I first noticed my leg and arm hair as a problem when I was 9. I was told by a classmate at the age of 9 that I had “man arms” and that I had a lot more hair on my legs than he did, which was “gross.” I am fair skinned and have dark brown hair on my head and my body, so it was very noticeable on my legs and arms. I soon moved to Texas due to my dad’s new assignment and right before I started the 4th grade, I began to shave my legs. Yes, that’s right. I started shaving at 9 years old.
Now granted, we were in the third grade and the kid probably did not know what he said was hurtful to me at the time and I doubt he knows his words had an effect on me that subconsciously carried with me as I started a new school. But, it planted the seed that made me very self-conscious about my leg and arm hair, especially as I went to middle and high school. I only shaved my legs and underarms throughout middle school, but once I started high school, I began to shave my arms as well.
It’s been six years of tiresome upkeep; at times I would be shaving my arms and legs every other day, even in the winter. But I have decided that I am no longer shaving my arms and I mean it. If I am being honest, it’s partly because I am too lazy to keep up with it, but it’s also because I don’t want to be ashamed of it anymore. I’ve come to realize that it’s okay to have hair on my arms. It doesn’t make me gross, it makes me a human.
I think the bigger issue is the genderization of body hair. We have made it so that body hair is associated with being “manly” or masculine, and therefore women, by nature, must not have body hair in order to be considered feminine. The funny thing is, body hair naturally occurs on everyone. Some people have very noticeable hair while others do not. Neither is wrong or right. It’s just different.
I don’t think women should feel like they have to shave their arms or legs if they don’t want to. There should not be any repercussions for a woman who does not want to shave her legs. It’s natural to have leg and arm hair, why do women have to shave theirs? They say it’s in the name of beauty, but who decided hairlessness was beautiful?
Another moment of honesty from me, I probably won’t stop shaving my legs. To me, it’s itchy and uncomfortable in leggings and jeans. But, I can’t say that if the tables were turned and I was not still self-conscious about my leg hair that I would still shave my legs due to the discomfort. I think I have been conditioned to be hyper aware of my leg hair and will continue to feel the need to shave until it’s considered beautiful to not shave my legs. Unfortunately, the self-consciousness won’t go away as quickly as I want, but it’s all about making progress and working towards a better society.