This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Heather and her decision not to shave.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I live in Grand Forks, North Dakota. I’m 32 and a single mom of a 13-year-old. I work at a domestic violence agency. I follow offenders through the court system, run survivor/victim groups, do research, and other community outreach activities. I have an Etsy store
and I sell zines! I love to write and do arts and crafts. I love doing research and I love biostats! I am involved with radical leftist and feminist activism, when/if possible. I have a BA in sociology and women’s studies, MA in counseling, and a Master’s in Public Health. 🙂 I love school! haha.
When you were growing up, what were your feelings about feminism/femininity/etc?
I think I rejected femininity, yet I felt I had to be that way. When I was 14, I remember wanting to be a boy if I had a choice when I was conceived (haha) so I wouldn’t have to “deal with being a girl” (whatever that meant).I remember being told to keep my legs closed while wearing a dress and how I looked prettier with long hair. My mom pressed some of the feelings on me, but also told me she was a “tomboy” growing up and got along better with boys. Yet, she pressed the boy/blue and pink/girl thing. My step-dad had a very rigid view of gender roles. He felt women and men both “have a place in society.”
I don’t ever recall talking to teachers about these things. My sister and I talked a lot about femininity as we grew up and we played with dolls and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When my mom remarried, she had two more children and I heard a lot of “he’s a boy … he will do that” or “be a man!” I remember getting really angry about that and teaching my brother that boys and men are completely capable of crying and that it’s okay!
No one talked to me about feminism at all! I learned about feminism when I started going to punk shows at 15. Punk opened me up to new ideas about gender roles. I met a lot of queer and gender non-conformity people at punk shows. The deconstruction of gender roles and sexuality were my first introduction to feminism, too! From there I was able to embrace all sorts of gender ideas and I felt more comfortable with it. I carried that into my parenting, too.
When did you stop shaving?
I stopped shaving in 2006. I was 23/24. I’ve always HATED shaving. I felt like it was this weird obligation I had to do because I’m a woman. I started shaving when I was 13. I had a friend who stopped shaving and was super cool and supportive about it and she was like, “f*ck it, who cares?” So I stopped shaving and I felt so amazing! Seriously. It was like I needed someone to say what she said.
When you first stopped shaving did you find you were more or less likely to wear tank tops, skirts, etc?
No, but I did feel more self conscious at work and/or in professional settings. But honestly there were times where I wanted to show off my hairy pits! 🙂 In a way, it kind of feels empowering.
How have people reacted to your decision?
Most of my friends did not care. When I was sleeping around, people did not care. The worst reactions I’ve had from people has been when I’ve been on walks with my daughter and I’m stretching my arms up with a tank top on or at the gym. I will hear some college boys yell, “SHAVE YOUR PITS!” and I usually tell them to f*ck themselves and flip them off. Honestly. Don’t tell me what to do with my body, assholes.Overall, no one has showed any weirdness toward me besides the college boys I mentioned. I’ve had weird looks from people that I don’t know well, but that’s about it. Luckily, I’ve never been addressed about it at a job. If I did, I would complain and not shave.
Have you ever shaved for a one-off occasion? Someone’s wedding? Swimsuit season?
Have any of your friends been inspired to stop shaving?
Not that I know of. But I do teach my daughter that she has choices and she can decide for herself when she’s ready.
Do you have any opinions about women who shave?
My opinion is that if you want to shave, shave. It’s completely your choice. For me, part of feminism is about choice and I would rather not judge someone for doing something I don’t do.I would rather want they to do what they want rather than try to fit into some weird idea of feminism or patriarchy or whatever (like I felt when I did shave!). Also, who am I to tell someone what they can/can’t do?
What’s one thing you’ve learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily life?
When I first stopped shaving, I was a bit judgey towards women who DID shave. This whole process has made me take a step back and make fewer personal judgement about others’ choices. Things don’t have to be so black/white. Women don’t have to shave but if they want to, they can. This also applies to men and other gender-identified people.I totally get the argument of patriarchal standards and on some level I agree but I want women to be able to make their own choices and not feel pressured either way.
Thanks for sharing, Heather! Do any of you guys not shave? Have you ever tried not shaving?
P.S. What’s the point of pretty? and That time I went to a magazine photo shoot.