It’s My Body, And I’ll Shave If I Want To

by Elizabeth G.

There’s been a lot of buzz about a somewhat new trend of women growing out their armpit hair, and even dying it.  I’ll admit, I don’t often shave my armpits; it’s never been a statement about my body, just a matter of laziness (and having delicate skin and cheap razors).  I’ve always shaved though when I was going to wear a tank top or bathing suit.

I also don’t frequently shave my legs.  I don’t really like wearing shorts, and I don’t often get to wear skirts in my line of work.  Nobody really sees my legs except for my husband, and he doesn’t particularly care if my legs are a tad furry.

However, I’ve started playing Ultimate Frisbee in the summers.  This means wearing running shorts.  This means having to shave before every game so my legs are presentable.

Yep, that’s what goes through my head on Monday mornings in the shower.  “I need to shave, otherwise, people will think I’m so gross!  Women who don’t shave are unclean, right?”

It wasn’t until I actually started thinking about what was going on in my head that I realized I was falling prey to something I’d always told myself I didn’t care about: I was objectifying myself.

I thought I was over that; I no longer “worry” about putting on makeup in the morning, or if my hair looks pretty, or if I’m wearing a “nice” outfit.  But I’ve still been doing it.  At some level, I still see my body as something that has to be attractive and acceptable to others.

I actually wore long yoga pants to play an Ultimate Frisbee game where it was over 80 degrees outside, because I’d forgotten to shave my legs that morning and I didn’t want to be late. I was worried about how I’d justify wearing shorts with hairy legs.

I was prepared to justify my right to exist in a public space.  My right to exist with leg hair, or with a blemish on my face unconcealed by makeup.  With my hair tangled and thrown in a pony tail.  With a shirt with a stain on it.  In sweatpants.  Every time the thought entered my head of “I can’t go out like that” I was telling myself that I had to earn or work for my right to occupy space in public.

I’ve stopped shaving my legs before going to Frisbee games.  And I still wear shorts.  Short shorts.  Because those are the appropriate shorts for running around in the heat and sun.

I still try to remember to shave my legs if I’m going to wear capris at work; let’s face it, there are scenarios in which people will judge you on your appearance, and that judgement can have a lasting impact on your life or position at work.  But if I miss a spot?  If I realize that I didn’t shave?  I don’t run home, and I no longer carry a razor with me in my car for “emergency situations”.

My legs aren’t there to be pretty.  They’re there to get me where I’m going.  My body exists to be strong and to carry me where I need to go to achieve my dreams. If I’m going to shave my legs and get dolled up, it’s because I want to, not because I have to.