When we started dating as teens, I had barely scratched the surface of feminism. It wasn’t until I was in college and beyond (right around the time we got married) that I formed opinions on issues like married names, beauty standards, slut-shaming, etc. And it seems that on these issues – the cultural issues that aren’t about women’s legal rights so much as their gender performance – we just don’t see eye to eye.
For instance, he balked and protested big time when I recently suggested that I want to stop shaving my legs. My desire to do so is mostly because I hate keeping up with it and don’t see the point, but there are feminist-related reasons, too – I resent that I only continue to shave to meet societal beauty standards that I think are arbitrary and sexist, and I think it should be any woman’s choice to shave or not. He gets my personal reasons for disliking it, but rolls his eyes when I bring up any reasons related to feminism. That’s where I lose him, and that’s where the conversation turns to petty bickering.
God forbid I actually put my beliefs into practice in my own personal life in a way that would affect him. It’s OK to be against leg-shaving as a feminine beauty standard, but not OK to stop shaving my own legs. It’s OK for women to have a choice about taking a married name or not, but he was not OK when we were engaged and I mentioned the possibility (without any strong feelings) of keeping my name.
I find it really hard for me to discuss these things with him rationally. I have a history of generally being a doormat and bending to what other people want from me just to keep the peace, a habit I’ve been making big steps towards breaking in recent years. I often feel I don’t know why I’m fighting a fight – because I’m fighting for the right thing, or because I want to WIN, or because I’m trying not to be a doormat? Clearly, we have communication issues, which he acknowledges but doesn’t feel is such a huge problem that we need to pay a counselor to help us fix it right now.
If this were a guy I’d been dating a little while, having my feminist beliefs and practices dismissed would probably be a red flag that would lead me to MOA sooner than later. I don’t consider it a marriage deal-breaker, but it certainly sucks, and I’m feeling at a loss to navigate it constructively. I’m all for compromise, but I’m just not seeing my options here. Not just on the leg-shaving itself, but on the larger issue of compromising my feminism to please him. It just doesn’t sit right with me, but I’d love some outside perspectives and examples of how others have handled this. — Embracing My Feminism
If you don’t want to shave your legs because you just really hate shaving, that’s one thing, I guess, but your husband certainly has a right to not like it and not be labeled anti-feminist. It would be like if he decided to stop shaving his face and you didn’t like it because it made kissing him uncomfortable or you simply prefer him clean-shaven. He, just like you, is entitled to a personal preference without having his political beliefs questioned simply because said personal preference happens to be a societal norm. You say part of your reason for wanting to stop shaving your legs is feminist-related — you hate shaving “to meet societal beauty standards that you think are ‘arbitrary’ and ‘sexist.'” But are the standards really arbitrary and sexist if they are what your husband prefers? Are his preferences automatically anti-feminist if a majority of society shares them? That seems unfair. And, ironically, a little sexist.
From the outside looking in through an, albeit, small window into your relationship, what really seems the larger issue here is your history of being a doormat and the difficulty you have with asserting yourself. You’re working on it and, naturally, your husband would be a good partner to practice different techniques with. But this technique you’re practicing — choosing a change you want to make in your personal life as a way to challenge your husband’s support of your political beliefs — isn’t a great one. A better one would be to sit down and talk with your husband about how your evolving feminism informs some personal decisions and how you’d like his support but are open to finding compromises that work for you as a couple.
Without other examples of what other sort of issues you’re having besides the leg-shaving thing, it’s hard to give specific advice. But an open dialogue grounded in mutual respect is usually a good place to start ironing things out with your husband. Explain why you don’t want to shave your legs and then ask why he has a problem with it. If he just really, REALLY hates hairy legs, would you be willing to shave to please him because he’s your husband and you love him and want to make him happy, or would doing so really, REALLY compromise your feminist beliefs so much that you would resent him every time you held a razor in your hand? If that’s the case, you have to express that to him. And it may just be that this is an issue you disagree on, but, ultimately, it’s your body and of course your choice to shave or not to shave.
But maybe there are larger issues that are worth standing your ground on a little more than not shaving, in which base, I’d advise to choose your battles and to use leg-shaving as a compromise point. Like, “Okay, I’ll shave my legs to keep you happy even though I think it’s anti-feminist, but I absolutely will not budge on [whatever your other issue/s are].” If you start with what YOU are willing to compromise on, it will be easier to get your husband on board with making his own compromises. That’s what compromise is all about. You can’t just say, “These are my beliefs and if you love me you will support me 100% in everything I do if I say it’s related to my beliefs!” You have to explain WHY and HOW it’s related to your beliefs, why it’s important to you personally, and what you’d be willing to do as a show of appreciation to your partner for supporting you even if what you’re doing isn’t something he necessarily likes.
Readers, do you have any other tips? How do you discuss feminism with your partners in relationship to your relationships? Are there issues you’ve compromised on, and if so, how did that work for you?
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TECH May 28, 2013, 9:21 am
I reacted to the leg shaving thing the same way Wendy did. It’s okay for your husband to ask you to shave your legs because he prefers it that way when you are intimate, etc. It certainly doesn’t make him anti-feminist. It’s just a matter of personal preference. I think what is probably the bigger issue for the LW is that when she brings up not shaving her legs, he kind of rolls his eyes. And quite frankly, if I were him I would too, because not shaving your legs doesn’t make you a feminist who rejects societal standards of beauty — it just makes you a woman with hairy legs.
Personally, I think you should be happy that your husband is on board with you on the big picture feminist issues — pro-choice, pro equal pay, etc. Overall, you seem to have the same values. If you want your marriage to go well, focus on that. Perhaps the LW does not want to hear this, but when you get married at such a young age, there are bound to be issues like this that will come up. Maybe when you were 22 you were not so strongly feminist, but now at 25, you are. That’s a normal part of evolving in your 20’s. Sometimes our partners don’t always evolve in the same way that we do.
Riefer May 28, 2013, 9:51 am
I read the leg-shaving thing differently. She said he understood her personal reasons (that it’s a pain in the ass), but “rolls his eyes” at any feminist reasons. If that’s the case, it does seem like he’s being a bit sexist. Same with the name change thing. I can understand a man being unhappy that a woman doesn’t want to take his name, since it’s so common in our society. But if a woman brings it up and he refuses to be open to the idea, then he’s at least somewhat sexist.
Not sure what advice to give, though. If someone’s sexist (or racist, or whatever-ist), an outside person isn’t likely to be able to change that very easily. I guess to add to what Wendy said, pick your battles, and try to pick ones that he may not see as so frivolous. If the issue is more serious than leg-shaving, your arguments will have more heft, and hopefully you’ll be better able to explain why it’s so important to you.
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 28, 2013, 9:54 am
It depends on how she brings up the issue and handles the discussion.
Fabelle May 28, 2013, 10:01 am
yeah, I’m getting the impression her methods of discussion are what’s driving it into eye-rolling bicker land? She says herself that they have communication issues, that she’s not even sure WHY she’s fighting a lot of the time. That tells me it’s not a productive conversation—I feel like it probably sounds something like: “I’m gonna stop shaving my legs.” / “Huh, why? That’d be weird.” / “You only think that because of society’s unrealistic & sexist beauty standards!!”
I mean, maybe it doesn’t make the leap QUITE that rapidly, but I’m still betting she’s approaching it as more of a ~challenge~ than an open discussion? (Not to pick on you, LW! I think that’s sort of typical when first addressing issues like these.)
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 28, 2013, 10:04 am
I agree. And what if when she gets the feminist side of things and just starts quoting things/sounding like she’s quoting things…I would roll my eyes at that. It makes it seem less genuine. If she drags her feet and is all or nothing or immediately calls him sexist at the first whiff of disagreement…I would roll my eyes too.
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 28, 2013, 10:06 am
Also, shaving your legs seems like a weird example. You say that there are personal issues as well as feminist ones…why can’t he have personal feels without being sexist if you have some personal reasons for it?
LW May 28, 2013, 2:24 pm
That is a fair point and I was not thinking of it that way when we talked about it or when I wrote this letter. I viewed it as “I have a personal reason AND an external one, he just has his personal feelings, my position is stronger” which is a very “I just want to WIN” view, which I tried to acknowledge with the paragraph after the leg-shaving one.
Amber May 28, 2013, 11:42 am
“She said he understood her personal reasons (that it’s a pain in the ass), but “rolls his eyes” at any feminist reasons. If that’s the case, it does seem like he’s being a bit sexist. ”
It depends on how genuine her feminist reasons were/came across to her husband.
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 28, 2013, 11:53 am
And how she presents them.
Girodet May 28, 2013, 12:02 pm
The eye rolling may come because of the other things the LW may do that aren’t feminist. If this is the only thing she is pulling feminism on then I can understand the eye roll. I think it can be hard to take people seriously when they throw political/social issues at you and yet really are not fully living them anyway. For example, not wanting to shave as a feminist stand but getting a manicure every week.
Paige July 8, 2017, 6:05 pm
It’s really much less innocuous than you think, Tech. Most men feel entitled to shaven legs and armpits. That is because of sexism.
Ron July 9, 2017, 9:04 am
Not so much sexism as local aesthetic, just as most women expect men to be clean shaven or have a neatly trimmed beard when they go to visit her parents — no Yasser Arafat look, as if you shaved with your bayonet several days ago. In France or Italy, shaved armpits and legs aren’t as much the sole aesthetic for women. When I was younger, hairy chested men were a thing. Today many of those men would wax their chests. It’s a different aesthetic. Also, when I was dating, I observed that the women I knew who didn’t shave, including the woman I was dating at the time, got grief from their mothers, not the men who were their peers. They did get grief from older men. There were older women back then who also didn’t shave their legs and it had nothing to do with feminism, their hair was light enough that they didn’t think shaving mattered and didn’t want to be bothered. Never observed any of them getting any grief over it.
Men ‘feeling entitled to’ any particular look is really just a matter of some particular men gravitating to a particular aesthetic image of the woman they seek — other guys have a different vision. Women do the exact same thing, with many demanding a guy at least several inches taller, shunning guys with bald spots, preferring an athletic physique to a paunch, any labeling as a slob any guy who doesn’t come up to their grooming standards.
Do you prefer a particular ‘look’ in the men you date? If you do, does that make you a sexist?
Jersey9000 May 28, 2013, 9:37 am
I think it’s a little telling that the only example of feminism you provide is not shaving your legs. I would need some more details into what your stance on actual issues are, and how it is informed by your belief system. Maybe he feels like you are not really committed and are just picking and choosing things that are easy and fashionable? Like, I have friends who are against animal cruelty, so don’t wear leather, but will still eat veal. I roll my eyes at them too. I am not saying that is how you are, but is it possible he thinks you are not sincere in this stuff?
haggith May 28, 2013, 11:45 am
that’s exactly what i was thinking!
LW May 28, 2013, 2:43 pm
Well, to be fair, I don’t agree with 100% of feminism. I do pick and choose the things that feel authentic to me. I’m no activist. You won’t find me on picket lines or volunteering with women’s organizations or writing to my congresspeople. But declining to participate in this one little piece of patriarchy, however tiny it might be, well – it’s SOMETHING, ya know?
I can make a parallel with another issue, though, where the situation is reversed. He recently bought both a pistol and a rifle for target-shooting purposes only. Just like we agree on many of the larger issues of feminism, we also agree on many of the larger issues of gun control. Political issues aside, I personally am no fan of guns. I don’t like them and I don’t want to be around them, nor for them to be around me, and for a long time was dead-set against there being a gun in my home. I was flexible enough to compromise when he wanted his pistol, and we agreed to conditions (disassembled and locked at home, only used at the range, etc.). Fine, I can deal with that. But just because I don’t object to him owning them, doesn’t mean I want to have anything else to do with them. So if/when he starts talking about guns, I tune out (at best) or roll my eyes (at worst).
It’s a pretty decent mirror example of where we are on feminist things. He doesn’t mind me being interested in feminism and believing in feminist things, he just doesn’t want to have anything to do with it past the “agree on the major points” thing.
I wish I had thought of that BEFORE I wrote this letter.
CassieB June 1, 2013, 4:14 pm
Don’t you feel that’s a little disrespectful to each other, to not care enough to participate in a conversation about what the other person is interested in?
