I was raised in a culture that judged women largely on their appearance. Some people fare better in the genetic lottery than
others with respect to looks but over and above that there are myriad things we’re expected to do in the grooming arena with hair, skin, nails and body hair to live up to social norms.
I started college in the late 1970’s and the question of whether women should shave their legs and underarms was squarely in the realm of political discourse. For my part I did not like having my habits dictated either way. That is, I was no more accepting of people telling me that I must not shave as that I must shave. Reacting to the stricture that women must look a certain way by telling them they can’t look a certain way still leaves one stuck in the same paradigm.
I am not proud of this but I did feel a certain smug satisfaction when it became apparent in recent years that men are now subjected to even more unrealistic images and expectations than women. I mean they still control the culture, I figured, so whose fault is that? Bombarded by media images of men with the body-beautiful men are actually being expected to conform to norms even more extreme than those applied to women, for example, according to some fashion arbiters men aren’t allowed to appear hairy any more. I shudder to think of the implications on men’s self esteem and the lengths to which they would need to go to present themselves in a way so at odds in some cases with what nature intended. It also makes me wonder who are the arbiters of what we are allowed to look like or what’s supposed to be considered alluring or attractive. My hope would be for a world in which we don’t all feel we have to look a certain way and when it’s OK to be hairy or smooth or shaven or unshaven, inked or not inked, black or white etc. That we can accept how we ourselves appear and enjoy and celebrate the variety in those around us.