Shaving Society – Do we put too much pressure on young women?

‘Why is everyone shaving their legs all of a sudden?’ 13 year old me asked. ‘Oh don’t I wish I had fair hair and didn’t have to worry about this!’ 14 year old me thought. ‘Why do I feel obligated to shave my arms and legs? How, if at all, should I be shaving my bits?’ 16 year old me asked. ‘Will boys like me like this? Or do they prefer that?’ 18 year old me asked. 

‘STOP!’ says 20 year old me.

Growing up and going through puberty, the big question of shaving was a big part of life. I was very self-conscious, having dark hair which tends to grow fairly thick on my legs and on my arms. I would ask my mum when I could shave my legs, and she would always tell me that I was beautiful just the way I was. She wouldn’t buy me a razor until I was 16, but I managed to bargain a bit before that because it was something I was getting too self-conscious about, all my friends were doing it and I was feeling like the odd one out.

She drilled it into my head that I was absolutely never to shave my arms or do anything to them, because this was how I was made, and thus it was part of my beauty. And then I started being involved with boys and except for the odd occasion with a few idiots, it was something I completely forgot about, especially when it hit me that the whole idea is something that is just a construct of society that I had personally completely blown out of proportion in my head and that at least in the type of guy I was looking for, it would NEVER be something that would come up! So anyway, I forgot about it. 

Then someone reached out to me and suggested that this could be a topic I could use this platform to discuss. And so, I sat down and had a think. As I pondered, the image of my beautiful little niece popped into my head and I thought of her little laugh and the fact that she had just started walking and this bubble of pride and love welled up in me.

This was soon followed by a flurry of anger and this intense need to protect her from an unnecessary pressure that the world may one day put on her. How dare society tell this beautiful little girl that she isn’t beautiful EXACTLY the way she is and that she has to alter parts of herself in order for boys to like her or for her to fit in. I was furious!

So I started asking my audience, you guys, what you thought so that I could find out more. As I reached out to people to get some different opinions, a young girl reached out to me and expressed the same feelings that I’d felt when I was younger and it made me realise that although I had forgotten about it and moved on from it, it hasn’t gone away and it’s still something that will keep happening.

This teenage girl was super brave to share this with me but she said that she felt judged by people her own age if she didn’t shave her body hair. She said that her life changed completely when she hit puberty before her friends and that she had been made to feel more self-conscious by the fact that she began getting called names; like ‘werewolf’, which is absolutely horrible and is just outright bullying. 

And so that’s when I realised that I absolutely had to write this post. 

I know that different cultures share different views on how their men and women are to tend to their looks, and I would never dare say that one is right or another isn’t because we should all respect how different cultures have developed. It’s also about personal preferences, and we’re all allowed to have our own opinions and preferences on how we take care of ourselves.

The muslim women prefer to shave their arms and the tribes in Africa stretch their earlobes and their necks, that’s the way it is. One of my friends made the point that human beings are one of the most advanced species on the planet and grooming ourselves is something which we have evolved to do, just like every other species, and that it essentially boils down to maintaining good hygiene and comfort.

I completely agree with this, but we can’t deny that we have made it into a bigger deal than just a base need for hygiene. The idea I refer to is the pressure, and it is pressure, placed on women by the western world, by magazines, tv and unrealistic ideals that make young girls think they have to look like the Kardashians and not have a single hair on their bodies, which is absurd!

It’s easy to say we make too much of a big deal out of it and try to dismiss it, but that would be unfair and dismissive to those to whom it is a big deal and who are affected by it. We forget that the reason it’s a big deal is because it influences how an entire generation sees themselves, and how they will, in turn, raise their children and it has led to the creation of a multi-million dollar market in the sale of hair removal creams, waxes and gimmicks with crazy side effects and all for what? 

I do shave my legs because it’s a habit I’ve started and I personally prefer it this way. Which means that I too have succumbed to this pressure. But I know why I do it, and I do it for ME! Not for society, and certainly not for any guys. If I leave things a bit late and I don’t have time to shave, you can bet that I will none the less step out of the house in my tiniest jean shorts no hoots given.

I don’t care what anyone has to say, they are my legs and I will tend to them how I choose. But I know that there are girls who will refuse to leave the house unless they’ve absolutely shaved their legs because they’re scared people will judge them. Moreover, now that summer has arrived, you can bet that me and my dark haired arms are going to be waltzing the streets of London no holds barred.

There are so many things that I have to worry about, and things to pay for, that I’m not of the view that adding altering the way my body hair looks should be anywhere at the top of the list. On top of that, lazer treatment is expensive, and waxing can leave you with all sorts of skin conditions if not done properly. In magazines and on tv, the women we admire and aspire to look like have removed all of their body hair and facial hair in order to have that flawless look.