For example, my husband is passionate (okay, okay, obsessed) with anything cooking and food related. He can go on for hours about it. And I love him, so I listen and participate in a conversation even though my interest in talking about it is minimal. If it’s been going on for a long time, I will say, “Honey, we’ve been talking about food for quite a while now. Can we talk about something else too?”
And, in return (although he has minimal interest), he listens to and participates in my conversations that start with, “Oh my gosh you’ll never guess what I just read on Dear Wendy!!!”
Fabelle May 28, 2013, 9:42 am
This is an interesting topic. I can kind of relate, because my S/O holds feminist beliefs, but (like everybody) is still a product of what’s still very much a patriarchal society. I think a lot of people have trouble reconciling their personal/political beliefs with everyday life—& it sounds like both the LW ~and~ her husband are a bit new at trying to navigate this issue? I guess you just have to decide how much of your beliefs can be applied to your life—it doesn’t make you a hypocrite, for example, to shave your legs due to a societal expectation, despite the practice being inherently sexist.
But anyway, in regard to your relationship—I think the important thing to remember when debating feminist issues with a (male) partner, is that HE doesn’t represent oppression. He is not the patriarchy. He’s your partner, so treat it as a discussion, or a meeting or minds? It is mutually respectful to do so. Like, when I’m debating with my S/O, I hold his views as equally valid to my own. You need to NOT assign blanket “Oppressive Male Opinions” onto your partner (which I feel is maybe what you’re doing?) You need to listen to him as a person, & he needs to do the same for you.
Like, my boyfriend has trouble with the whole idea of “rape culture”. But after dissecting WHY he has trouble with it, I understand he’s more just eye-rolly at the term in general? For him, it’s kind of an overused buzzword, & I know him well enough to realize it’s the phrase itself—not the idea of what it is—that he’s dismissing. So I’d recommend you approach discussions similarly? Instead of ASSUMING your boyfriend is being a sexist prick, apply his personality behind what he’s saying. And hope that he’s doing the same for you (& not seeing you as a screeching straw feminist)
kerrycontrary May 28, 2013, 9:43 am
I agree that your husband probably just wants you to shave your legs because he likes smooth legs, and you bringing up the feminist beauty standards probably made him roll his eyes (which is a sign of contempt so nip that in the bud) because he doesn’t think of it like that. Not every choice has to be a big feminist issue. If I were you, I would focus on the fact that your husband is pro-choice, pro-equal pay, and pro-sex ed. Those are big important issues that you should probably agree on. Hopefully your husband is also on board with your ideas about slut-shaming. In my mind, this is a big issue for women and my partner needs to hold the same ideas as me about it. But beauty standards and name changing? Not dealbreakers. It may also be hard for your husband to understand your point of view on these issues (beauty standards and name changing) because he’s not a woman and he never will be (unless he is suddenly transgender). But there are some things that our male partners will never understand or feel because they are not in our position.
And I agree with @TECH. Even though you’ve been together a long time, people change the most in their 20s. And then your personality is pretty set when you are 30. You both need to work on changing together, because more of these issues will crop up since you are only 25/25.
Nick January 3, 2018, 12:34 am
Slut shaming will never change never . A man doesn’t want to have a relationship with a women with a permiscous past iam glad your SO doesn’t have a problem that you slept with his friend or the guy across the bar came in your mouth last week before you two were together men who can’t deal with this are Not insecure or immature they just don’t want. A relationship with a women that thinks casual sex and one night stands is fine and if it doesn’t bother you if Your SO. Slept with your best friend and half the state then good for you
Dear Wendy January 3, 2018, 9:16 am
Got it, everyone? Guys do not want women with a “permiscous” past.
Firestar May 28, 2013, 9:47 am
This letter seems very odd to me. Your husband is pro choice, pro equal pay etc. there is nothing that says he is dismissive of you or unsupportive with the exception of wanting you to shave your legs. You didn’t have strong feelings about keeping your name when you married but he wanted you to take his…and you did. Okay. Where is the anti-feminist indicia? I like my husband clean shaven and mocked him mercilessly for the “‘lost years” when he grew his hair out longer than it ever should have been. It isn’t a political statement. It’s a personal preference. Why are you trying to create a problem where none exists? Don’t want to shave your legs? Your choice. Your husband complaining about it? His choice. He loses attraction for you? Possible consequence of your choice. Would that work for you? This might be some feminist rally cry for you…it doesn’t have to be anything relating to feminism to him. I get you want to exert your no longer a doormat status…but if this is the only thing you can come up with to assert it – then life is pretty good for you from where I sit. I have less patience for women who are all about proclaiming their feminism and less about just living it. Be assertive, go accomplish something in life, be an example to the next generation, volunteer your time making the world a better place for girls everywhere – there are countless ways to contribute towards making education accessible for girls, bringing clean water to them, giving them opportunities outside of early marriage and endless children dependent on a man not even of their choosing, even of teaching girls self esteem so that beauty standards don’t define them…but if your brand of feminism stops at a razor? I got to say…I’m not all that sympathetic.
kerrycontrary May 28, 2013, 9:52 am
I agree that if feminism is such a part of your identity and it’s really your passion, then you should spend some time improving life for girls/women who aren’t as fortunate as you. Now if the LW’s husband disagreed with her spending time with an organization like Dress for Success or volunteering with young girls, we could call that anti-feminist. But shaving your legs is such a small issue.
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 9:59 am
Sue Jones May 28, 2013, 11:19 am
And look, my feminist idol Hilary Clinton (Go Hillary!!!!!!) took her husband’s name in marriage (Go Bill! My other idol!) and I would bet a dollar for a donut that while she was Secretary of State that she shaved her legs when she put on a skirt. Who knows whether she does it now that she is “unemployed” It is a small thing and not worth blowing up your marriage over.
KarenE May 28, 2013, 3:12 pm
Actually Hilary Clinton used her maiden name for a LONG time after she and Bill got married, and was definitely NOT into “conventional” standards of beauty for most of the 70s. (Have you see pictures of her when she was younger?) However, when Bill’s presidential prospects heated up she definitely had a makeover and dropped the “Rodham” from her name. I am assuming she wasn’t too happy about either, but hey, in politics you have to cater to the traditionalists, right?
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 9:57 am
Happy to read Wendy’s advice! Its perfect.
I’m on the husband’s side. If all of a sudden my partner wanted to start deliberately changing things that would make me find him unattractive, and then told me his brand new beliefs came before any thought of what I like, pretty sure I’d run for the hills and not feel guilty about it.
I’m just not a fan of marrying someone and then drastically changing and expecting them to shut up and accept it.
L May 28, 2013, 10:03 am
“I’m just not a fan of marrying someone and then drastically changing and expecting them to shut up and accept it.” EXACTLY. That was what I was trying to say below, just much more concise!
j2 May 28, 2013, 10:20 am
Quoting Albert Einstein here may seem a bit unusual, but:
“Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.”
KKZ May 28, 2013, 1:05 pm
That’s Oscar Wilde, not Albert Einstein.
j2 May 28, 2013, 3:51 pm
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 3:52 pm
“Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” — Abraham Lincoln
j2 May 28, 2013, 6:44 pm
KKZ May 28, 2013, 4:07 pm
WOW! For all my life I thought that was Oscar Wilde – it’s a very Wildean thing to say. He has a lot of other quotes on marriage, maybe I was thinking of a different one.
AmyP May 28, 2013, 10:00 am
My husband is pro-life (like me) and pro-hairy legs.
These things really do not come neatly packaged together in the way the LW would like them to be.
kerrycontrary May 28, 2013, 10:06 am
“These things really do not come neatly packaged together”
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 10:09 am
Yea, I mean, they agree on the core issues. Be glad about that and don’t create fights for no reason (to me, this is just not a reason to argue).
L May 28, 2013, 10:01 am
I think the LW is overreacting. Just because he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the leg shaving thing doesn’t mean he isn’t a feminist. As long as he believes in equality, that’s what matters. As TECH said, we evolve a LOT in our 20’s. LW, you need to consider how much you’ve changed since you’ve known your husband. Think of how different you are now as opposed to when you met him. I really don’t think it’s fair to change a major part of your appearance and when he doesn’t approve call him an “anti feminist”.
This seems like there is something a lot bigger that’s bothering you. It’s not JUST the leg shaving. I’m guessing it’s the communication issues. In order for the both of you to get on the same page, you need to address this. You need to find a way to compromise and to communicate more effectively. There’s no right or wrong answer here. Maybe that means that you need to shave your legs. Maybe that means that your husband needs to stop rolling his eyes when you talk about things. Maybe that means that the moment something bothers you the two of you address it immediately. Relationships are all about compromise and communication. If you don’t have one or the other or both, the relationship is not going to work.
Eagle Eye May 28, 2013, 10:12 am
So, I’m going to come at this as an academic – some of my work involves the queer theorists and radical feminists (usually French) from the 1960s (Kristeva and the like who actually decided that the written word was patriarchal because it was created by men and largely kept from women).
First, when discussing radical French feminism with my boyfriend, I start off my discussing the concept of the written language as problematic, my boyfriend rolls his eyes because having all women speak or write in a different new language or whatever would be ridiculous, but then I explain the reasoning behind it, we talk about it some more, I’ve never convinced my bf that it would be a good idea to change the way we write or anything, but because we’ve discussed it rationally, as adults, he doesn’t start associating negatives with these discussions.
So, that’s the little intellectual stuff – he’s beginning to get a sense for what academic feminism actually is.
However, then during the name change discussion I told him again that I would never take his name, and he replied, “of course not, that’s the patriarchy!” at which point I nearly pounced on him in happiness/ glee and love.
At the same time, my boyfriend likes me on the thinner side, and I like him a bit more muscular, I know that both of these are complying with gender norms – but it’s more important to me that we remain attractive to one another than overthrow all normativities.
Christy May 28, 2013, 10:18 am
OK, I think the best response to this question probably has little to do with hairy legs: your husband sounds kind of like a d-bag. Specifically, his eye-rolling is not OK. I would be concerned about that. (I wish I had more useful advice here.)
And wrt to the hairy legs: they’re not that bad. As someone with a partner whose legs are often hairy, they’re just legs. So many other body parts have hair. So many. Dudes’ legs have hair. It would be nice if he’d give it a chance, but eh, that’s his choice just like it’s your choice to have hairy legs.
Firestar May 28, 2013, 10:30 am
I don’t think the husband is a d-bag at all. To be honest I rolled my eyes at the evocation of feminism as a justification to stop shaving too. And I dare anyone to tell me I’m not feminist.
Don’t want to shave – don’t shave. But don’t tie it to a definitive indication of someone’s political beliefs.
Hair is just hair but attraction is attraction. I know if my husband came home looking like a lumberjack and telling me this is the look he is going to be rocking now – there would be a problem.
Eagle Eye May 28, 2013, 10:41 am
I think that she needs to read more, I get the feeling that she’s just beginning to look into this stuff and is making ‘stands’ based on only a few texts.
It will allow for her to make more thoughtful decisions about how she wants feminism to intersect with her life. It will also (hopefully) make her less emotional about it? I feel like the leg shaving incident was more about getting all fired up and taking a stand, not a thoughtful consideration of our society?
Also, your husband is never the enemy! Just because he is a man – I feel like this is the key point to keep in mind – actual feminism questions gender normativities that allow for my boyfriend to cry when he’s sad and for me to kill the bugs in my house (to use small inanities for examples)
kerrycontrary May 28, 2013, 10:43 am
I agree Christy that eye-rolling is a huge problem since it’s a sign of contempt and dismissing someone’s opinion or ideas. It’s not a good way to disagree with someone. And personally, my boyfriend would be more pissed if I stopped shaving “down there” than if I stopped shaving my legs. Sure I could go into some big feminist rant about how his ideas of sexuality are formed via hairless women in porn. Or I could accept that it’s easier to get to the goods without hair and it feels cleaner for both of us. I don’t automatically assume that it’s some reflection of patriarchy and skewed ideas of women’s bodies.
Christy May 28, 2013, 11:29 am
Right, it’s the eye-rolling that’s the problem. You have to be able to have discussions like this with your partner. Things like “feminism and what it means to me” are important, just like “attractive French-Canadian hockey players and what they mean to me” are important to my gf. (Sigh.) They’re important to your partner because they’re important to you.
kerrycontrary May 28, 2013, 11:51 am
Mike Green WHATTTT.
Amber May 28, 2013, 11:46 am
It might appear to her husband that she’s jumping on some kind of bandwagon, and I can see that causing him to roll his eyes.
