Last weekend, Miss I suddenly asked her dad, as I was putting the little one to bed, if she had hairy legs. My husband was a bit dumbfounded by the question, so he asked her to explain where she had heard that. She said that last week, on Wednesday, right before Spring pictures, she had asked one of her boy classmates: “How do I look?” The boy looked at her up and down and said, “You need to shave your legs!” It took her a few days to actually come to us and ask what we thought. Quick as a flash, my husband just dropped this one on my lap. Why were my husband and I so shocked at all this? Well, for all of you who don’t know, my daughter is only 6 years-old!
Needless to say, the whole thing caught me by surprise. I was definitely not ready to have that type of conversation with her. She said I did not have hairy legs, so she was feeling like she didn’t belong. At that, I had to backtrack and talk to her within a social context. I have hairy legs too, but I do shave — occasionally. And only if my gams are going to be exposed in public. The truth is, my husband doesn’t even care about that kind of thing, so I do shave only as a social standard. I mean, even if he couldn’t give a hoot about whether they are hairy or silky soft, I do care and won’t expose myself in public looking like a Wookiee. But with a little girl, it is different. Heck, no one should be looking at her legs to begin with! It was rather hard to make her understand why it is OK for me to shave, for not for her… I usually teach her by example, but I’m not ready to stop shaving my legs, and I won’t ever consent to my 6 year-old to be shaving hers until she at least hits puberty! By then I hope it will be her choice whether she wants to shave them or not. The point is, it should be her decision, not peer pressure. And definitely not peer pressure at Elementary school level!
Shaving as a social norm
Upon hearing our talk, my husband decided to chime in and told Miss I a story about a girl at his high school when he was a teenager who refused to shave her legs. He said that this girl was absolutely stunning, so no one could even dare tell her that she was not beautiful because she had hairy legs. My youngest sister has been refusing to shave her armpits for years now, not even caving in when her dad asked her to do so for his second wedding… Why is it that female hair is considered unsightly? All this reminded me of the first time I ever shaved mine. I was about 14 and wanted to go hook up at the mall with my older aunt (she’s 4 years older, so she’s more like my older sister). I don’t recall who told me that if I wanted to start hooking up with boys, then I had to start shaving my legs. I have to say that thinking back on that, I’m sad I bought into the social norm so easily without even questioning the whole thing.
So… to shave or not to shave. That is the question.
One the one hand, I love that there are so many social campaigns by women and for women to grasp their rights to choose and do whatever they want. There’s even a tumblr group called The Hairy Legs Club. There many women share their photos and stories on why they decided to stop shaving their legs. I also love all the campaigning Dove has been doing to regain women’s true beauty. Here’s a clip for girls I love, and gives me chills every time I watch it. (There’s more text after the video, so please scroll down).
It really terrifies me to see how sexualized our kids are becoming. Miss I would even like ME to dress more sexy, use makeup and pumps to go pick her up at school. At this very early age they are way too conscious of the standards of social beauty and needing to transform yourself into someone you are not in order to be considered “beautiful”. How can we break the pattern and return to a more natural beauty? I really think it is within out power, as moms, to make sure our daughters grow to be confident kids. Not only about how smart and capable they are, but also about how beautiful they are without needing to pluck, pull and color every last bit of themselves to please other people. I still have to figure out how to give her the tools and self-esteem to make her blossom and grow to see how gorgeous she is in her very own eyes.
How do you help your daughters, sisters and mothers realize how beautiful they are?