Adamswife’s Weblog

“Morning people should be forced to milk cows.” -J Kellerman in Monster

To Shave or Not to Shave? (The Legs)

Posted by adamswife on April 26, 2008

I was intrigued by a comment over at zazamataz.com about shaving your legs.

Consider the following statements – all of which I have personally heard on numerous occasions.

“I couldn’t sleep with him, I hadn’t shaved my legs!”

“She’s one of those women, she doesn’t shave her pits or legs.”

“Oh, I’m glad I’m not dating anyone, I don’t have to shave above my knees.”

Shaving is a choice but there are personal and social repercussions to choosing not to follow the cultural norm. I think over time it has simply become something most of us don’t question. It’s just a part of grooming, right? Yet women in many cultures don’t shave their legs. Men don’t typically shave their legs so there’s probably not a real health benefit to it. So exactly why do many of us do it?

Being the naturally inquisitive person I am, and enjoying a good “discussion,” I decided to see if I could find where this practice began.  Of course, the first source of internet information is Wikipedia which had this to say

The reasons for this cultural standard are debated, but it is sometimes seen as an example of a cultural mechanism for increasing sexual dimorphism. Others have suggested that it was promoted as a means of selling razors to a broader segment of the populace.

Research also suggests that women who do not shave their body hair are “characterized by higher global self-esteem.” [1][unreliable source?] Scholars suggest that this is because women with lower levels of self-esteem are less likely to be satisfied with their natural bodies, and thus more likely to alter them. [2][unreliable source?]

So, what do you think?  Is shaving your legs a sign that you lack self-esteem?  Or is it a way to differentiate between the sexes?   Or just an advertising ploy to sell more razors?

Snopes has some interesting discussion here.

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8 Responses to “To Shave or Not to Shave? (The Legs)”

  1. Zazzy said

    Hey, cool. I like your links. I did some searching after reading yours and I haven’t found a definitive answer.

    The Straight Dope agrees with the marketing theory. I don’t know that I do – perhaps the increase in shaving was due to marketing but it’s amazing how many of these little habits actually stem from religious teachings. I hope someone finds some good information.

    This comment, in the snopes article you linked, is what bothers me about the issue and why I say it is a women’s issue.

    “She regarded women who didn’t shave as hippies, blue stockings or continental tarts. She also firmly believed that middle aged women who didn’t shave had given up the ghost on being attractive and should be ashamed of themselves.”

    If it’s just a personal choice, then there shouldn’t be this kind of extreme reaction.

  2. Well, summer’s coming on and women of the US certainly feel as if they have to shave. I think it’s custom. It’s like bathing everyday… I don’t think it has anything to do with self-esteem. :D

  3. Cricket said

    What an interesting post! My personal opinion is the practice of shaving our legs was most likely started by the “tarts” of our American society and then a marketing agent for razors saw the value in promoting to women they could be sexier and therefore more appealing to their menfolk . . .and the rest is history and a very aggravating task.

  4. Christine said

    I was raised to think that it was not lady like to be have hairy pits and legs. Maybe the invention of silk stockings caused women to start shaving their legs. Shaving under the arms also helps reduce the possibility of B.O. Oh…I think the post was about legs. Well you are going to get my thoughts about arm pits too. Haha!

    I know some religious groups that think shaving is evil…as well as dying hair…perming hair…cutting hair and wearing trousers.

  5. Jientje said

    I prefer waxing them, the hair does not come back after a couple of years, whereas if you shave them you get cactus needles instead!

  6. I don’t think I’ve really thought about why I shave. I think I do it now so that I don’t scratch Phil in bed. I don’t like the way unshaven legs feel in jeans. I guess I’m just a part of the consumer machine. Boo.

  7. I just don’t shave my legs when I am feeling lazy. Luckily, my hair is light colored and soft!

  8. As a European male I can say that hairy armpits just aren’t an issue over here (only perhaps in the UK), don’t increase BO (don’t know where that myth came from) and for most women, aren’t even that hairy. Women just aren’t as hairy as men, and even if they have some showing, it isn’t anything other than a cultural issue whether it is acceptable or not.

    My feeling is it’s all to do with control. Let’s face it, for those of you who do shave, do you dread some man catching you on a day when you have not and telling you how dirty and disgusting you look? See, that fear controls your focus and keeps it off things the man is doing wrong. even worse perhaps is having some other woman tell you that… and that comes down to hierarchy in the breeding pool.

    As for me, do I shave? Not even my chin.

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