I hate shaving my legs. Although I understand the euphoria of two well moisturized, hairless limbs resting upon one another, I have a life. I also have long legs, and shaving in a 3×3 shower stall wearing plastic flip flops is a feat easier said than done. I appreciate the times my legs are freshly shaven, but it is not always on the top of my priorities list.
When November rolls around, sometimes I participate in No Shave November. No Shave November is a cultural phenomenon wherein people refrain from removing hair from their body for a month. The event has its roots in a non profit, which describes No Shave November as “a month-long journey during which participants forgo shaving and grooming in order to evoke conversation and raise cancer awareness.”
As many cancer patients must undergo chemotherapy, and consequently lose their hair, No Shave November is a way to be grateful for our health and send love and respect to those who are suffering from the disease. By participating in No Shave November, we also are encouraged to donate the time and money we spend on shaving to the cause.
As shaving my legs is not my favorite hobby, participating in No Shave November is a win-win for me. I don’t have to shave for a whole month, and I also am raising awareness for an incredibly important cause. But as No Shave November has grown in popularity, it has also grown into something that is rather male-oriented. Men let their facial hair grow wild and free, proudly demonstrating their masculinity on their cheeks and chins for a good cause. This has become glorified in our society, as everyone looks out for bearded folk throughout the month of November and sends them nods, smiles, and high fives of appreciation.
Although the concept of No Shave November is clearly honorable, effective, and important, I have begun to notice a bit of a double standard in its implementation in society. When I proudly show off my glistening golden leg hair in the November sunlight, people give me funny looks. They are shocked by my lack of embarrassment, and act as if I am neglecting an essential element of personal hygiene. It is a societal expectation that women should have bald legs. And bald armpits. And that we should always be moisturized, tanned, and smooth as can be. But men, on the other hand, have the ability to groom, trim and shave themselves (or not) as they so please. Whether it be a mustache, a goatee, a full on Santa Claus beard, or a face that is smooth as a baby’s bottom, men are encouraged to express themselves through their facial hair. Thus, men who forgo shaving for cancer awareness are glorified and celebrated. And they should be. It’s an important movement and participating in it is something worthy of praise.
So why is it that during this time of year people glance down at my extremities and tell me I need to get my life together?
“Have I been so busy that I haven’t even had time to shave?” No. I’ve made a conscious decision to not shave, and many of my male friends have done the same. I realize that cancer has the world by its neck, and if I can make a small gesture to show my appreciation for the cause, I’m going to do it.
It says something that in our nation a woman can’t go natural for a good cause without being judged. This speaks to the broader double standard between men and women regarding grooming, not only with shaving but also with the pressure to wear makeup and present ourselves in a certain way. These standards, although unjust, have underlain our society for countless years, and I am not expecting them to change anytime soon. What I’d like is to be able to do a good deed without gender expectations standing in the way. I’d like to be able to not shave my legs for 30 days without being treated like I am the most radical person to ever walk the face of the earth. I’d like to be appreciated, just like the men who participate in No Shave November are. I’d like to be seen as an equal.
Many NFL players where pink ribbons and socks during Breast Cancer Awareness month in order to show their appreciation for the cause. Although they don’t have breasts, they flaunt pink–a traditionally feminine color–on the field because they acknowledge the danger of breast cancer and how many lives would be saved if we find a cure. The football players who participate in this are thanked and glorified. I would like to move towards a society where everyone who makes an effort to make a change is accepted and appreciated, regardless of the stigmas we may have in place.
[Image courtesy of Joseph Serrano, Redlands Bulldog photographer]