Philippa Willitts // 21 February 2010
I had some surgery on my leg last week, and when everything was being prepared around me, the surgeon shaved the patch of my leg that he was going to be working on.
My main concern at the time was that he hadn’t wet the razor, so he was taking off several layers of skin as well as the hairs he was aiming at. It was only when the other people in the room started telling me to not be embarrassed that I hadn’t shaved my legs, that it didn’t matter, that I’d had enough to worry about in advance without worrying about having clean-shaven legs too, that it even crossed my mind that people were expecting me to be ashamed of the hairs.
I don’t shave my legs. I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I must have done it in the last 5 years or so. I forget that I don’t do it, like I don’t think about other things I don’t do. So I didn’t feel ashamed, yet people’s expectations were that of course I would feel ashamed, and that they would need to reassure me.
Those people were all very lovely, and very supportive throughout the experience, and were reassuring me about so many things, that I didn’t think too much about it. They were, frankly, saying anything that they could say to calm me down, and I’m sure that there weren’t judgements within what they said. But their expectations were that I would be embarrassed, and I’m not.
They got those expectations by living in this society that we live in, which does make women feel embarrassed by the things our bodies naturally do. It is a strange situation we’re in, where women don’t have to explain why they do shave, but not shaving does so often seem to require explanation. I don’t think women should feel obliged to justify either, frankly.
The people in that room didn’t care, but they were concerned that I thought they would think badly of me. And if the Daily Fail is to be believed, women with furry legs in public is both newsworthy and horrifying.
Clearly, I dispute that! Not only will I not shave, I will also not apologise for it.