Like when my sister and I were kids and she watched some movie and decided she was now vegan and would chastise us meat eaters at dinner every night. I rolled my eyes. She was eating meat again within a week.
ele4phant May 28, 2013, 2:21 pm
I don’t think eye rolling, on its own, is a sign of contempt. Personally, I use it to mean “oh jeez”. Does that make me a d-bag if I roll my eyes at my bf because he said something that makes me think “oh jeez”. One gesture is not enough to label someone as contemptuous of their partner. If it was a pattern of his overall behavior towards her, then I could buy that, but on what’s she’s given us that’s an unfair assessment to make.
LSMITH82 May 28, 2013, 2:30 pm
I don’t think he’s being a d-bag. A bit insensitive, sure, but the woman he’s known for 10 years is suddenly coming out of left field with some pretty random stuff, and even more weird reasons to justify it. Like Firestar, if you don’t want to shave, then don’t.
But if the LW’s sex life suffers, then she knows why. Will he adjust, probably, but it’s going to take some getting used to. And like another poster said, he probably feels like this is some new bandwagon her and her friends are on (and it very well may not be the first, since they’ve been together 10+ years).
A couple that’s been together this long, and from such a young age is bound to learn new things, and change their minds, but it’s how they do that together that makes the difference. I suggest the LW talk to an older “feminist” and learn a little more before she try taking a stance.
Lily in NYC May 28, 2013, 10:24 am
You have been with your husband since you were 15! You basically grew up together, so of course he is going to roll his eyes when all of a sudden you start acting like a feminist who has no clue what the word actually means. Either you are growing apart because you married before you “discovered yourself” or it’s the method of how you are explaining yourself. I know I’m being a jerk, but this post reminds me of when young people read Ayn Rand for the first time and start embarrassing themselves in public by spouting her crackpot theories without actually understanding them.
L May 28, 2013, 11:20 am
I agree. When you get together so young, inevitably both people are going to change drastically throughout that time. I’m 25, just like the LW and I just laugh when I think of what I was like when I was 15. It’s ridiculous how different I am now. It’s a good different, but it’s crazy how much you can grow up in 10 years. Not to mention the way I think about and approach relationships is drastically different and I wonder if the LW is in the same boat.
LW May 28, 2013, 2:55 pm
I am. And it scares me sometimes, to be painfully honest. That last paragraph of my letter – the “if we were just dating and not already committed in marriage, would I put up with this?” line of thought – scares the bejeesus out of my whenever my mind goes there.
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 2:57 pm
Don’t go there then. Its irrelevant. You are married now. You don’t have a time machine. Therefore, whether you would or wouldn’t is a non-issue.
Lindsay May 28, 2013, 5:04 pm
I agree. You could say that about almost anything in life. If I went back to college today, maybe I’d choose a different major. Maybe I’d choose a different college. Maybe I would have moved somewhere else afterward. It’s all pointless to wonder if you’d do something differently if this were years ago because it’s not.
Older and (hopefully) wiser May 28, 2013, 10:33 am
Today’s “feminism” has gone so far overboard that it’s actually anti-feminine. I’m not talking about equal pay,etc.– I’m talking about women rejecting their femininity, trying to be “men” and trying to feminize men. The problem is that when we emasculate our men, we lose interest in them sexually.
I’m not saying women should be doormats. But I will admit that I love being feminine and having a masculine husband. (Of course if he decided he wanted me to shave my head, the answer would be, not a chance!)
Firestar May 28, 2013, 10:38 am
What does “trying to be men” and “trying to feminize men” mean?
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 10:45 am
I took it as the removal of anything identifying your gender and kinda making 1 human, with no male or female identifiers.
Firestar May 28, 2013, 10:55 am
Making one gender into the other doesn’t read the same as stripping both into gender less humans to me. The comment said women reject their femininity and try to be men. I never know what someone means when they say a woman is trying to be a man or is trying to make a man a woman – which is why I asked. Does it mean she is assertive and she makes him docile? She like beer and makes him drink cocktails? Does she pee standing up? It just doesn’t make any sense to me and I’ve never received an answer as to what the person is really talking about.
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 11:11 am
I think its just simpler than you’re thinking, although I do hope Older replies. Ending anything that’s traditionally “feminine”…shaving, long hair, cute dresses, baking, etc. Typical “girly” things.
fairhairedchild May 28, 2013, 8:59 pm
There has actually been some movement towards girls being able to “pee standing up like guys” – more for those constantly on the go outdoors but still… now you can buy this contraption to have your own pee-funnel (penis)
Eagle Eye May 28, 2013, 10:47 am
I’m a feminist and I’m pretty feminine, I live in skirts and dresses and like to look pretty and my boyfriend (whose also a feminist) is a dork but he’s definitely not feminine – there are certain aspects of my personality that are masculine (my drive and ambition but in a largely feminine field) that feminism’s questioning of gender norms allows for me to express and pursue in the same way that feminism allows for my boyfriend to cry at movies while also being deeply ambitious in a traditionally male field.
Feminism just makes masculine qualities available for women and feminine qualities available for men – it doesn’t turn men into women and vice versa.
Addie Pray May 28, 2013, 11:03 am
I hate that your “drive and ambition” are traits you describe as “masculine”. That’s the problem that I think modern feminists have today — we’ve made great strides in equality but that a feminist like you would think of those qualities as “masculine” shows that we all, men and women, and me too, are…. just not there yet. So, yes, I’m a feminist, because I want to get there. This really has nothing to do with leg shaving IMHO and I’m sorry the LW used that as an example because I know it is going to push everyone away.
Firestar May 28, 2013, 11:18 am
Is this what Oldie meant though? These stupid gender assignments? Ambition is masculine? Nurturing is feminine? Is this what trying to be a man means? That you are successful outside of the home? And that emasculates a man somehow? Surely we aren’t having that discussion still?
Eagle Eye May 28, 2013, 11:50 am
Right, WFSs – its not that I believe that ambition is something for men, its that its traditionally believed to be masculine (in the same way that having feelings and talking about them is feminine – everyone has feelings, its a human thing not a woman thing) – but in the case of the gender binary patriarchy has created ambition and drive is a ‘masculine trait’ (maybe I should have put all of those terms into quotation marks to suggest that they’re not really ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ just traits that we have associated with certain genders?) I don’t actually believe that being ambitious is a bad thing or a male thing just that’s how its assumed?
I’m talking in circles – I’m going to shut up now.
ele4phant May 28, 2013, 11:53 am
Totally agree. I never understand what people mean when they say feminism is making women more masculine and men more feminine.
Are they talking about character traits such as men being ambitious and aggressive, and women being more passive and nurturing? If that’s what people are talking about, we all know that’s bullshit.
Are they talking about external markers like how we dress or groom ourselves? Sorry to say, I don’t think most of that is “natural” either. Maybe it’s become quite culturally encode by now, but go back to medival England and men had long hair, wore skirt like pantaloons, and covered themselves in jewels and I’m sure they didn’t think of themselves as feminine.
The only constant gender differences across time and culture are a few antonimical ones, and last I checked there’s no legit movement for us all to get gender reassignment surgery so we all have the same equipment.
Milla May 28, 2013, 11:52 am
Uh, nope. Gender presentation rarely has anything to do with whether or not one is a feminist. Please look into the idea of femme (embracing the performative aspects of traditional femininity, often as a political act) for one thing.
Also, guess what? I wear skirts/dresses 90% of the time, perfume, makeup, really long hair. I love cooking, embroidering, and taking care of my home. And I’m engaged to another lady! Who also has a closet full of skirts and dresses!
Basically: gender does not equal sexuality, in every which way.
Eagle Eye May 28, 2013, 12:03 pm
Temperance May 29, 2013, 4:21 pm
You are obviously trying too hard to be a man. Obviously.
Lindsay May 28, 2013, 1:27 pm
So, basically you’re saying that women who don’t like “feminine” things and men who don’t like “masculine” things should change themselves so that they fit the role society has given them?
The femininity you’re referring to is man-made. I mean, back in the day, men wore heels and women didn’t. Now it’s the reverse. None of that is biological. It’s all very arbitrary.
Temperance May 29, 2013, 4:20 pm
Uh, what? I’ve only heard the “feminizing men” argument from people who think women should be doing “women’s work”. Same with women “rejecting their femininity” …. if being “feminine” means I need to be a subservient housefrau, I’d rather be a dude.
My husband is not masculine. He never has been. Shockingly, I am still interested in him sexually.
Addie Pray May 28, 2013, 10:33 am
One recommendation I have is to not usual the F word. “Feminism” the word gets people all riled up and they conjure up the negative caricature of a bra-burning humorless man-hating feminist. Which is dumb, IMHO, because it is simply someone who believes in social, political, and economic equality of the sexes… It’s an issue larger than leg shaving and I wholeheartedly support you exploring the issue, LW! But really jump in. There is something phony about someone who wakes up and decides today they’re going to stop shaving to take a stand… I think there are a lot more meaningful ways to champion women and equality in the home and work. I am kind of on a high of feminism right now – I just read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” and it really moved me. She’s a great example of the modern feminist and if you’re interested I’d give it a read. And have your husband read it too. And maybe you can talk about the issues and see how you can make your marriage more of an equal partnership if that is what you want.
kerrycontrary May 28, 2013, 10:45 am
OMG I just read Lean In last week and also loved it. And yes, she is a modern feminist and champions women from all walks of life.
Addie Pray May 28, 2013, 10:55 am
I’m kind of in love with her. The boom – while kind of annoying in parts – I thought was really so-right-on, and effective. For the past few days I’ve done nothing but think about what I truly want, what I hold myself back on, and why, and how I can make the life I want, now. Ok I’ve also been drinking a lot. Still. Sheryl moved me.
Addie Pray May 28, 2013, 10:58 am
*book, not “boom”
Jillie z May 28, 2013, 12:05 pm
I’m glad you clarified ‘boom’ because I was trying to interpret that sentence 🙂 and I can’t WAIT to read her book- I’ve heard such good things.
Addie Pray May 28, 2013, 7:41 pm
I’m sure Sheryl’s boom boom is good too. 😉
kerrycontrary May 28, 2013, 11:27 am
I saw her TED talk before her book came out and I was just like “holy shit”. And I wish I had read her book when I was 20, before my career even started.
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 11:44 am
Glad to hear you liked it. I thought it would all be pretty obvious things. I’ll have to give it a read.
kerrycontrary May 28, 2013, 11:54 am
@LBH, I loved it because she actually approaches it very scientifically and academically. Everything is supported by facts/footnotes and then her own personal experiences, or experiences of other powerful women. And I love that she addresses men’s role in supporting women in the workplace and at home, and conversely how we as women can support men at home. I can’t give it enough praise.
Addie Pray May 28, 2013, 12:05 pm
“lean in” while obvious in many ways felt very honest and fresh. … and it’s pretty “safe” which i think will make it really effective. she’s not angry or accusatory. instead she calls it like it is and then offers good, cosntructive advice about how we can fix things, on small and grander scales. i just loved it. also i want a husband just like hers. and i kind of want to go to business school now. and ok to be the COO of facebook. …
kerrycontrary May 28, 2013, 12:17 pm
Her husband sounds amazing! And I love how she is like “there are men out there who WILL help with 50% of the childcare, who WILL pick up the slack at home when you want to take on a challenging profession”. She just makes you not want to settle.
ktfran May 28, 2013, 2:04 pm
i just want a husband.
but wanted to be a smart ass.
Addie Pray May 28, 2013, 5:10 pm
haha – being a smart ass is always welcome
@kerry, doesn’t sheryl’s brother also sound like a dream? seriously.
TaraMonster May 28, 2013, 6:09 pm
I’m totally channeling you the past couple of weeks, AP. I’m officially addicted to Bikram (I went 5 times last week; and thanks for the coconut water tip- it totally helps), and I’m about halfway through Lean In, which I started reading over Memorial Day weekend. It is fantastic and so spot on. Right now, I’m working on a slight career change and it is such a timely read.
Addie Pray May 28, 2013, 7:29 pm
You go you! With Bikram, Sheryl, and a little coconut water, the world is your oyster!
