During one hot summers day, when a sundress was my go-to item of clothing, I apologized to my younger sibling Jay about my slightly stubbly legs on display. They said they didn’t care but followed up by asking me if I shaved my legs because I liked it that way or because it was what was expected of me as a woman. They had recently gone on a decidedly more hirsute pursuit and found it rather freeing. After some pondering I realized I didn’t have an answer to their question. So, my girlfriend and I made a deal to see how long we could grow our leg hair during the time we were apart during the Covid-19 lockdown. A test not only of who could grow the most hair but of whether, in all my 30 years, I had been duped by a social cue to go through the pain in the ass process that was shaving my legs regularly.
We are going through a moment of revolution right now. A revolution of people growing to question the arbitrary assignments of what ‘makes’a woman what ‘makes’a man. Blue is for boys and pink is for girls, once thought about critically, seems a bizarrely irrelevant status quo. A colour, is just a colour. Why, after so long, are we still basing our identities and presentation of ourselves based on which genitalia we happened to be assigned at birth? Aesthetics strictly gendered to safely put everyone into a little pink or blue box. The pink box filled with sensitivity, femininity and child bearing fixations and the blue full to the brim with the toughness, masculinity and a fixation with sport. Why does our sex confine us to a specific gender and why do we still adhere so strongly to the meaningless stereotype of what traits fit into which gender? Gender is a social term, not a biological one, which I had believed it to be before watching this episode of Crash Course Sociology.
When we separate sex from gender we realize gender’s vast fluidity and the oppourtunities this may bring for self expression. It feels like a free pass to allow yourself worry less about who people think you are and realizing who you actually are and living it unashamedly. On the most simple, surface level; what if I (a cis woman plagued by Veet ads since her early teens) want to have hairy legs?
A month or so into the lockdown I decided to shave my head (as did many others). I had always wanted to try it and frankly my hair was boring me. I had also never before had a partner that would have been very supportive of this so-called ‘drastic choice’. This added further to my quest to test random social norms, the ones that told me that to be a woman was to have long, pretty hair to play with when I was flirting with big, masculine men. A slave to the hetero-normative ideal.
So I did it and it felt wonderful. It made me feel badass and powerful, a feeling that was helped along by my colourful tattoo that slinks up from my neck around my ear. I love everything about it, from the lack of hassle to the feeling of freedom and confidence in myself, unbound by the concern of what others might think about how I looked. I felt a slight taste of what I’m striving for, true confidence in myself.
It was at this point that my leg hair was suddenly longer than my head hair.
All was well on the top of my head, however, further down my body I was reaching the end of my tether. The hairs had grown fast and thick and spiky. They were longer than I’d ever seen them and they were driving me up the wall. They disturbed my peaceful mornings reading on the balcony when I felt them blowing in the breeze. When the days warmed up a film of sweat formed a microclimate in my leg jungle. Growing my leg hair wild and free, it seems, was just not for me.
So finally, after reuniting with my beautiful girlfriend after 7 long weeks, not only was I declared the winner of the hairiest leg competition but I was a proud owner of the smoothiest, smooth legs you ever did feel. The short hair is here to stay though, for now.
Doing this simple experiment has given me confidence to test the waters more often, to think more complexly about how I want to present myself, to not fear showing the truest form of myself to others; physically and mentally. So I encourage you to also try new things. Go outside your boundaries and expectations of social or gender norms. It may not be something as surface level as leg hair, it may be something far deeper. It could even be just a small switch in thinking when it comes to our daily personal expressions or even the way we perceive or treat others who stand out against the backdrop of “normal”. You never know you may find something you like and when you do let those metaphorical leg hairs flow freely in the breeze.