By Cady Inabinett, Editor in chief
I’m not exaggerating or speaking in hyperbole when I say that I love my hairy legs. I really and truly do.
In January 2019, the middle of my junior year of high school, I decided to stop shaving. At first, I had only intended to stop for the month. I figured I had, more or less, been shaving at least once a week for the past five years of my life, and that it could be interesting to see what it would be like to not do that.
Then, January ended and I started saying I would start shaving once it got warm, since I would be wearing shorts again. If no one could see my leg hair, then was it really there? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it really make a sound?
Spring came and went, and a razor was still yet to touch my body. Summer was in full-swing, shorts were, once again, in the wardrobe rotation, and my hairy legs were on full-display for everyone to see.
Fast-forward to almost five years later, and I can count the number of times that I’ve shaved since then on a single hand. It’s been nearly three years since I’ve shaved at all.
Now, there’s three main reactions I can see you, reader, having to this letter thus far. Reaction option one: you’ve read this letter so far and your only reaction has been, “So what? Who cares what you do with your body?” Honestly, this is one of the preferred reactions. You can probably stop reading this letter here and go on about the rest of your day.
Reaction option two: you’ve read this letter so far and your main reaction has been, “Gross! Body hair on a woman? That’s so unhygienic!” This is not the preferred reaction, and I encourage you to read on and hear me out.
Reaction option three: you’ve read this letter so far and your main reaction has either been, “Oh cool, I love my hairy legs too!” or, “I can love my hairy legs? This was an option?” In both cases, I also encourage you to read on as well. This is my love letter to my hairy legs, and I think it might resonate with you, too.
First and foremost, to those that believe that women’s body hair is inherently unhygienic: let’s interrogate that thought further.
Body hair grows naturally. There is no difference between the body hair that grows on women’s bodies and the body hair that grows on men’s bodies. So why is it that body hair is only seen as unhygienic or unseemly when it’s growing on a woman’s body?
The truth is, women’s body hair isn’t inherently unhygienic. Years of marketing tactics have just made you believe that it is. Shaving body hair wasn’t even a common practice for women until the 1920s, when advertisers decided to start marketing razors to women who were now wearing more revealing clothing than in decades past. My decision to not shave may be an aesthetic choice I make when it comes to my personal upkeeping, but it is certainly not a matter of personal hygiene—it’s literally just hair that grows on my body.
One of the main reasons I think I love my hairy legs is because not shaving feels like a small act of autonomy in a culture that seeks to strip as much autonomy away from women as possible. In particular, not shaving my legs feels like an act of defiance against the toxic beauty industry that creates and mass markets insecurity to women in order to turn a profit.
As I pointed out earlier, there is no difference between men’s and women’s body hair. Yet this idea that women shouldn’t have body hair has become so culturally engrained in our minds that so many women are left buying hair removal products, such as razors and wax, from before they’re even teenagers until the day they die in order to achieve that standard. Thinking about that makes me feel dizzy—the fact that something so arbitrary can have such a death grip on so many people’s minds. It makes me want to run away from society forever and live in a cave.
I wanted out of this beauty-poisoned rat race of seeing who can give the most money to corporations to be the most beautiful and, therefore, correct for just a fleeting second. Who is shaving serving? Not me, that’s for sure. I didn’t even care that much about having smooth legs for approximately two days before stubble started growing back in.
So, yes, I love my hairy legs. I love how soft my legs feel when I run my hands over them. I love wearing shorts and feeling the breeze blow through my leg hair and seeing how golden my hair looks when the sun hits it just right. Most importantly, I love the fact that my hairy legs affirm the fact that I’m not a commodity, I’m a person.
I’m sure there are many people who will always view my body hair as gross or unkempt, plenty of people who I will never be able to convince of the fact that women are expected to shave is a misogynistic double standard. Ultimately, I’ve made my peace with this fact. At the end of the day, I’m happy with letting my body exist as it is—others’ reactions to my decision to embrace that tells me what I need to know about them.
Cady Inabinett is the editor in chief of The Alabamian. She’s majoring in English and double-minoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She enjoys reading, watching movies, caring for houseplants and generally just being pretentious in her free time.