Hairy Legs, Social Conformity & Freedom

 

girl for blog

After 8 months of not shaving, I’ve groomed myself, tidying and shedding the body hair I had allowed to grow.

It wasn’t a decision I made lightly.

Why did I choose to be hairy?

I have to confess that initially it was due to laziness. Why should I have to do this? I thought. But mostly it was to do with reclaiming my body.

I realised I had NEVER seen my own body in its ‘natural’ state.

Ya know, as nature intended and all that. I didn’t know what I looked like in full hairiness and I wanted to find out.
And so I stopped shaving and allowed it all to grow. And grow it did, before long my legs were just as hairy as my Man’s and my lady garden was like a beautiful wild meadow.

The thing that bothered me the most though were my legs. After 42 years of knowing myself as a smooth legged woman, here I was stroking my black hairs wondering who they belonged to? They didn’t look like my legs.

My legs were foreign to me. I didn’t recognise myself.

After a quick look on google it appears that humans have been de-hairing themselves for a long time now, although the reasons are not clearly known, historians have guessed at hygiene, status, and fashion.

The pursuit of a hair-free body may be as old as the cavemen. Archaeologists have evidence that men shaved their faces as far back as twenty thousand years ago, using sharpened rocks and shells to scrape off hair. The Sumerians removed hair with tweezers. Ancient Arabians used string. Egyptians, including Cleopatra, also did it — some with bronze razors they took to their tombs, some with sugar and others with beeswax. The Greeks, who equated smooth with civilized, did it, too. Roman men shaved their faces until Emperor Hadrian — although Julius Caesar is said to have had his facial hairs plucked. Roman ladies also plucked their eyebrows with tweezers. Another primitive method of hair removal, actually used by women as late as the 1940s, involved rubbing off the hair by rubbing skin with abrasive mitts or discs the consistency of fine sandpaper
Hair removal specialist Depilatories

Whilst both Men and Women throughout time have been under pressure to remove body hair for various external and psychological reasons, in more recent times it is women who fall under the most body hair scrutiny, spending the most amount of money and time on maintaining smoothness.

In her much cited essay in 1988 Sandra Bartky argues, “In contemporary patriarchal culture, a pan optical male connoisseur resides within the consciousness of most women: They stand perpetually before his gaze and under his judgment.”

As I stood before my mirror and enquired deeply into why I didn’t like the reflection, the answers within spoke of shame, a fear of not being sexy, feminine, attractive etc. Interestingly my worry of external judgement didn’t really come from what men or my partner thought about me but rather the disapproving eye of other women and their scornful scoffing.
Winter and England’s cold climate were my friend, affording me time to secretly grow and nurture my inner wild woman and identify self judgement, rewrite my relationship to beauty, femininity and sexiness.

As the wheel of the year turned and Yule became Beltane I wondered how I would choose to proceed into Summer Solstice?

I found it difficult to know whether my decisions where echoes of a society wishing to control women or my own preferences. I wanted freedom of choice, not more limited thinking.

I didn’t want to swop one master for another and force myself to have hairy legs in an attempt at civil disobedience.

And so just a few short days after Beltane coincidentally  my partner asked me how I felt about shaving/trimming my body hair? Normally this would have triggered a barrage of feminist quotes and feelings of outrage that he dared have a preference to how I looked.

But something was different. I was able to discuss it openly and lovingly, sharing my inner struggle against not knowing if I was being controlled, brain washed and oppressed.

Listening deeply, he asked what I wanted and helped me to unpack my feelings and preferences.
I discovered that I wanted to cycle with nature and shed my hair in a symbolic way, letting go of the unwanted as I remove my hair and make way for the new, celebrating the fullness and frivolity of the energy of summer.

summer fun

And as the leaves fall later in the cycle with Lammas and Samhain, I will feel into whether I will don my hairy winter coat as I prepare to hibernate once again

After contemplation and research there is no doubt that hair is an important part of being human forging strong links with spirituality, meaning and myth which is signified in our archetypal stories of Samson and Delhia, Repunzal, Mary Magdalene & Jesus, as well as Medusa and the Norse Goddess Sif, known for her golden locks.
Whilst these stories do all refer to head hair, I feel that body hair is just as symbolically powerful otherwise why would we all be so bothered about it?

With Love
Emma.

**Feature Image
A submission to the Hairy Legs Club Tumblr Tumblr/Hairy Legs Club

 

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