Essie May 28, 2013, 10:34 am
I gotta say, “I resent that I only continue to shave to meet societal beauty standards that I think are arbitrary and sexist” made me roll my eyes, too. Especially when it’s about something as minor as whether or not to shave your legs. Good heavens, we’re not talking about the right to vote. 🙂
If you used that phrasing with your husband, I can see where he found it amusing, and possibly even mildly insulting. You’re partners. Best friends. If I wanted to stop shaving my legs, I’d say to my boyfriend, “hey, hon, I really hate shaving my legs. Would you find it absolutely gross if I stopped shaving?” Knowing him, he’d probably go “eww!”, because I know he loves smooth skin, and finds it a turn-on. And I’d probably keep shaving – not because I’m oppressed, or a doormat, or because my boyfriend is an evil sexist, but because we love each other dearly, and love doing little things to make each other happy. It’s my gift to him.
Feminism isn’t about “we must never bow to the evil oppressor male!”. It’s about having the choice to live our lives as we wish. And yes, it’s about the choice to shave our legs if we want. If you really can’t stand shaving,then don’t do it anymore. But don’t turn it into a political diatribe to beat your spouse over the head with.
L May 28, 2013, 11:24 am
I love the way you phrased this whole thing. Feminism is so much more than bra burning and not shaving your legs. I wish more people would see it that way.
landygirl May 28, 2013, 10:41 am
LW, stop doing things for “Feminist” reasons and start doing things because it is what you choose.
Firestar May 28, 2013, 10:45 am
Wouldn’t that be revolutionary? Feminism just meaning you have the right to choose what is best for you.
landygirl May 28, 2013, 12:09 pm
Isn’t it though? Fighting for individual rights inspires others to do the same, which sparks a revolution.
Firestar May 28, 2013, 12:33 pm
Sorry I was being tongue in cheek. I think you are exactly right.
landygirl May 28, 2013, 1:09 pm
I was agreeing with you. Viva la France!
theattack May 28, 2013, 10:53 am
I read it as the LW saying she didn’t want to do it because it’s a hassle personally and then justifying it by saying she didn’t have to do it because it’s patriarchal anyway. I don’t think she’s making decisions because of what she feels she has to do in order to be a feminist.
landygirl May 28, 2013, 11:51 am
I’m not talking just about shaving her legs, I’m talking over all, she should take a stand because it’s right for her as a person not because she thinks it’s what a feminist would do. She is growing and changing as an individual which can be awkward when you are also a part of a couple. You don’t always grow and change at the same rate.
Diablo May 28, 2013, 11:09 am
Exactly. Feminism is supposed to be about how women are not the “weaker” sex. They are smart, strong and capable, often moreso than men. I would roll my eyes at the LW, too. If she said, “I’m not shaving my legs because I don’t want to,” well, fine. A strong person can make her own choices, no objection. But when you start justifying a personal hygiene decision by means of huge ideological moral imperatives, it makes you sound really weak. And you are not justifying yourself to “society,” but to your most intimate friend, with whom you have a personal, non-ideological relationship. What? Feminism? Seriously? That’s like hunting wabbits with an elephant gun.
If you are talking big social issues in a broad context, fine, but when you bandy words like feminism about in your personal life, I wonder why you need to resort to that. I wouldn’t consider it sexist for your guy to roll his eyes at that. Can’t you stand up for yourself without the crutch of ideology?
theattack May 28, 2013, 11:14 am
I get what you’re saying, Diablo, and I think you’re right that it’s not really necessary to do that, but I think it’s kind of picky. It’s just a tip on strategy more than it is on the substance of her argument. Strategy really shouldn’t matter in a relationship. IMO, you’re not really justified in rolling your eyes at something your wife believes in just because she didn’t present it to you in the best way.
Diablo May 28, 2013, 11:18 am
Agree to disagree. When someone tries to justify a simple personal choice through big political ideas, it usually comes off as false and weak.
theattack May 28, 2013, 11:21 am
It might come off that way, but brushing off your wife because of that is a recipe for a problem.
Diablo May 28, 2013, 11:25 am
PS – I roll my eyes at my wife sixteen times a day, and she does to me too. Most communication is non-verbal. We both know that we respect each other. That doesn’t mean we have to show that respect through deference to every stilted, biased thing each of us says. My marriage is a constant jockeying of philosophical, political, social, personal, and comedy-based arguments. We are both trying to win those arguments every day, without malice, but also giving no quarter. I show my wife respect by NEVER laying down to half-baked politicizing. When she wins, it’s because she is smart, strong, and right, just what a “feminist” should be. It would be an insult to her if i gave up when I did not really believe in what she was saying. If I refuse to argue with someone, it’s because i DON’T respect them, not the other way around.
theattack May 28, 2013, 11:28 am
That’s interesting. I guess every relationship is different then. I just don’t think it’s really going over smoothly in the LW’s relationship since she clearly has a problem with it. That’s why this whole thing is more of a relationship problem than a feminism problem to me.
Eagle Eye May 28, 2013, 11:54 am
Heh, considering my relationship is very similar to that – we have some very strange on going discussions, and yes, some of my support of my arguments have caused my bf to roll his eyes and I’ve definitely done the same.
Mocking ridiculousness in ourselves and others is really at the heart of our relationship (among other things)
Firestar May 28, 2013, 12:51 pm
landygirl May 28, 2013, 11:41 am
I think the LW is trying to redefine the relationship and is working through the fact that her husband is trying to keep the relationship the same as it was. Change is difficult, especially when you’ve been with someone for so long.
This is one of the reasons I don’t advise getting so serious at such a young age; you don’t have time to explore what makes you tick as a singular person rather than as one of a pair.
Temperance May 29, 2013, 4:23 pm
Eh, I disagree. The personal is political, etc. etc. Admittedly, leg-shaving isn’t really an important issue and probably not something to hang your hat on for feminist street cred, but for instance, women keeping their own name is.
Lynn May 28, 2013, 10:51 am
You’re kidding me, right? Crap like this is what pushes me far, far way from even wanting to embrace feminism just a little bit. I expected her letter to include all these examples that were a lot more deep than leg shaving.
I’m pretty sure I’m the kind of woman most feminists hate, but being on here so often, I’ve been more open-minded to things that I usually would dismiss… but letters like this? Sheesh.
theattack May 28, 2013, 11:00 am
I’m pretty certain I know who wrote this letter, and taking that into consideration, I really don’t think the LW is being as unreasonable as a lot of people are saying. I think she’s just wanting to open up a discussion about it on here. It’s not going overboard to want to stop shaving your legs. All of us hate doing it, so why give the LW heat for trying to stop it?
LW, I agree with others that your husband probably just likes your smooth legs, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It is obnoxious and horrible if he rolls his eyes at the things you think and believe though. I would recommend going to marital counseling or at least reading a marriage book together (we’re about to start one of the John Gottman books). It sounds like he’s bringing in a lot of negativity and contempt into your marriage, and it’s hard to say with just one example, but you might be putting his desires on the backburner. Fix those bigger problems so you can talk through the smaller things, like shaving your legs.
Roxy84 May 28, 2013, 2:26 pm
Agree. I think I also know who wrote in, and agree with your perspective on the situation.
LW May 28, 2013, 5:41 pm
“It is obnoxious and horrible if he rolls his eyes at the things you think and believe though.”
Yes, this is really the crux of what bothers me on the Feminism thing, his dismissiveness. It goes beyond feminism too. Like, he is a bitter ex-Catholic and staunch atheist. I’m an atheist-leaning agnostic too so it’s not like I disagree with him, but while he is very anti-anything-religious/spiritual and thinks lowly of anyone who practices a religion, I like learning from various traditions and don’t automatically disrespect people who believe in something I don’t.
So for example, if I told him tomorrow I want to go vegetarian for health reasons, hey super, let’s talk about that! But if I told him I wanted to do it because it’s important to me to live a more Buddhist lifestyle, that would not go down well at all.
The shitty part about all this is that his disapproval and dismissal leads me to suppress these things in myself, my feminism and my spirituality, which I don’t feel I should have to do.
Anyway, thanks Ladies for keeping me anonymous, I was afraid all the background info about length of relationship, etc. would reveal me.
Eagle Eye May 28, 2013, 5:55 pm
So, ah, my bf is a bit of a dick (I’m also a handful myself so it works out but still, he knows, I knows, it is what it is) – He’s also an engineer/ scientist whose too smart for his own damn good – so I can lecture for days about getting shut down.
I have, however, refined how I approach things with him. My first piece of advice is to not talk about it too much, I’m a talker, if there’s a problem I would like to speak about it at length, however it comes across as a nagging harpy. Instead sometimes I simply don’t talk about it, to use the Buddhism/ Vegetarian example – decide to go vegetarian, if he asks, say that its because your currently exploring Buddhism. He’ll roll his eyes – you keep doing what you’re doing both spiritually and with your vegetarianism, things will change, he’ll ask you questions eventually and then you can start having a discussion about it. Basically, talk about it less and let him come to you. And when he does, make it positive, explain what you’re doing and why. If he engages let him, if he disengages let him do that too.
Christy June 3, 2013, 3:16 pm
I thought it was you! Given everything you’ve posted, I would really really recommend counseling. I know you say he’s not interested, but I really do think it’s vital in your situation. Does he realize you feel things like “If this were a guy I’d been dating a little while, having my feminist beliefs and practices dismissed would probably be a red flag that would lead me to MOA sooner than later”? Because I think that’s something really important, that you feel dismissed by him.
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 11:04 am
The comments to this letter are really surprising me, especially after the comments on the Taking His Name letter.
theattack May 28, 2013, 11:16 am
For real. I thought people were being obnoxiously anti-man on that letter, and this LW is getting bashed for even having this discussion with her husband. Nuts!
Amber May 28, 2013, 11:30 am
“but he was not OK when we were engaged and I mentioned the possibility (without any strong feelings) of keeping my name. ”
it doesn’t sound like she even gave him a reason for wanting to keep her own name, actually it doesn’t sound like she even cares either way.
Same with the leg shaving issue, she is just trying to goad him into a debate with her. She’s been reading about feminism and now has all sorts of opinions and wants a debate.
I think the husband senses this and that is why he is reacting the way he is.
Temperance May 29, 2013, 4:24 pm
In all fairness, women don’t really *need* a reason to not change their name. I didn’t, wasn’t ever going to, and one of the most impressive women I know always says that she honestly never thought about changing her name after she married.
Christy May 28, 2013, 11:31 am
Yep yep yep. Just goes to show you how framing matters.
Firestar May 28, 2013, 11:33 am
She’s isn’t getting bashed because she had a discussion with her husband. People are questioning her because her husband’s personal preference is an affront to her feminist position…of not shaving her legs. She’s making a mountain out of a molehill and dressing it up as feminist ideology cast against the oppression of her equal pay/pro choice supporting husband…liking smooth legs.
Eagle Eye May 28, 2013, 11:57 am
I like how you always say the things I want to say!
Firestar May 28, 2013, 12:30 pm
Now if only I could master the whole engineering speak! I swear to all thing holy I’m inches away from translating directly into binary.
Sue Jones May 28, 2013, 11:04 am
It is important not to let “feminism” dictate how you groom yourself also. I had the opposite problem in college. I was a feminist hippie, had a feminist hippie boyfriend, so I experimented with no makeup, not shaving legs, armpits, let my hair grow out all long and wavy (that is frizzy on the east coast…) and wore birkenstocks, and tie dye and Indian print clothing. This was how hippies in the 80’s dressed (and still do..). At one point I wanted to start shaving again because at my job I either had to cover up or be shaved, I also wanted to start looking a little more attractive again (though you can put a 21 year old girl in a burlap sack and she will still be cute and sexy), so I started wearing makeup again, I had my hair cut and styled, I bought some new clothes that weren’t hippie. And when my feminist boyfriend told me “he couldn’t love me anymore” if I did those things, I broke up with him. Be careful about being too dogmatic. If you don’t want to shave, don’t. If he likes you shaved, and you want to do it either for him or for yourself, do it. Just don’t make a big friggin political story about it.
Diablo May 28, 2013, 11:15 am
Your comment made me want to google “21 year old girl in a burlap sack.” I couldn’t bring myself to do it, though, because I am absolutely certain there will be THOUSANDS of images of the subject. Maybe we should use feminism to address issues like that, and make shaving just be a personal decision.
Sue Jones May 28, 2013, 11:22 am
Ugh, I meant DRESSING a 21 year old in a burlap sack. Though your comment does bring up some disturbing images…
Diablo May 28, 2013, 11:30 am
I meant dressing too. I never thought of what you just implied. Though this tends to make my point, too.
