and ashamed. The foul things my parents told me felt true in my head. How could I be confident in a skirt when my legs looked like this? How could I perceive myself as beautiful when I dared to go out looking like this? I hated myself for it. I wondered why I felt like this, and if shaving my legs could really fix the problem. 

But those questions stopped the rest of my thoughts in their tracks. Why do I feel like this? Will shaving even help? I had asked these questions insecurely at first, but I took a moment to look at them from a different perspective. Did my hairy legs make me feel dirty because I thought it was dirty or because I had been told my whole life that it was? Would shaving make the dirtiness go away, or would it just be a way around a bigger issue? 

That was around the time I was planning on going back to in person school for my senior year of high school. My parents began pressing, asking when I was going to shave before school. I decided I wouldn’t. I had already identified the issue as internalized misogyny, and was ready to start breaking it down. On the first day of class, I wore a skirt. If anyone said anything, I didn’t hear. I didn’t care.

And I didn’t for the rest of the year. Slowly, I got bolder and bolder, even without shaving for the past five months. Each day was a new outfit, each day was a new level of confidence. Each day my leg hair grew darker, and each day I cared a little less. 

At one point, it became almost unfathomable for me to picture myself without my body hair. My friends went on and on about how it suited me and how it inspired them to feel more comfortable with their bodies. That’s what not shaving had forced me to do: become comfortable with myself. In that, I’d found new levels of self love that I never knew existed before. 

It took me seven months to shave. At last, on July 31st, 2021, I allowed my sister to help me apply Nair all over, and my leg hair was gone. 

It was a bittersweet parting. My legs looked skinnier and thinner at first, but I had done it because I was finally comfortable enough with my body to love myself with and without body hair. Now, I shave when I want to, not because I feel like I need to or have to. I didn’t shave for my high school graduation, but I’ll shave at night to feel the softness against my sheets. 

All in all, it’s my body, my choice. I have the confidence to be comfortable with whatever decision I make. At the end of the day, that’s what matters.

Hi! I am a first year, Classical Studies major at UCSD! I love reading (mostly rom-com novels and classical fiction) and writing (mostly fiction and poetry). I am a diehard Taylor Swift fan and cat person!
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