I was recently asked what was my first encounter with femininity, and it took me a while to remember. This experience happened years ago, I do not know if the time made me forget or because I did not realize how big of an impact this event played in shaping my perspective of femininity.
When I was in 7th grade my first year in Middle School was intense because the Physical Education requirement increased significantly from Elementary School.
A part of the physical education made by the state of California and other states is to change into “proper” sports attire. Sports attire means shorts and a t-shirt. Shorts meant that my legs were going to be exposed. Just like any teen, I grew lots of hair from my legs, so did many of my other classmates. My hair was prominent since it has great contrast from my dark brown hair and to my olive tone legs, but I never thought anything of it. My other classmates had hair on their legs. However, I did not notice that only the boys kept their hairy legs until it happened.
A boy in my class shrieked “Ewww why do you have hair on your legs that’s gross?” I did not respond back because I felt embarrassed. I was thankful nobody else was around. Nevertheless, that does not make up for the fact that he said “eww” or questioned why I had hair on my legs. The rest of the physical education period I tried covering my legs with my arms while sitting on my number and tried to interact with as few people as possible. The lack of confidence I had in myself that whole day came from a boy’s comment. I then realized how much of a difference and importance femininity is for society.
I realized that day I was not like the norm. I did not shave my leg hairs like other women-identifying classmates did. The manner in which the idea or difference feminine traits and masculine traits were introduced was negative. Meaning that I had to have feminine traits since I was a girl and any masculine traits I had were unattractive. I took the comment so negatively that when I came back from school I told my mother that same day I needed to shave for my physical education class.
“I had to have feminine traits since I was a girl and any masculine traits I had were unattractive.”
She then told me it was fine if I wanted to shave, but also said that it was okay not to. She even mentioned that shaving was not trendy when she was growing up. Consequently, since a classmate told me it was wrong of me not to shave I believed it was my mother not wanting me to shave or grow up at that point.
Therefore, I decided to start to shave and have not stopped since. Perhaps if my classmate did not mention my leg hair to me in that manner, I would have never wanted to shave. I do not blame my classmate for questioning me about my hairy legs. It is society’s fault for believing and teaching him that having hairy legs was a non-feminine quality.
Femininity should not mean that you have to shave, wax, or cut your hair a certain length. There should not be any generic standard for a feminine individual. To me, femininity is a feeling and perhaps some qualities like dressing up or putting makeup on count as feminine qualities. The feeling of happiness one has when dressing up or treat ourselves to a good facemask is femininity to me. Femininity does not define one’s gender, but it adds to an individual’s personality. However, not shaving or not putting on makeup should not disingenuously negate someone’s femininity. I believe that I was feminine before I shaved my legs and and I believe that I am feminine after. Therefore, I do believe that society trained me to shave and do all different things that appear feminine to society.
Now, as a young adult womxn, I can truly say I enjoy doing my makeup, dying my hair, but I do not enjoy shaving or waxing. As a result, I often wonder if I would keep my legs hairy if it weren’t for the negative connotation in society?. I think I would because there is no genuine healthy reason for shaving in my opinion. Consequently, I do believe I shave my legs because they look “better”. However, looking “better” is a standard that a society has set. It is hard not to follow the trend because we might be perceived as weird or too different. Nevertheless, I commend and respect all the womxn that do not shave because they are brave enough not to go with what society thinks a feminine individual should be. Of course, there are womxn that will have other reasons they shave or enjoy shaving, which is great because that’s their choice. However, for those of us that dread the fact that we have to shave I dare us to question why we do something we do not like. Is it for personal choice, health reasons, or society’s stigma for femininity?
I hope this story has inspired you to look or question when you noticed your femininity and question if some of your feminine traits are based on following societies stigma or based off natural personal choice. I believe that as womxn we should fight against these stigmas and do whatever we truly enjoy.