Wednesday, January 20, 2010

To Shave or Not to Shave, That Is The Question

I was bouncing around the internets today when I caught an interesting discussion going on in the comments of Crunchy's post about natural waxing. One commenter suggested that we women need to get over ourselves and learn to live and love our hair. Another argued, "Just seems to me that waxing the pubes and 'natural lifestyle' may be somewhat mutually exclusive."

To a certain extent, I think both of these commenters make fair points. There's a great deal of societal pressure for women to remove body hair and it sucks. I sympathize with women who would prefer not to shave their legs, but feel pressured to either go hair-free or cover their legs. Especially in a workplace environment, women often have no choice but to comply with societal norms. And that's not cool.

On the other hand, I'm not sure that I do see a contradiction between wanting to remove body hair and wanting to live a more "natural lifestyle" whatever that means. We all groom ourselves. We cut our hair, our nails. And I don't believe that societal pressure is limited to women either. Ask any American bearded man whether or not he feels societal pressure to shave. The answer is very likely, "Yes!"

I do believe one can be environmentally conscious while still preferring to remove some body hair. It's important not to conflate "eco-friendly" with "alternative lifestyle that I support." It's great if you don't want to shave or wear make-up. Good for you if you don't care about fashion. But, conversely, wanting to shave, wear make-up, and liking clothes does not make you anti-environment. Honestly, I've personally never understood what the big problem with shaving was. I don't know about you all, but I bought a Venus razor about five years ago and change the blade approximately once a year. As far as I'm concerned, the plastic and energy expended here is pretty minor. Waxing has its issues, but I circumvented that problem by switching to threading my eyebrows. For me, given that I prefer to remove (some) hair, giving that up would pretty much constitute hair-shirt environmentalism.

I think, in the end, grooming decisions are a matter best left up to the individual. (Or maybe the individual and their significant other.) As I see it, my job, as an eco-nut, is not to judge or to proselytize. My job is simply to say, "If you wish to remove your hair, here are some more environmentally friendly ways to do so."

17 comments:

風景 said...

wonderful ..................................................

Stephanie said...

From an environmentalist's standpoint, I think that's a great way to look at the options. But from the standpoint of a woman who does not want to shave but has been told her whole life that she "has to" shave, well, I can see where the commenters are coming from. There is far too much social pressure on women to shave, and that irritates me. (and probably irritates those commenters.)

heidi said...

I'm the au natural spouse of an au natural spouse. Ok, my hubby does keep his beard trimmed (comb & scissors style). But it's ridiculous to be told that my unshaven legs are unsanitary when men don't get the same reaction. And my male friends who want to (or do) shave get teased. Unless they're athletes. I say live and let live.

EcoGeoFemme said...

Great post. I don't comment here as often as I used to, but I still really love your blog, Ruchi.

knutty knitter said...

We mostly don't shave - I could never see the point for most of it. On the other hand, I do shave that darn mustache off. I have no interest in looking that masculine. Hubby just trims his :)

I did try removing so called unacceptable hair but it felt so uncomfortable that I never went there again.

viv in nz

thesimplepoppy said...

"It's important not to conflate "eco-friendly" with "alternative lifestyle that I support."

That line just about sums it up. I see a lot of that going on and it's so irritating. Men and women have been practicing hair removal for thousands of years. And while in this culture it's emphasis is on men's faces and women's bodies, all over the Middle East it is expected that men and women remove hair from AT LEAST their pits and privates. I sugar and my husband has a full beard,his mom hates it and he gets called "Amish" all the time. Great post.

Eco Yogini said...

yep, I agree with you and Stephanie... and I do think that often societal norms and mores are much more insiduous in our thinking and lifestyles- I can find the results of patriarchy everywhere and how it influences my worldview point.

It is ridiculous that women should be made to feel that our hair is somehow magically more unsanitary than our male counterparts.

At the same time, I like shaving my legs- once in a while. wintertime results in less. i figure like you that what i use is negligeable and I can focus my energy on something much more productive- like walking to work instead of driving....

Farmer's Daughter said...

Like you, I buy so few razors that I think the environmental impact is negligible. Haven't shaved my legs lately, it's winter.

My husband shaves his beard about once a week, so it's mostly in the stubble I can't stand stage. I wish he'd just grow a beard and be done with it, since he hates to shave, but people give him a hard time about it. I happen to like beards, since my dad's had one my whole life. If he shaved it, it would be weird!

I just have to shave my pits though, my own personal preference.

Anonymous said...

I think it's harder to let the hair grow out in our armpits because there's so much friction and the sensation is uncomfortable.

Leg hair is much easier to grow out (as in all winter), but you might be amazed to know that if you wear shorts to the grocery before your summer shave people won't really be staring and pointing. In fact, no one will likely even notice.

heidi said...

Arm pit scruff actually isn't so bad once it's fully in - mine started as a dare and at the end of the 3 months I didn't want to go back to shaving because of the prickles. That was four years ago now =)

Beth Terry, aka Fake Plastic Fish said...

I don't shave my legs unless I have to. But it's not that I think they look better that way. I'm just lazy and don't like bending over in the shower blind because the steam fogs up my glasses and I can't sit on the side of the tub because we have the track for the shower doors there and I could lift my leg and put my foot in the sink, but it's asking for trouble and probably a major concussion. So I just let my leg hair grow out until it's time to put on a bathing suit which is almost never or unless I want to give Michael a special treat which is more often than putting on a bathing suit but not much more.

What is eyebrow threading and how do you do it?

The word verification for this post is "nonoo." I almost think Google is doing this on purpose.

Rosa said...

This is great.

It's important that "green" not become a movement with specific markers (shaving or not shaving, eating meat or not eating meat, etc.) because that drives people away.

I've been out of the loop on activist/anarchist circles for a decade now, and we got invited to a potluck last month where I realized all of them were wearing the same dull, dark colors, and had cooked all the same foods.

That kind of conflating politics with style drives people away from the whole endeavor, just like treating it like an exercise in virtue.

Student Doctor Green said...

"But, conversely, wanting to shave, wear make-up, and liking clothes does not make you anti-environment"

Amen

Those venus blades do last forever!

I think it's whack that we have norms like shaving but it's the way it is.

chewbear said...

I agree with you. I don't think being environmentally conscious has to lead to an ascetic lifestyle. They are not synonymous in my point of view and we should not feel guilty for wanting to groom ourselves. I agree that people should decide for themselves what choices are right for them, and they should do things as eco-friendly as possible if they do choose to partake. I personally feel less pressure to shave my legs than my armpits. Maybe expectations will change in the future.

Alex said...

I disguise my laziness with feminism, i.e. can't be bothered shaving often, if asked state my belief that I shouldn't have to!

I'd never thought of it from an environmental standpoint...but I think most of these things are eventually kind of connected, eg respect others, respect the planet. So people shouldn't be forced to shave, wear makeup etc, particularly if it's potentially environmentally detrimental. But additionally, no one should be condemned for shaving or wearing makeup etc, particularly if it's done in an environmentally conscious way.

I guess it comes down to the delicate balance of freedom vs responsibility. The eternal conundrum for all us lefty-liberals out there!

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