Zepp May 28, 2013, 11:06 am
Ugh this letter is painful. LW, consider yourself lucky as it doesn’t sound like you have any real problems in your relationship. I can’t believe someone would write in about this!
I agree with the other poster that said if you really care about feminism and women than you should volunteer at a woman’s shelter, donate money to girl’s schools in Africa, do somethign real that MATTERS. Picking fights with your husband about shaving your legs does nothing for women.
theattack May 28, 2013, 11:09 am
This is a really unfair statement. Just because there are larger problems in the world doesn’t mean that one small problem isn’t real to the LW. I can’t stand when people make arguments like this. Especially when the LW was probably just using this as one example out of many. And it DOES sound like there are problems in the relationship. He’s contemptuously rolling his eyes at her, and she’s 1) asking him what to do with her body and 2) brushing off his desires. Sounds like a real problem to me. Not to mention that the LW isn’t somehow obligated to have everything she does revolve around helping other women! Sometimes it’s just about figuring out your own life.
Christy May 28, 2013, 12:02 pm
Ooh, I’m so glad you wrote this, TA. I couldn’t figure out how to phrase it, and you did perfectly!
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 28, 2013, 12:06 pm
It’s a weird choice though. She said she has personal reasons to stop as well as feminism ones. Why can’t he have personal reasons for not wanting her to stop without being sexist?
Christy May 28, 2013, 12:19 pm
I think he can have personal reasons, but ultimately they don’t matter as much as her reasons, because it’s not his legs.
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 28, 2013, 12:24 pm
I’m not saying that they matter as much, but it doesn’t mean he’s not a feminist just because he doesn’t want her to.
theattack May 28, 2013, 1:13 pm
He can. I never once said he was sexist because he wants her to shave her legs. I think that’s perfectly natural. You seem to think I’m tying those two ideas together, but I’m really not. It really doesn’t matter if you or her husband or anyone else in the world thinks it’s weird to stop shaving her legs. They’re HER legs. Either way, that wasn’t what my comment was about. I’m just saying, this is a relationship problem that they need to work through, and it’s not fair or logical to diminish her issue just because there are more important things going on in the world.
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 28, 2013, 1:19 pm
I didn’t say you did. But in her letter, though she doesn’t say it explicitly, seems to imply such, which I don’t think is a reasonable conclusion. And I didn’t say that it was fair or logical to diminish her issue.
theattack May 28, 2013, 1:24 pm
Right… I guess it just seemed like a weird place on the thread to say it then.
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 28, 2013, 1:25 pm
Well it’s the example in the letter she gave. The ONLY example. And she invited his opinion into it. So not really.
Heather May 28, 2013, 12:53 pm
I think saying that he is “contemptuously rolling his eyes at her” is overreaching. Maybe he is, but I don’t think it’s fair to assume that when he rolls his eyes at her it’s with contempt. I’ve rolled my eyes at people for a myriad of reasons, and I guess I just really don’t see it as that mean of a gesture. (But I suppose that’s just based off of my experiences).
Amber May 28, 2013, 11:13 am
Sounds to me like the LW wants to make an issue where there is none.
He’s pro-choice, pro-equal pay, pro-sex ed, etc. What is your problem?
My partner would also have an issue if I stopped shaving my legs.
Grow up and find someone else to debate feminist issues with.
Sheryl May 28, 2013, 11:19 am
I agree that “feminism” has gotten a bad wrap — something that started out as a good thing (equal rights for women) has gotten blown up and interpreted in so many ways, that I think its seen negatively by most people (a lot of women I know don’t think of themselves as “feminists”, but would not want to give up their right to vote). As soon as feminism is tied to anything, it’s discredited, because the feminism card has been overused.
I actually think shaving legs should not fall into things feminists care about — you are perfectly within your rights to not shave your legs, as is your husband for preferring you to continue to shave your legs. Beauty standards is a completely separate topic, and should be treated as such. Frankly, biology is what dictates those. Everyone else in the world would not notice or care if you stopped shaving your legs. And just because a women does shave her legs, doesn’t make her anti-feminist.
Anyway, if you want to truly be a feminist, as others have suggested, start fighting the things that DO compromise women’s rights — in other countries, women are way worse off than in the US, still can’t vote, are looked at as property, raped regularly, etc. But I do think in the US we are still fighting some fights — although we have the legal backing, some of these things are harder to prove (like sexual harassment / discrimination). This is still a very real risk for many women.
ebstarr May 28, 2013, 11:30 am
Wendy makes some really good points, LW, but I thought I’d offer a different perspective. There is a long history of feminism being scoffed at because of the way some of it takes the personal (an intimate relationship between man and women) and turns it political. The thing is, sexism tends to do the same, taking the personal and interpreting it in light of the big fat worldwide patriarchy — if you don’t take your husband’s name you’re a bad wife! if you don’t shave your legs you’re a disgusting lesbian! if you gain ten pounds he has a right to cheat on you! It runs both ways. And your husband is trying to belittle you for taking the first steps towards expressing your feminism. That’s a useful tool for people who aren’t particularly comfortable with the idea of questioning all the ways we perform our gender every day. They just make fun of it and turn “feminism” into “humorlessness.” So… don’t let him get away with making fun of you for this. Humor is great, but belittling is not okay. He has to engage with you seriously (as an equal! Like feminists want!). And I’m not saying he can’t have a legit objection to you going hairy-legged or have legit comments about your logic as many people here do (though I personally think you’re being quite reasonable to not want to shave your legs), but it is not ok to treat your beliefs like they’re hilarious just because they are about things that are just domestic, just personal.
ebstarr May 28, 2013, 11:40 am
Also, I don’t think that you have to fight the feminist equivalent of world hunger in order to legitimately think about gender equality. Most of us don’t donate our entire income, for example, to feeding the poor, nor do we spend all day on the streets handing out flyers about gay marriage, nor do we move to Africa and distribute medicine to children with AIDS. But we believe in ending world hunger and AIDS and marriage inequality anyway. And particularly for someone who is JUST learning about feminism, I don’t think it’s fair for people to say you’re not a “real” feminist, whatever that is, because you don’t, like, take to the streets every weekend to get funding for Planned Parenthood (as far as we know).
theattack May 28, 2013, 11:43 am
THANK YOU!!!!!!!!! I pretty much lose respect for any argument that goes “You must not have any real problems. Why don’t you worry about something that really matters like X, Y, and Z?” So unfair, rude, and endlessly hypocritical.
ebstarr May 28, 2013, 11:46 am
Yes, you worded this same idea excellently up above somewhere but I didn’t see it till after I wrote my post!
Captainswife May 28, 2013, 11:31 am
Sorry, to me feminism means that women don’t have to be limited in their goals, aspirations, and lifestyle simply BECAUSE they have a vagina. But you can be equally feminist even if you DO shave your legs.
LW May 28, 2013, 3:22 pm
Just to make it clear to anyone, I do not for one second believe that any woman who chooses to shave her legs is anti-feminist or a patriarchy-supporter. I believe it’s a personal choice. I also believe it’s a choice women should make conscientiously, though – I think it should be a well-examined decision, not just a default.
My train of thought around leg-shaving went something like this. “[While shaving] Boy I hate doing this. The longer I’ve kept up with it, the more I hate it. Why do I even do it in the first place? Ah, well, some boys made fun of me when I was in junior high and came to school with hairy legs. That’s when I first asked my mom to teach me to shave. Why do I still do it? Because if I don’t, I’ll be made fun of. I’ll single myself out as weird and be a target. Wait, is that really my reason? That’s kind of stupid. I’m letting those boys still have power over me enough to affect my decision 15 years later. I should just stop already, public opinion be damned. The whole ‘clean-shaven women’ thing based in gendered double-standards about appearance anyway. Good, then, it’s settled, I don’t want to shave my legs therefore I will not. I’m free! Oh, but crap, Husband will probably have an opinion on this…”
So even though the letter didn’t seem to get that point across, in this chicken-egg scenario, it was my distaste for shaving my legs that came first, followed by the feminist afterthought of “It’s all a load of crap anyway.”
Bittergaymark May 28, 2013, 11:34 am
There’s being a feminist and then there is being a pain in the ass. Which does everybody think I suspect this LW is? To put it bluntly, the quit shaving your legs b.s. is quite a unfair rabbit to pull from your hat. More than just a bit of a game changer. If your husband had wanted some Solo time with Chewbacca I think he would have made that clear while dating…
PS… Aren’t we past all this feminism = going out of your way to make yourself as unattractive as possible? Somehow, I thought we were. But at the end of the day you want your husband to be a different man than the one you married. If you wanted to keep your name so badly, the time to hash that out would have been BEFORE you, you know, did it. Not years after the fact…
ebstarr May 28, 2013, 11:45 am
What a depressing way to think about marriage. Exploring new beliefs, theories, identities is off-limits once you’re married because it’s changing the game? Jeez. I’d think people who were married would be supportive of their partners’ intellectual and personal growth.
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 11:50 am
I think its more of Turning into a Completely, or Very Different Person that Mark is talking about, and I agree.
theattack May 28, 2013, 11:52 am
But is putting down the razor really an essential part of a person? If it is, I wonder what will happen when her boobs get saggy and her hair turns gray.
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 11:57 am
No, not really…but if I love my husband clean shaven, and hate a beard, and no longer enjoy kissing him or other stuff because he’s decided out of the blue to be a hairy man (a choice on his part, not hair turning grey which isn’t a choice), I could see myself being pretty upset that all of a sudden I couldn’t enjoy kissing him.
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 11:59 am
And I do think one owes a duty to their partner to at least TRY to stay attractive to them, try to maintain your weight, etc. I think that’s very important. I’d hope my husband stayed with me if I gained 200 lbs because he loves me, but when you completely change yourself, I do feel for the partner who is stuck with a totally new person they didn’t sign up to marry.
theattack May 28, 2013, 12:02 pm
I agree with you about that. I just disagree that this changes who she is essentially. I also think that while she has an obligation to make reasonable efforts to try to stay desirable, he also has to make reasonable efforts to understand where she’s coming from and accept her personal growth because it’s part of who she is.
Firestar May 28, 2013, 12:39 pm
It doesn’t change who she is essentially but it might change whether or not he is attracted to her. Attraction isn’t all personality…there is a very physical component too.
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 28, 2013, 11:57 am
Deciding that your husband is sexist because he has personal reasons for wanting you to keep shaving is a pretty big deal.
theattack May 28, 2013, 12:00 pm
Didn’t say anything about that.
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 28, 2013, 12:02 pm
It goes along with the razor. It’s not *just* about stopping shaving. It’s a larger thing.
ebstarr May 28, 2013, 11:56 am
I mean, he’d be within his rights to leave her because he didn’t marry a feminist and doesn’t want to be married to one. You can leave your wife for whatever reason you want, right? But that doesn’t mean she’s wrong for becoming one just because she wasn’t one when she married. That just means that marriage becomes a limitation on your growth, instead of what it should be — two people helping each other grow.
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 12:00 pm
Right. Each has a choice. She can choose to change, he can choose to leave because of it. Pretty fair.
ebstarr May 28, 2013, 12:21 pm
Agreed. I was just objecting to vilifying her.
Lindsay May 28, 2013, 1:47 pm
That’s true, but I think it’s problematic for someone to turn a fight with their partner over a grooming habit into “if you don’t like it, you can just leave.”
Also, I don’t really feel like all situations in which people change after marriage can just be grouped into this one umbrella concept of not limiting growth. Like I doubt this guy is expecting her to not change anything ever. Some things are more important to each partner than others, and I think it’s a case-by-case basis whether it’s something that needs to be compromised on or not.
ebstarr May 28, 2013, 1:55 pm
Right, and I think “feminism” in whatever way she chooses to express it is something that’s within her rights to explore after marriage. If it were just a grooming habit, then I’d feel differently – that’s not growth, just vanity (or lack thereof).
csp May 28, 2013, 11:36 am
Funny story. I just got back from a cruise. I had a hard time shaving because of the teeny tiny shower. It was also Alaska so I didn’t feel compelled to be perfect at it. However, by the time I was home, I felt so skeeved out! I couldn’t wait to get back to my “good” razor. This literally happened to me yesterday when I got home. Funny how this letter just came out when I just felt so happy to have shaved legs.
mf May 28, 2013, 11:38 am
I agree with everybody else about the leg shaving thing; it’s not always a feminist issue. That being said, I get why you’re upset about the way he rolls his eyes at you. That’s really not cool, even if you do sound ridiculously while ranting about leg hair and the patriarchy. Eye rolling is an expression of disdain, and that’s not how you should be treating your partner, regardless of gender or feminist ideals.