Do I think women shouldn’t have their sideburns or upper lip hair removed? Should we remove the peach fuzz on our faces? Must we absolutely remove our arm hair? The point I want to make in this post is that there is no right or wrong answer. The problem arises when we make a big deal about the way it looks either way and when we encourage children to make choices about such things at too young an age. It has an impact on their self-esteem that often goes unnoticed.

If you decide that this stuff is important to you once you’re a bit older, go for it, if it’s not and it doesn’t bother you, then the rest doesn’t even matter. And the majority of people that I spoke to agreed that it’s a matter of individual preference and it shouldn’t even matter what anyone else thinks. 

We should be encouraging children to love themselves the way they are so that as they grow up, they will continue embracing their bodies the way they develop. The problem is not with what people choose to do with their bodies, because I think you can do whatever you want with your body, but it’s with what we choose to say about what others do with theirs.

If you want to do your thing, go for it, but allow others to do the same, whether that means the exact same thing as you, or something completely different. I honestly think it starts at home. If a mother is encouraging her child to shave her arms and legs the moment she turns 13 and hits puberty, she’s inadvertently sending the message that there’s something wrong with the way the child looks right now, and then this child will take it to school, and then little boys will think that that’s how girls are meant to look, and they’ll think there’s something wrong with the way the body was meant to look.

This little girl will then spend the rest of her life booking hair removal appointments and spending her hard earned money on all sorts of cosmetic things when she could be curing cancer or saving the dolphins because no man ever has to worry about fitting in time in his schedule to get a wax. I’m not saying a woman can’t do both because she can, but I’m just saying we should never have allowed it to become such a massive deal that takes up so much time. 

To digress slightly, I think I should point out that I don’t intend to be sexist and society does place some pressure on men as well. For example, all the magazine show pictures of these sexy male models in their Calvins Kleins and not a single hair on those sculpted chests. I’m sure that it has the same effect on some men as it does on women, maybe to a lesser extent. When it comes to removing hair on their backs and chests but you never see such a big deal being made about it. If there are some guys reading this who have something to say about this topic I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

I did a little survey on my blog and I wanted to share some stats with you. I asked my viewers if they thought that a woman absolutely has to shave her legs all of the time; 89% said no and 24% said yes. I then asked them if they thought that a woman who didn’t shave her legs would be deemed as less attractive and the majority of answers tended towards saying that this wasn’t the case. I asked them if they thought a woman had to shave her arms; 79% said no, while 39% said yes. Finally, I asked them whether they thought they were heavily influenced by the media and the latest trends when it comes to bodily upkeep or whether they didn’t care. 46% said that they were heavily influenced whereas 36% said that they didn’t care at all. 

Where did it all come from? Why did it start? If we understand this, then maybe we’ll be able to stop making young girls feel like they aren’t beautiful just because they have darker hair. You must have seen the fashion campaigns in Hollywood based around a no shave campaign with models coming out with photoshoots actually accentuating their dark-haired arms and grown out armpit hair. It’s an issue that even Hollywood has now realised they need to address. But I think we need to reach the point where it doesn’t even matter, hair or no hair, the beauty we look for in the shots shouldn’t even be about that.

And I couldn’t write a post about body hair and not talk about the perception we have developed about pubic hair and sex. When it comes to your private bits, focus on the YOUR bit. Do what you want with them and don’t let the crazy trends lure you into generalised ideas of what girls or guys will like or what looks better.

You’ll find that these preferences range all over the spectrum so you shouldn’t trust what the magazines say because you never know what that specific person you’ll be with will prefer. It’s something you have to discuss with your partner and what you two are into but at the end of the day it’s down to the woman because to quote a QUEEN that I asked, ‘it’s all fun and games until regrowth because then the itch is a b***h’. That being said, if you want to try out something funky or the latest trend, GO FOR IT! Try it out, but not because you’ve been pressured, but because maybe you’re being genuinely adventurous and are on your journey towards self-love. 

I will always remind my little niece that she doesn’t have to do anything with her body that she doesn’t want to do. I will remind her, just like I was reminded, and just like I’m reminding YOU reading this right now, that our bodies are beautiful exactly the way they are.

It’s time to take the importance away from something so superficial and materialistic and start worrying about more important things, like climate change, global warming and why they haven’t invented the time machine yet.

Love yourself, and be kind to others.

Sit back, grab some Oreos, and let’s see what life has to offer us next.

Love,

Vadz 

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