Only *YOU* can prevent Unshaven Legs

A common (though by no means universal) early stage of feminist awareness is the Questioning Oneself Phase, also known as the Am I Inadvertently Furthering the Patriarchy Phase, or the Oh Fuck, I’m Doing It Wrong Phase.

This is a phase accompanied by (if you wear makeup, skirts/dresses, shave, or do any traditionally coded feminine actions) questioning why you do so, deciding if you need to stop doing so, questioning why you started doing so in the first place… You may also question your choices of entertainment, music, employment, relationships, and any decision you have ever made through the lens of your newfound awareness of the omnipresent Patriarchy shaping your decision making.

It can be a terrifying time, fraught with second guessing. It can be a liberating time, as you throw out old modalities that never really worked for you anyway.

Luckily, in this confusing time (and indeed, at all other times too), advertising will always exist to remind you that you have an obligation, nay, a duty to Society to continue patterns of female-coded appropriate behaviour.

I’ve always found that the only time your legs feel like sandpaper is when it’s growing back after you shaved, forcing you to continue to keep shaving, but that’s just me. Certainly I’ve never found my legs to become chocolate-like post-shaving, which is probably just as well, as that might lead to some cannibalism. Mm, chocolate.

Schick’s new campaign is a non-unique snowflake of female shaming designed to enforce existing ideas about what is “acceptable.”

Click here and then “Watch Video” to see a Rube-Goldberg-like commercial where a woman’s unspeakable crime of not having shaved recently enough (the apparent stubbliness of her legs and lack of visible hair lead me to conclude that she does usually shave, but maybe just didn’t have time today) leads to one catastrophe after another for those around her. (Note, too, that it all starts when her male companion continues to grope her, even after she has actively discouraged him from doing so.) See? Failing to shave is endangering the lives of those around you.

It is not just about deciding for yourself what is attractive. It is about your *duty* to *society* to be a certain way, to fill a certain role, to be *acceptable* in the public space. And this acceptability is about constraining women, about making them feel they need to jump through hoops just to be visible or claim space. (Well, okay, in Schick’s case it’s about selling overpriced disposable razors, but there are larger trends at work.)

Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose: Your hairy legs could be mass murderers even now
Mow The Lawn at Sociological Images

Women haven’t always had to shave, even in American culture. This post at Sociological Images documents the rise of advertising in the early twentieth century designed to make women feel as though they’re doin’ it wrong if they didn’t remove “offending” hair.

We are now in a society where our image of what females are “supposed” to look like has less and less basis in reality, thanks to the ubiquity of retouching and Photoshop. (Here’s a NYT video on image retouching.) How can constantly being told that unless you change all sorts of things about yourself you’re not acceptable not have an effect on women?


5 Responses to “Only *YOU* can prevent Unshaven Legs”

  1. 1 REL
    11 April 2009 at 11:48 am

    Interesting. My thing about shaving my legs is, leg hair irritates me, especially in the summer when I’m sleeping in shorts, I take comfort in the smooth feeling of my legs, not the prickle or even the hair I guess, I can’t stand it. But I do understand the oh shit I’m doing it wrong phase. See I have an inherent love for make up, and I spend a lot of money on make up (especially because I insist on wearing PETA approved, certified vegan, make up.) Well, on one of my many drives from Las Cruces to Albuquerque (actually I’m pretty sure I was driving back.) I had this thought that is my love for make up anti-feminist? This thought became profoundly worrisome so I called a friend, and his explanation was very comforting. He told me that so long as I was wearing and purchasing make up to appease myself and not to satisfy a social image, or someone else’s projected image of who I should be, I am not going against any of my core beliefs. I’d have to say that I agree with this. Granted the advertising and “need” for make up is slightly anti-fem my use is not because I do it for the colors, I’m a big fan of color, and I do it for myself. And the don’t wear skirts thing is bothersome because frankly, I hate wearing pants. Really hate pants. A lot. I’d prefer we didn’t have to wear them, skirts are the next best thing, in my opinion. Lovely post, and I think the girl without make up is far prettier, but that may just be me.

  2. 2 Ann
    11 April 2009 at 11:31 pm

    I am a non-shaver! And I freaking love it! My husband encouraged me to stop shaving years ago when I began to consider it which was before we were married.
    You’re just talking about legs! Only recently have I started to pluck my eye brows again. It’s probably b/c I’ve watched too many episodes of What Not To Wear! I love it when gals rock hardcore mustaches! Mine’s light but visible sometimes. A friend of a friend who was in a band sang a song about bohemian bushes! I’ve never researched hair removal. However, I connect it with looking prepubescent and women’s role as consumers. Hair is womanly! *flexes biceps*
    It’s getting warmer now and I haven’t shown my legs all winter. I was feeling a bit self-conscious about my body hair. But not any more! Thanks!
    I’ll check out your links. I just wanted to give a WOOOOOWOOOO! for body hair first!

  3. 3 vickeycheng
    13 April 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Oh My God! What happened to that poor cat? Isn’t that a bit extreme use cat to tell women to shave? TO me, all these images are some kind of messages to show the standard of how women should look. What about men?
    I have shaved and used some chemical hair remove product. And I finally give up shaving my legs. Razors cut our leg skins and chemical hair remove products often result chemical burn on our skin. Women need to go through so many painful stuffs to be beautiful, and the question is: Is that worth to do so?

  4. 4 arthermit
    15 April 2009 at 3:30 pm

    For what it’s worth, the cat is supposed to look like that, it’s a breed called the Sphinx and it’s naturally hairless.

    What really scares me is that not only are we supposed to go to these extremes to look *beautiful,* we’re being pushed to do all of this ridiculous, expensive, time-consuming stuff just to be *acceptable in public.*

  5. 5 docjay
    16 April 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I believe the cat is a Devon Rex. Very interesting post!

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