Presentation and performing

One of the phrases that is used alot in the feminist blogosphere is ‘performing femininity’.  Or gender, or sexuality, or anything. It’s one of those phrases that can start to sound pat and meaningless, but it’s one that sticks with me, that I think about all the time.  Performing rather than experiencing.  When is performing good and fun, and when are we obliged to do it for society’s sake, making it often tiring and oppressive?

Don’t get me wrong.  I love to femme it up.  And butch it up, frankly, as my weekend’s experience with power tools showed.  It’s just that, more often than not, I cannot be bothered.  I do not naturally fit the modern day requirements for femininity – as most people don’t.  Well, I have shapely eyebrows that don’t require plucking.  But that’s about it.  I have dark hair, I have a shadow moustache and my legs look prickly an hour after I shave, my hair is naturally limp and uninteresting and if I wear eyeshadow my eyelids itch and I rub it all over my fave in ten minutes anyway.  And while I am enjoying longer hair and the opportunity to do interesting things with it, I am also constantly cheesed off with it – at how much time and effort it is to make it do what I want it to.  And then I can’t, like… move my head quickly or whatever.  Which is boring.  So it does, more often than not, end up in a ponytail.  That’s a compromise I’m happy with.  I now own both a hair dryer and a curling iron, although I have admitted that they will be used once a month at most.  When I want to perform.  Which is not every day.  I think that’s part of the reason I like having blue hair – it always looks like I’ve put some effort in, however minimal.  And it takes me out of one performance category and into another.

I haven’t shaved my legs in about a month, though.  Today I am wearing knee socks, and you can see my heairy knees peeking over the top.  I wore shorts all weekend (with birkenstocks, no less, hello new stereotype).  I didn’t do this on purpose – it was winter and I couldn’t be bothered, and then I got some eczema on my legs so I thought I’d better not.  And before I got around to doing anything about it, I read this post from definatalie.  And I started to think about it.  Why do I shave my legs?  Lots of reasons.  I think I have decided not to shave my armpits or nair off my moustache anymore.  But the legs?  It’s confronting.

The week after I read Definatalie’s post, I said to S ‘I think I might stop shaving my legs’.  He said ‘ok’.  Like you might say if someone told you they thought their favourite colour was now blue instead of green.  I mean, that was pretty much the reaction I expected, and I don’t need permission anyway.  But it’s nice to be validated, I guess.  His response, when pressed was ‘well, you’re  a mammal’.  Which I think is an excellent phrase that I might need stitched onto a cushion.  (You’re a mammal.  Get over it.)  His other contribution, when I said I wasn’t sure if this was a Thing for me, was that I don’t have to decide.  I mean, obviously.  But I feel like I have to.  Like I am required to pick which team I belong to, or something.  But I am not sure, yet, whether this is a ‘I NEVER shave my legs’ stance, or a ‘I don’t, unless I have a reason to do so’ or even ‘I do it whenever I feel like it’.  Fine distinctions, maybe.  But somehow I feel like they’re important.

I think it’s because I feel like people make certain assumptions, if your legs are not shaved.  Not all of those assumptions would be wrong about me, but I am not sure I wish to place myself so heavily in whatever camp that puts me in.  On the other hand, who cares?  They’re legs, I’m a mammal, people can either get to know me and work out which assumptions are right and wrong, or not.  It’s not like I’m not going to get a job because I have hairy legs, or people will refurse to serve me at shops.  And, anyway, I already have blue hair.  I am CLEARLY a freak (I love my blue hair).  Then again, and this is more relevant, I feel a bit… ungroomed.  Scruffy.  I pretty much live in skirts, although not recently since I got too fat for them – but then my jeans have all worn out in the thighs, so I am back to skirts.  And skirt mean exposed legs.  And to me, exposed legs mean smooth, clean shaven legs.  I have yet to work out if this is because that is what I have been taught, or because it’s what I like, for myself. I almost shaved this weekend, when I knew it was going to be warm and I’d be in shorts.  And then I decided to wait and see.  Because maybe I am just unused to looking at it.

I feel a bit daft, writing an angsty post about my leg hair.  Like, welcome to the party, young one.  Also, get over yourself.  But I think it’s not too frivolous (almost, though) because my main sticking point is what it makes me look like.  To others, and also to myself.  I’m waiting to figure out what that is, and how I feel about it.  Meanwhile, my temperature is better regulated, and I have more time in the mornings, so I’m sort of happy with that.  Also, no stubble!  That bit is great.