I had a similar problem with my husband. He has this habit of interrupting me when I’m talking because he already knows what I’m going to say and believes my point is not relevant. (He’s very, very smart, which means he’s often a smartass and a know-it-all.) One day he interrupted me, and I flat out told him, “Honey, I really don’t appreciate it when you interrupt me like that. It’s rude and dismissive, and it tells me that you don’t value my opinions. Even if your brain is ten steps ahead of mine, you should still have the courtesy to listen to what I’m saying.” That pretty much stopped him in his tracks. He apologized right away and said he’d make effort to listen instead of railroading me when I try to speak.
All this to say, maybe you can just try being really blunt with him. He won’t necessarily share all your feminist beliefs, but the least he can do is listen respectfully and not roll his eyes.
Bittergaymark May 28, 2013, 11:44 am
I thoroughly disagree about the eyerolling. Sometimes eye rolling is truly warranted. Repeatedly trotting out feminism as a reason to stop shaving yours legs is rather like repeatedly refusing to wash the dirty dishes with soap due to environmental concerns… Both are equally laughably absurd.
Fabelle May 28, 2013, 11:55 am
Yeah, I’m not on board with all the “eye rolling is an expression of contempt” comments, either? I mean, it COULD be—but I think, in this case, it’s just an exasperated reaction. Are people not allowed to have those?
If it’s repeated, behind-the-back eye rolling (like doing it every time your partner asks you to do the dishes, for example) then yeah, it’s an issue—& most likely, one of many. But I find it odd how people are fixating on that, here.
Fabelle May 28, 2013, 11:57 am
Also (& this isn’t in response to anyone directly, I just don’t know where to stick this) I like what Diablo said above about the dynamic he has with his wife (“My marriage is a constant jockeying of philosophical, political, social, personal, and comedy-based arguments”). That’s kinda how my relationship is as well, & yeah, we both roll our eyes at each other sometimes.
theattack May 28, 2013, 12:00 pm
Then I guess it probably just means different things to different people. When I roll my eyes, it means I think someone is an absolute moron and whatever they’re saying is just worthless verbal trash. It’s definitely not just exasperation for me. Maybe we should require all LWs to say “In the context of our relationship, my husband has shown non-verbal communication indicating contempt / exasperation” instead of specific examples. haha
Heather May 28, 2013, 12:56 pm
Haha yeah I mean, I wrote this above, but I definitely don’t always see eye rolling as a gesture laced with contempt. Sometimes it can be, but in my experience, that’s a rarity. I think it’s interesting how many different commenters can interpret the same letter.
Eagle Eye May 28, 2013, 12:02 pm
Yeah, my boyfriend respects me, he also rolls his eyes at him (he’s also brilliant and a smart-ass), I just remind him that he’s with me because he believes that I’m as smart as him – so listen to me!
Which does, for a while, and then we have this conversation again, like 5 min later….
bethany May 28, 2013, 12:07 pm
I’m with you, Fab. I’m fairly certain I roll my eyes at my husband from time to time when he comes up with some crazy idea, and I know for a fact that he does it almost every time I take the cat out for a walk on his leash!
Lindsay May 28, 2013, 12:08 pm
I’m usually opposed to eye rolling because it’s rude. But if someone rants at you repeatedly about a political belief they already know you don’t agree with, then they’ve sort of got to expect it.
Firestar May 28, 2013, 12:48 pm
I agree with the eye rolling thing too. If it is done whenever you open your mouth – that’s one thing. But if you say or do something over the top? Or questionable? Meh. My husband and I will ask “seriously? That’s what you are going to go with? ” It isn’t a respectful ” I am hearing you and understanding” response to what ever the other was saying – but must it be? All the time? Sound exhausting.
mf May 28, 2013, 1:13 pm
I understand the urge to roll your eyes. Some people really are that obnoxious. But of all the people you know and interact with, your partner deserves your utmost respect and kindness. You should be giving them your best self, and IMO, that doesn’t include eyerolling. And you know what? If the person you married makes you want to roll your eyes, then, well, you chose to marry them. You made your bed, so you get to lie in it.
Bittergaymark May 28, 2013, 8:26 pm
You live in fantasy land.
I have never met a couple. Young or old. Gay or straight where there hasn’t ever been any eyerolling. Seriously. To expect otherwise is laughable. Again, fantasy land. Sorry..,
Kate B. May 28, 2013, 11:38 am
This is like the men-opening-doors issue that comes up now and again. Just because a man opens a door for you, does that mean he thinks of you as inferior? I don’t think so. I consider myself a feminist in that I believe in equal pay, sex ed, pro-choice and all the things the LW cited above. But I also love it when a man opens a door for me. Why? I consider it good manners and a gesture of respect. But I am not relieved of any obligation. In order to get said respect, I must be worthy of it. Therein lies the balance, and I am all about balance. Does your husband treat you well otherwise? Does he respect you as an equal partner in life? I get not wanting to be a doormat, but life is abouit compromise, as Wendy said. If you go around with a my-way-or-the-highway attitude, you may find yourself going your way alone.
Older and (hopefully) wiser May 28, 2013, 11:49 am
I’m kind of surprised you guys don’t know what I’m talking about.I’m not saying that women should be June Cleaver. But neither should our men. There’s this whole female fantasy out there where the men are wearing aprons and doing the dishes and the women are the primary providers. They want to be stronger, smarter and “wear the pants”. Do some research. It’s actually out there.
ebstarr May 28, 2013, 12:06 pm
…Men doing the dishes is bad?
Eagle Eye May 28, 2013, 12:10 pm
I’m pretty sure my boyfriend is never more attractive than when he’s doing the dishes, or the laundry, or vacuuming…
Also, my bf’s dad is a great cook and he wears an apron sometimes if he doesn’t want to get splatter on his clothes, as a former MP, I don’t think anyone would think that he’s a lady?
So, I guess I’m confused
Lindsay May 28, 2013, 12:46 pm
I think it has less to do with fantasy and the fact that if women and men are both working in full-time jobs, it makes no sense for women to be the only ones who are cleaning their home.
Firestar May 28, 2013, 1:00 pm
I always think something went awry with the couple that both work and then she has all the child care and home responsibilities too and is run ragged. You are doing feminism wrong sweetie. It never meant you were to have two full time jobs while your husband just kept his one. Who the hell wants THAT deal?
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 1:50 pm
Wait…that’s not what they meant when they said women can have it all?!
Firestar May 28, 2013, 1:54 pm
Have it all….not DO it all!
Lindsay May 28, 2013, 3:08 pm
I know I wouldn’t want my husband to take my opportunity to work eight hours a day and then come home and clean, cook, and take care of the kids by myself. LET GO OF THE DAMN DISH SOAP, HERBERT.
lets_be_honest May 29, 2013, 9:51 am
Lindsay, There’s pee on my pants now thanks to your comment.
ele4phant May 28, 2013, 8:33 pm
ele4phant May 28, 2013, 8:46 pm
Let me elaborate, in both my family and my boyfriends family our fathers were our primary care givers. In his case, his dad was quite a bit older than his mother and retired after a long career, while in my case my mother was the higher wattage individual in the marriage. In any event, we both had a model in our childhood were our fathers were home with us, cooking, cleaning and caring for children while their wives worked. Did they mind? Did they feel something was “wrong” with that model? Maybe – if I had to guess I’d say my dad struggled with it more.
But still, my boyfriend and I both had happy functional childhoods that went against what was supposedly natural (and so did a lot of our peers who had mothers that were the breadwinner or an equal contributor to the household income). To us, we lived it, we’ve seen it can work, and we want that for our own lives: to be equals and to share responsibilities. It’s as natural to us as it is unnatural to you. Which is to say, it’s completely socially and not at all biologically constructed.
I understand that for you, and your peers, the role of women and men are more specific and unflexible, but believe, just because that’s the only way it would work for you means its the only way it’ll work for all of mankind forever.
FireStar May 28, 2013, 9:24 pm
Completely agree. I was worried that ” trying to be a man” meant subscribing to some 60’s stereotyping…and it did. Perhaps it is a generational thing but it is still disappointing to read it today.
Temperance May 29, 2013, 4:29 pm
What are you actually talking about? To find that women want the financial and career opportunities that men have traditionally always had access to? Or to find that cleaning your house fucking sucks and women don’t want to do it, either?
If you think either of these is a bad thing, then maybe you have the problem, not strong, smart women?
iwannatalktosampson May 28, 2013, 11:50 am
It kind of seems like you’re picking a fight just to prove how feminist you are and how huge your backbone is – which is weird. And you’re picking a weird target. I used to be very argumentative when I was a kid. Like if my Dad said the sky was blue I would say it was yellow and explain to him all the reasons he was wrong. I didn’t really care what color the sky was, I just liked arguing. (Future lawyer training started young).
Leg shaving is a weird issue to put your foot down on. I didn’t realize shaving was a feminist issue. I mean I kind of get it – women have to look pretty to have value blah blah blah – but maybe he just likes the feel of smooth legs pre-bang.
I would roll my eyes at your too, for the reasons I listed above. It is kind of ridiculous to prove your feminist ways by picking a fight about the man getting you down and giving into society by shaving your legs. It all sounds so dramatic. I think he’s being a really good sport for playing along as much as he is.
Lindsay May 28, 2013, 12:02 pm
I consider myself a feminist, but it’s hard for me to get myself really riled up about leg shaving and stuff like that. I don’t find it weird that your husband is opposing it or offensive that it’s one that bothers him because it affects him. Of course something that affects him is going to bother him more than something that doesn’t. What if he decided to grow his toenails long all of a sudden? I realize that your argument would be that this has some sort of political implications, and that doesn’t, but sometimes you can’t make every decision based on your political beliefs. Sometimes it’s not feasible. For example, you may be a total environmentalist and want to give up your car, but if you live in the middle of nowhere and have no public transit options, it’s just not feasible.
And as for shaving not being fun, I agree. I basically don’t shave in the winter unless I have a boyfriend, which I usually don’t. But you obviously were OK with shaving the entire time that you knew your husband, so I can see why he is suspicious of you suddenly wanting to stop so badly.
As for living your beliefs, I guess shaving falls under the umbrella of expectations enforced on women, but I can kind of see why your husband is eye-rolly. I mean, whether you shave your legs or not is not really changing any of the issues facing women in this country or elsewhere. I lived with a bunch of hippies who bitched about whether I was buying toilet paper for the house from morally deficient companies and posted rants on Facebook, but they spent all their time smoking pot and drinking, so yeah, I rolled my eyes at them because they were not doing a thing to help anyone and two weeks later they had different causes they cared about.
And my final point, which Wendy talked about, I think you’ve fallen into the trap that a lot of people do when they want to stop being doormats. They go to the other extreme. Like Wendy said, your husband is allowed to have different beliefs as you. Debates are fine, if that’s something you guys enjoy, but fighting with him in an attempt to “win” or change his mind seems more aggressive than assertive. I think a big problem for “doormats” is not knowing what being assertive is. So I’d suggest doing some reading or considering counseling on your own (since you were already interested) if you are concerned with being more assertive.
bethany May 28, 2013, 12:05 pm
I think it’s odd that the only specific example included was the leg shaving. To me it just sounds like you’re using “feminism” as a legit way to get out of shaving your legs, and I can understand why your husband would roll his eyes at that. Mine would too! But as others have mentioned, if he suddenly decided to grow a ZZ Top beard, I’d roll my eyes at him too, and maybe even chop it off in his sleep!
But anyway, my point is, it sounds like you guys have similar views (he is pro-choice, pro-equal pay, pro-sex-ed), why are you making such a big deal out of this?
savannah May 28, 2013, 12:10 pm
“But are the standards really arbitrary and sexist if they are what your husband prefers? Are his preferences automatically anti-feminist if a majority of society shares them?”
I don’t understand how no one is talking about how personal preferences (esp. this one!) are dictated by a patriarchy society. Women shave their legs because its a gendered expectation of beauty. Men prefer this because its what they have been taught to prefer on a societal level. It’s no accident that a majority of society shares this view. His preferences to this are actually anti-feminist in direct relation to the fact that a majority of society shares this view. I don’t think shes going about this in any right way but that does not negate the greater issue at hand.
