Body Confidence: Lose the Razor
“I think most people still hold onto this idea that women have smooth – hairless – skin and it is odd that I/we/you don’t” – Legs (AT’14)
Body hair, and how people deal with it, has always been an interest of mine. For years I spent quite a bit of time and money shaving every bit of body hair off that I could, and – sadly – I would judge those that didn’t. I had fallen into the rut of social norms when it came to body hair – women should be smooth and hairless, and men could do whatever they pleased. I don’t know how or when I got into this mind set, because my mother never made shaving a priority (she shaves about 4 to 6 times a year), but I’m glad that I’ve grown beyond it.
When I set off from Springer for my Thru-hike, I had no intention of shaving while on the trail. This was mainly to save money, weight, and time – but I was also curious about testing myself on how long I could stand growing out my body hair. I lasted 2 weeks before I broke down and purchased a cheap razor. Since then, I’ve grown more comfortable with myself and my body image, that I’ve only shaved once (when I got home after completing the trail a year ago). My armpits are the only things I really shave with any regularity – and by regularity, I mean about once or twice a month – and that’s mostly because I feel like I smell less with less hair (I also don’t wear deodorant).
“I do what I want, but I do catch people eyeing up my armpit hair. Maybe I should dye it blue” – Cheezit (AT’14)
My reason for not shaving my legs varies day to day. When I’m hiking, I’m glad for the hair because I can feel creepy crawlies and ticks that much quicker, when I’m off the trail I secretly just enjoy the fuzzy and the reactions it gets. Yes, I enjoy making people uncomfortable by my comfortableness.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a poll on several Appalachian Trail related Facebook pages, asking women hikers what their shaving regimen was on and off the trail and what their friends and family think of their choices. I got all kinds of responses, varying from the “I shaved every time I was in town while on trail, and continue to only shave about every 3-5 days” to ” I haven’t shaved with any regularity in many many years.” It was also nice to hear that most of the women who responded rarely had any ill comments or looks. Well, at least from significant others. Some have had issues with judgmental in-laws and/or friends, but those can be easier to deal with.
“I do what I want. And the people who love me will continue to, and those who won’t, wouldn’t understand me anyways” – Lady Moose (AT’14)
I do what I want seemed to be the mantra in everyone’s responses. Ultimately shaving – whether it’s to shave or not to shave – is a personal choice, and no one else (besides swim coaches apparently) can really make us to what we don’t want to do. I’ve just started dating a friend from the AT and every once in a while he’ll threaten to shave weird patterns on my legs while I’m sleeping. I’ve actually caught him once or twice trying to tweeze some hairs off my legs – that got him a kick in the stomach. Any time he brings it up I just give him a good glare and tell him he can leave if he wants to. He hasn’t yet, and to be honest with you all, I’m pretty sure he was mostly joking about the patterns… maybe.
Recently social norms have gotten more liberal in regards to women and shaving – my Facebook has been flooded with images like the one below since September first, and over the spring I saw an episode of Mike and Kelly where they talked about a new “fad” that was sweeping the nation – women who weren’t shaving, but instead bleaching their armpit/leg hairs. I have to give it to those ladies for at least not shaving, but I really don’t get why they feel the need to bleach the hairs. I have a few non-hiker girl friends that chose not to shave on occassion, but for them it’s a big thing. They are always saying that they need to shave, or that they can’t pick up any guys this weekend because they haven’t shaved. Or they hide their curiosity for hairy legs under the “winter is no shave season” fad, so that they don’t have to worry about having to wear shorts or tank tops.
“Honestly at this point I think I feel most comfortable at these points of discomfort. That is to say, if I find myself in a situation or with people that pay particular attention to the fact that I’m hairy because it stands out as so different. I think I thrive more than if I would have shaved, because it almost feels like a lie. Lie is a bit strong – I’m trying to convey that it feels like something that people do to change/enhance their appearance temporarily, like a spray on tan, fake nails, or a perm… and it seems so unnecessary” – Legs
Who decided that women were only beautiful – or more beautiful and more feminine – if they were all dolled up with make-up, pale or fake tanned skin, in revealing/form fitting clothes? That they needed to present the illusion that they are always just as hairless as a baby, but with smokey eyes and full red lips? Now, don’t get me wrong – I think society has come a long way in redefining what is beautiful, but we’ve still got a long way to go before all females have the confidence in themselves to be able to present who they are, without the help of a mask and costume, to the world.
“I found it amazing once I decided to be comfortable with hairy legs, how much easier it was for me to be comfortable with my body in general. To not care how other people might judge me.” – Maury
“I am one of the people that believe in accepting my body in all its natural glory.” – Jamie
For most of the hiker women I polled, our shaving habits are not because of some fad or to even really make a stand against ridiculous social and gender norms – it’s mainly a level of confidence we have within ourselves to be able to say “I haven’t shaved in a while, but I’m still going to rock that short skirt and tank top.” But it is also a confidence to be able to say “I feel like shaving toady,” and not feel guilty, like we’re letting our “cause” down. We have ourselves and our loved ones and they’ll accept us for who we are with or without our wooly legs and armpit fuzz – or they wouldn’t be our loved ones.
None of this should be read as anti-shaving propaganda (though you should totally stop shaving). If you shave regularly and feel better and more confident that way – go for it girl. I left my (non-sarcastic) judgmental self in the trash years ago. What’s more important – most important- is to be you and as I’ve quoted many times today, just “do what you want.” Only you can decide who you are.
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Amen to this!! I shared a hotel room with a dude in Franklin who asked me if I was going to shave now that we were in town so that I would look nicer to everyone else. He couldn’t understand why I was laughing and I couldn’t understand why he thought I would shave for anyone but me (not to mention people I probably wouldn’t see again). Since getting off the trail I have shaved my legs but I kinda like my armpit hair.
I love this so much!!! Everything about it just resounds with me! Excellent article!!!