In a semi-related note, you should go read Frances’ post about her bikini.  And look  at her fabulous, kick arse photos.  I want to give her a big hug because of that last photo.  Fabulous! I am determined to buy myself a bikini this summer.  I have a sensible swimming one piece, that is thick proper material and holds all the bits in appropriate places.  But I was a bikini so I can go to the beach and just hang out.  S burns in about 30 seconds (seriously, we went out yesteray and I could SMELL his head burning.  It was pretty gross), so I forsee many twilight swimming sessions.  So I’m not worried about skin exposure and cancer, in my bikini.  And I REFUSE to have any body hang ups about this.  So there.  Do you hear me?  REFUSE. The last time I had a two piece (actually, the first time, too) I would have been 13.  And about five adults told me ‘well, good for YOU’.  Which I found confusing, because I hadn’t realised it was a Thing, yet.  Anyway.  The point is, I am going to get my belly out this summer. I just have to deal with the expense.  Oh, nice things.  Why do you cost so much, always?


7 thoughts on “Presentation and performing

  1. I’m going through a body hair revolution too!

    I never shave my legs in winter. I figure they’re going to be covered in pants and tights, so I could get away with it. But as soon as it was warmer, I’d shave my legs once a week. I’ve been shaving my legs once a week since I was 10 years old. But this year, when the weather got warmer, I just left them. I put on a pair of shorts and went out in public with hairy legs. I can feel the breeze blow my leg hairs around and I have never felt that before. I like it.

    I stopped shaving and plucking my bikini line around the same time because I got sick of never-ending ingrown hairs. I stopped plucking my eyebrows because I started preferring the look of a fuller brow (I blame Crystal Renn).

    I still shave my armpits. That’s the one part of body performativity/social conditioning I can’t shake.

  2. I have the same conigitive disconnect when it comes to skirts and un/shaven legs. I think my thing is that I feel like leg hair makes my legs look messy somehow. I have pale skin and sort of sparse but dark leg hair so (I think) it looks kind of messy when I don’t shave. But of course that is probably totally thanks to social conditioning. I do my eyebrows from time to time (I pretty much plucked them into submission in my early 30s) and I do my pits about once a week. Legs, well that tends to happen maybe once every three to four weeks. Although with warmer weather it will probably be more often. Or maybe not ; )

  3. Nup. You’re on your own here!

    Hairy arm pits look gross for both men and women, and shaven legs on women look nicer than letting the forest run free.

    ( I have to admit I AM partial to a well-shaped, hairy male calf (as in leg, not animal)!)

  4. Totally agree about the blue hair & the looking like you’ve bothered thing. Did the same, but mine was pink. Now a more normal red.

    Me & a razor, we’ve actually, um, NEVER met. I did meet something like nair, 3 times (count ’em) when I was a teenager. I may change my mind one day – I’m open to that. In the meantime, I’ve worn opaque tights & sleeved tops for corporate roles. & on weekends sometimes, too 😉

  5. If I didn’t have to go to my job and didn’t want to wear skirts without tights then I don’t think I’d shave my legs any more. (The armpits get done about twice a summer just so they are not reeeally long) But I kind of feel like I should, which is silly. There have been a few women (feminists?) in my workplace that I don’t think shave and I once noticed a woman team leader wearing a sleeveless dress and shock! she had (dark) underarm hair. But I have recently become self conscious about my ‘stash. I never noticed it until a few months ago and now I feel the need to um, thin it out a little. I can’t wax or shave it becuase I think that looks equally weird…. sigh. Why can’t I just be a mammal?

    Like maybe I *should* just accept my freak status and do whatever I please.

  6. I go through phases with my underarm hair – I went for years au naturel but last year shaved them.

    I let it all grow over winter (legs and underarms) and as the sun emerges I’m faced with the annual do I or don’t I question. I’ll probably shave the legs, and just thin out the armpits, so the hairs aren’t super long.

    What a thing to write about on the internet, eh? Anyway, just wanted to say you’re not alone there.

  7. i’m with you, girl 🙂 i haven’t shaved my armpits for about 20 years and life is so much easier. legs get done when it’s hot but otherwise i just let it all hang out 🙂

    it was so lovely to meet you this weekend and to find another member of the Tribe!

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