Christy May 28, 2013, 12:44 pm
This this this!
Lindsay May 28, 2013, 12:56 pm
I agree with this. But she married him either knowing that this was his preference or not asking. She’s free to change her mind, but I think you can get only so angry at someone for a belief they held when you married them.
Heather May 28, 2013, 12:59 pm
I understand where you’re coming from. However, I like shaving my legs because: it feels more comfortable, and I think MY legs look unsightly when they’re not shaved. I do it because I want to. I actually know lady friends who don’t shave their legs because they don’t care/don’t want to/etc. And really, to each their own. I don’t think there’s anything wrong and patriarchal about me wanting to shave my legs because I personally feel more attractive after having done so.
Having said that, I don’t shave my legs that much in the winter. There’s no point really in Minnesota winters. Haha.
Firestar May 28, 2013, 1:28 pm
Much of society is rooted in patriarchy. Absolutely. It is just the history of much of the world. What you choose to embrace or fight is a personal preference though. As long as you are okay with the current day consequences of your choice? Have at it. A father giving the bride away – rooted in patriarchy- to some a sweet tradition, to others a little too ownership-y. As long as both are okay with the consequences of keeping or breaking with an original patriarchical practice – that is still a valid choice for both parties that doesn’t make either party too feminist or not feminist enough. They each have the right to choose and no one gets to dictate that choice – one way or the other.
Beauty standards are rooted in male centric visions of female beauty. Sure. But I can still choose to embrace them if I’m okay making that choice for myself. I am not anti-feminist if I do. Feminism – to me at least – doesn’t mean rejecting everything that came before – it means I have the choice of what I reject and what I keep, irrespective of what the rest of society is doing.
kerrycontrary May 28, 2013, 1:37 pm
I agree that these sort of personal preferences are rooted by a patriarchal society, but sometimes men and women make decisions on their personal preferences apart from the society in which they’ve been raised. Just because our decision mirrors societal expectations does not explicitly mean that we made our decision because of societal expectations.
Amybelle May 28, 2013, 2:08 pm
I agree, it’s the idea that shaven legs are somehow “more feminine” than their natural hairy state. A clean shaven man isn’t seen as less masculine than one with a beard. It is a matter of personal preference, but those preferences are cultural and influenced by sexism. Feminism to me means (among many other things) not judging a woman’s femininity by whether or not she shaves her legs, just as most of us don’t judge a clean shaven man as less masculine than a bearded one. Women’s legs naturally have hair, they don’t somehow become more of a woman by shaving it off.
landygirl May 28, 2013, 12:14 pm
I think I lucked out…I didn’t change my name after I got married, I don’t shave my legs and yet my husband still loves me. Now if I could only get him to do the dishes…
ktfran May 28, 2013, 12:24 pm
I’m fairly certain that if what some are saying on here, i.e., eye rolling, is dismissive and disrespectful, then I am disrespectful on a regualar basis. Maybe I don’t roll my eyes, but I call people on their b.s. quite a bit. And this strange fight the LW is having sounds a little bit like b.s.
I use to be a doormat. People told me I was a doormat. They also told me to stop being a pushover. I’m not a doormat any longer. But I also don’t try to cause fights when there is none. To stop being a doormat, all you have to do is say no when you don’t want to do something, stop letting people take you for granted, and speaking up when you have something to say. Also, if someone hurts me, I tell them they have hurt me and how it made my feel. People respond to feelings. They don’t respond to being attacked.
And I’m pretty sure me deciding to look pretty on a regular basis does not make me anti-feminist. I equate with the way one looks with personal preferences. Which is why I called this fight b.s. I wish better examples would have been given.
landygirl May 28, 2013, 12:49 pm
Isn’t it ironic that your friends strong armed you into not being a pushover?
Sarah May 28, 2013, 12:32 pm
Am I the only one who thinks it would be weird if my partner decided to comment on the shaven or unshaven state of my legs? I mostly keep them shaved, but sometimes I get lazy and go for a week or two without it. He never says anything! He always thinks I’m beautiful and attractive, which is one very nice facet of our “feminist” (or you could call it equal) partnership. I find him attractive regardless of what he does with his body hair, so he can do anything he wants to it, and I can do the same. I don’t have to worry that it will cause him to say or think “eww!” or that it will change his opinion about me, that just sounds exhausting.
Christy May 28, 2013, 12:46 pm
Right!? My gf does not give a SHIT. She just wants to be less neurotic about my body hair. However that happens, she’s good.
Fabelle May 28, 2013, 12:50 pm
I think that’s why this is probably just an issue of how she’s presenting herself? I mean, I also regularly go a week or 2 without shaving my legs, & my boyfriend doesn’t give a shit. And wouldn’t even notice half the time, except usually I’ll stick my legs in his face like, “Look! Muahaha!” Annnnd then, he’s usually pleased because he can try plucking the hairs out (which is fun for him, apparently.)
TMI, but that’s how ~I~ know my boyfriend isn’t a jerk about beauty norms or whatever. I’m sure if I came home one day all, “Hey, not gonna shave my legs anymore because it’s a bullshit, patriarchal-enforced practice!” he’d be confused/upset. Which is the impression I’m getting from this LW’s husband—he’s just confused, upset, not understanding her logic.
(Not to say her logic is WRONG, just her presentation)
Sarah May 28, 2013, 12:59 pm
Ahh yes, I totally agree. I mean, I really LOVE the principle that in my relationship we don’t care about beauty norms and accept each other’s bodies as autonomous, but if that’s not how your relationship began I can see how trying to incorporate that new unexplored value can cause some growing pains, and it definitely needs to be presented in the correct way.
If that value is ultimately something that she needs and wants to incorporate into her relationship, I don’t think that’s a problem in and of itself, why shouldn’t her marriage be able evolve over time? However, she definitely needs to approach it differently if she’s not getting the reaction she’s looking for.
AliceInDairyland May 29, 2013, 12:22 am
Reading through this thing… this is the first time I have said “Yes” out loud.
I have wayyy bigger effing things to worry about than whether or not my partner has shaved recently.
cdobbs May 28, 2013, 12:49 pm
seems kind of pathetic to label yourself a feminist in North America because you don’t want to shave your legs….when there are women in the world who deal with genital mutilation…can’t leave their house without wearing a burka….hell google Malala Yousafzai….this girl defied the Taliban and promoted schooling for girls in her country and was shot in the head for her beliefs….we need to put things in perspective here
theattack May 28, 2013, 1:22 pm
I’ve said it twice already, but I’ll say it again. That is a very unfair statement. It’s wildly hypocritical, rude, and illogical. Basically if you complain about anything ever you should just shut up because someone else has it worse? We don’t need to put things in perspective. We’re all well aware of the horrors going on in the world. If you don’t want to help someone work through small life problems, an advice site is probably not the best place for you.
iwannatalktosampson May 28, 2013, 1:28 pm
Saying you’re not allowed to be sad because someone has it worse is like saying you’re not allowed to be happy because someone has it better.
theattack May 28, 2013, 1:29 pm
Omg I love that so much!
cdobbs May 28, 2013, 1:51 pm
i don’t know….i think of life problems as can’t pay to feed your kids….or my boyfriend treats me bad (cheating, abusive)….if this girls biggest problem is that her husband doesn’t like hairy legs then she lives a pretty charmed life….and if she thinks that she is a feminist because she doesn’t shave her legs then she is missing the big picture…and i’m just stating my opinion….if the letter writer doesn’t want to hear it, then don’t read it….simple
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 1:53 pm
How would she know she doesn’t want to hear it before she reads it? 😉
I agree with ta’s point generally, but at the same time, it is good for the LW to hear that she has it pretty good if this is her big issue. That’s a nice reminder to someone who’s caught up in nonsense and doesn’t realize it.
theattack May 28, 2013, 2:00 pm
She never said that her life was falling apart because of this issue, and I don’t think she’s a feminist BECAUSE of this issue. You’re basically saying that because she has a small issue and is trying to solve it, she’s missing the big picture. Sorry, but that just doesn’t make sense. We all have small problems that we talk over with our girlfriends or whatever. It doesn’t mean we have a perspective issue. It just means we have a small dilemma.
Fabelle May 28, 2013, 2:11 pm
Yeah, I agree. The whole “there are starving children!” counter-argument is becoming really tired. Also, why do people assume that ~just~ because somebody wrote into an advice site, whatever he/she’s writing about is their BIGGEST problem? I’m sure this isn’t her biggest problem (& I agree with what you said way above, that she’s clearly just looking to open a discussion here.)
Lindsay May 28, 2013, 3:16 pm
Yeah, it’s silly to compare the LW’s problems to world hunger and genital mutilation, but I think it’s relevant for an individual to consider exactly how big of a problem their relationship gripe is.
Diablo May 28, 2013, 1:47 pm
OK, LW, did you ever actually just not shave your legs? Because that’s what you should have done. Why are you discussing this with your husband or us? If your husband threatens divorce over it, write us later and we’ll tell you he’s a jerk. If you’re a feminist, why do you need his approval for this? If you didn’t shave, wouldn’t he just deal with it? Would you ask your husband for permission to change your hairstyle, Ms. Feminist?
Sorry to be snotty, but really! Do what you want. Ask for forgiveness, not permission. Or don’t ask for forgiveness. Is it really more complicated than that?
findingtheearth May 28, 2013, 2:04 pm
I view myself as a feminist- I also just shaved my legs over the weekend. I don’t shave them very often, not because I am cool or anything, but because I have a lot of Finnish blood in me, so I don’t grow a lot of leg hair.
Now, if your husband refused to respect you on some other issue, or rolled your eyes if you said you were angry about some of the truly spectacular things certain political candidates said last fall regarding the female body, I could see being angry.
If you want to exert feminist ideals, get involved with some local pregnancy resource centers, contribute to women’s shelters, volunteer for your local candidates who support the same ideals you want to project. At the end of the day, no one really cares if you shave your legs are not and no one will hold it against you if you do.
I could see being angry if your husband wanted you to stay at home or cook every single one of his meals or wait on him hand and foot as soon as he opened the door, but wanting you to be clean shaven seems more of a personal hygienic need than anything else.
LW May 28, 2013, 2:05 pm
Ohhhh I regretted sending this letter in a few days after I wrote it and was hoping to send Wendy a retraction. The example I used was not a great one, it was just top-of-mind because it was recent. At least I hope she gets some good pageviews from it.
It did eventually dawn on me that if I want to continue to get laid, I should keep shaving my legs, even if I do find it irritating.
His exact reaction to the idea that I stop shaving altogether was a very emphatic “Gross.” I tried to prod him for WHY he thought it was gross (that was probably my first mistake), and from there, it wasn’t a big leap to societal gender standards, i.e. why it’s gross for a woman but OK for a man. I wasn’t trying to lecture or accuse HIM personally, I thought that maybe seeing things through the larger lens might change his mind (second mistake). In any case, not the best example.
My evolution as a feminist has been gradual, and pretty independent from formal texts. While I follow a few blogs here and there, I don’t think I’ve actually read any “academic” feminism since my one-and-only Womens Studies course in my last year of college. Maybe this is why I have trouble talking about “my” feminism in a way that doesn’t make me sound stupid and confused. (This is not the first time I’ve gotten the “Oh puh-leeze” reaction that I’m seeing here.) It’s really hard to sum up my whole worldview in a letter, though. Suffice it to say I’m not just reading things and adapting my behavior and beliefs to them for the sake of being/appearing Feminist. I do legit hate shaving my legs, AND have problems with the beauty standards. Can’t it be both?
Perhaps AP is right, I should avoid the F-word and try to talk about my feelings on things without leaning on Feminism for context, even when it does support my stance. At the risk of being yet another defensive LW, though, I am fully aware there are more serious issues for women in this world than leg-shaving. FFS.
Anyway, without writing a novel about it, yes we have communication issues. I saw some of the same patterns in the leg-shaving discussion that we’ve played out elsewhere and elsewhen (?? sure let’s go with that). It irks me something fierce that because we’re not fighting all the time or at each other’s throats, he doesn’t think our communication issues are worth working on, especially not if it costs any money (like seeing a counselor). He rolls his eyes at things like the 5 Love Languages too, I could not get him to read it or take the assessment when it was recommended to me. I’m open-minded to try just about anything, but is there really much I can do one-sided? It’s one thing to be aware of my own communication flaws right now, but they’re not exactly at the top of my mind in the heat of the moment.
theattack May 28, 2013, 2:32 pm
I’m sorry you have such a hard time getting him to work on your communication issues. Unfortunately there isn’t anything one-sided you can do besides continuing to communicate with him and to point out examples of why you need to work on this stuff together. Honestly, 5 love languages is good, but it’s not the battle I would pick right now. It might help, but it probably won’t be the most effective thing at fixing this. I would push for marriage counseling or reading a Gottman book together if you can. Maybe use an example to convince him: “Would you postpone changing the oil in the car until the engine has locked up because of it?” “No, that’s a stupid question.” “Well our marriage needs some regular maintenance too. It’s easier to do some light maintenance on it now than it is to wait until it’s broken and we’re miserable. Please ___________ with me.”
Ultimately you can’t do it all on your own. If he keeps refusing to work on it, you need to decide if it’s worth it to you to be in a marriage where your spouse refuses to work on your relationship.
Roxy84 May 28, 2013, 2:38 pm
I like TA’s idea of using the car analogy, and that going to a counselor is probably an easier battle to win than getting him to read some book on his own. Counselling is more concrete and widely used, so a skeptic would probably be more likely to do that than to read a book and reflect.
theattack May 28, 2013, 2:45 pm
Interesting that you said that about the counseling. I actually thought a book might be easier because so many people are embarrassed to go to counseling or don’t want to air their dirty laundry. But you’re definitely right about counseling being more concrete. Now that I think about it, a book might not be a great idea for someone who won’t discuss things openly. If he reads it and just shrugs his shoulders with nothing to say, it probably won’t help. Who knows though. Whatever works for the LW and her husband.
Roxy84 May 28, 2013, 2:59 pm
Yeah I think it depends entirely on the relationship and the guy. For the guy who is more “I think we’re just fine but I suppose I’m willing to humour you”, reading a book and having a discussion about it would be great. But for a guy who might regard a book about communication with skepticism, counselling might seem like more of a reasonable thing that people do. And I agree, whatever works.
LW May 28, 2013, 4:41 pm
Counseling, whether in book format (he’s not a reader anyway) or in person, is not something he thinks highly of, so either way it’s an uphill battle. He views it as “a crutch for people who can’t suck it up and deal with life” (his words) and a waste of time and money if you’re not actually mentally ill or in a crisis. The only time we’ve gone to counseling together WAS a crisis situation, but he didn’t like the therapist herself and the whole experience seemed to confirm his bias against counseling. I’ve recently brought up the idea of finding a therapist to see locally on an occasional basis, like once a month or so, and he scoffed at that idea too.
Rock and a hard place.
snarkymarc May 29, 2013, 9:07 am
I think I was a lot like your husband when I was in my twenties. I didn’t give relationships or communications any credence at all. I studied engineering and and just didn’t get why anyone would study communications. I did mature over time and slowly understood the impact of my words and actions. Hopefully your husband will follow the same learning curve, but maybe a bit faster. Keep trying to work with him. You probably have already tried this but maybe you can focus on issues that are near and dear to his heart. An obvious option is sex. Maybe you can show him how your sex life can improve with better communication.
It’s interersting that this forum is comprised of mostly women. I’m not sure why, but in my experience most men just aren’t as interested in relationships and communications as women. It must suck being a communicative partner who is paired with a non-communicative partner. Keep trying.
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 2:55 pm
Hmm, not me. I’d much rather read a book than go to a counselor/therapist.
kerrycontrary May 28, 2013, 2:39 pm
I add my condolences that you are having trouble communicating. It really is hard to be the only person trying.
lets_be_honest May 28, 2013, 2:54 pm
What if you just said…listen, I know you think this is dumb, but its something I really want us to try reading together, so could you do that for me? (re the 5 languages book).
Last week, katie linked an article about “fighting fair” that I thought my partner and I could benefit from. I printed it, later that night when we were lounging, I pulled it out and just said ‘hey, could we read this together?’ It was simple, and helpful, and above all, made me happy that he didn’t hesitate to say yes because it mattered to me.
landygirl May 28, 2013, 3:08 pm
I wouldn’t even preface it by saying it sounds dumb because in truth, it isn’t dumb at all. I feel like it negates the LW’s feelings before she even starts and validates the husband’s feelings that it’s going to be dumb. She should just be firm about her opinion and present it as such.
lets_be_honest May 29, 2013, 9:52 am
You’re absolutely right landy.
katie May 28, 2013, 9:27 pm
aw, im glad that article helped you! its a good one.
Fabelle May 28, 2013, 3:10 pm
Yeah, it sounds like more of communication problem, then—& not yours, necessarily. He sounds dismissive of…well, anything? Maybe he hears it as “we have soo many problems!” instead of “here are some little things we can work on.” I like TA’s car analogy, too.
Do you e-mail each other? When I want my boyfriend to discuss something with me, I’ll e-mail him links (like something in the news, a blog post, etc. I totally e-mailed him the 5 love languages thing when somebody posted it here, haha) That might not work for you, but it’s another suggestion (besides the “let’s sit down & read” one, which doesn’t always work for everybody.)
LW May 28, 2013, 5:05 pm
We tend to do that verbally rather than through email. Like, if I read something I find interesting or that I think he’ll find interesting, I’ll tell him about it after work while we’re making dinner and we’ll talk about it. He is not much of a reader and has a reading-related learning disability (not dyslexia, but something related to how he retains information), So, I’ll send him a Futurama meme on Facebook, but won’t email him a longer article about fighting styles, because I assume (a) he won’t read it anyway or will just skim the first paragaph or so, (b) he won’t take it seriously/will be dismissive, and (c) he will think I’m beating around the bush with something he wants me to just come out and say OR (d) he thinks I’m trying to win an argument by showing evidence that others agree with me.
Hmm, in that last point there, I think that might just capture why he balks whenever I mention that a view that I hold just happens to be one that Feminism also supports, and why he doesn’t like me talking about “us” with anyone outside our marriage, be it my BFF or an objective counselor. He doesn’t want me to rally troops against him and make him out to be the bad guy – and might believe that in the lens of Feminism, he’s automatically the bad guy. This is tricky for me because I do like to lean on third-party opinions and outside facts to support my own thoughts and feelings – I don’t exist in a vacuum, and arguments aren’t valid without supporting evidence that stands up to cross-examination. Hence why I didn’t feel I could just say “I’m tired of shaving my legs and want to quit for good,” I had to tie my little dinghy to a bigger boat to feel like I had any power.
Hmmm. Stuff to think on.
Amber May 28, 2013, 6:09 pm
“This is tricky for me because I do like to lean on third-party opinions and outside facts to support my own thoughts and feelings – I don’t exist in a vacuum, and arguments aren’t valid without supporting evidence that stands up to cross-examination.”
You need to learn to have enough confidence in your own feelings and thoughts that you can express them and have conviction in them without outside validation.
Skyblossom May 29, 2013, 7:48 am
I think that the root of the problem is that you feel powerless and so like a doormat. Shaving your legs is how that lack of power is being expressed today and tomorrow it will come out in another way with another issue. Do you feel that you need your husband’s permission to not shave your legs?
You were married at a young age. An age at which many people are still trying to establish their independence from their parents. An age when many parents are still telling their kids what to do and the kids don’t feel like they can say no because the parents have always had all of the authority and the kids had to do what the parents said to do. If you hadn’t yet established your independence from your parents when you got married you may have gone into your marriage used to having someone else make all the important decisions for you and with you feeling that you were obligated to do what they wanted you to do. If this is so you may have gone from parents making decisions to husband making decisions and you’ve never been a full equal in the process.
Think about why you feel powerless. Think about why you feel that you need to be validated. Why do you feel that your opinions aren’t valid on their own.
It is probably more valid and more honest to just say that you are tired of shaving your legs than to try to tie shaving your legs to a larger issue. That will sound somewhat phony and instead of making you sound powerful it makes you sound as if you don’t have any real reasons of your own. It is okay to state how you feel. It is okay and it is valid to say, “I am tired of shaving my legs and want to quit for good.” You will be more powerful if you honestly speak for yourself.
Tax Geek May 29, 2013, 8:15 am
If you are always looking for someone else to back you up, I have a feeling he will always feel like he is being double- and triple-teamed.
Temperance May 29, 2013, 4:35 pm
With regards to your last point, I want to ask you: is your husband the type of dude who needs to keep pushing an argument until he’s the winner? Do you fight like adversaries?
It seems like he isn’t giving your opinion equal weight to his, and that’s the problem. It’s not that your brand of feminism isn’t “involved” enough, or that you aren’t knowledgeable enough, it’s that somewhere along the way, someone told you that your opinions aren’t as important as theirs. Maybe it was your husband, maybe it was society, maybe it was your parents …. but I think that’s your problem.
ele4phant May 28, 2013, 10:42 pm
I think you’re being a little unfair about his reaction.
Your decision to not shave your legs is something you’ve given a lot of thought to, for personal reasons, social ones, emotional ones, and rational ones. You’ve clearly spent a good amount of time thinking about what you want to do, and what that means.
Meanwhile, I doubt he gave no thought to whether or not you shave your legs until you asked him his opinion on it. So understandably, his opinion will be a lot less formed then yours. For him, it just is, for you, you’ve spent a lot of time coming to the place where you are now.
It would be like if he spent months researching the right home for you guys to move to, picked what he felt was the best, asked you what you thought and when your immediate reaction was “Meh, seems a little small” he freaked out at you because “HOW COULD YOU THINK THAT?!” You don’t know, you just looked at a dang flyer and gave your first impression, you haven’t spent all the time and effort he did considering the pros and cons of that house. If he sat you down and explained why this house was awesome, and after understanding all his reasoning, you still thought it was a pile of crap, well you guys would have grounds for a legit disagreement.
So its not really unfair to him to treat his opinion as fully developed as yours, and for you to flip out at him. Spend time getting him there, by having calm, unaccusatory discussions where you get him to probe what he feels, and why. He may come around, or not, but he’ll at least be in the same place in his opinion that you are in yours, and you can have a more serious argument about it.
But right now, his opinion is not even in the same galaxy as yours.
BreezyAM May 28, 2013, 1:13 pm
I’m resenting the hell out of this argument that because some women get shot for being women we should just suck it up and take it when men are just mild dicks here, as opposed to super dicks elsewhere.
I mean by that logic, if your partner slaps you around a bit but never breaks bones or draws blood, you reeeeal need to put things in perspective.
I work with a gender advocacy centre. That means we’re feminists, but we also deal with issues of sexuality and gender. Including trans issues and adrogyny. At first I got really snitty about becoming a “gender” space and not a “feminist” space, but the switch eventually won me over because I realized finally the problem is patriarchy, and that it hurts EVERYONE including men, including even straight white dudes. It holds them to the alpha male standard and lord help them if they’re not. So there’s more common ground in that concept.
John Scalzi really gets this kind of stuff, and wrote the piece a year ago about how SWM is the lowest difficulty setting there is (Scalzi is for the record a straight white dude).
But straight white dudes (I am assuming you married a SWD) in general go into DEFENCE mode when we start with this, because they feel we are calling them assholes, implying they are some ruling class. They don’t feel privileged. They have regulat jobs, don’t get laid much, aren’t driving a hot rod, so to them they are not privileged. They don’t get it. At all.
My own husband can tolerate lack of shaving everywhere but pits, it’s just his thing. Ironically, I could not. I tried for yeeeeears but could never get into not shaving. I just hate it. I was only doing it to subscribe to feminist beauty standards. 😉 But, it should be a personal choice thing.
He also hates the term rape culture. I used to as well, and roll my eyes, and basically was a total rapist apologist until Thomas at https://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/ and Captain Awkward got it through my fucking head that all that shit about how “well he wasn’t sure” is 99% bullshit perpetuated by assholes who see (mostly) women as their personal sex gratification object.
I tell you this because if I work at a gender advocacy centre, graduated as a member of the womens studies dept at my university, and basically emeshed in feminism and anti-patriarchy constantly… and a woman! And I’ve had all this time to come to terms with feminism… and been on a bumpy road as I go… where I’m still not perfect in my anti-patriarchal views, where I still struggle and only recently was “okay” (as if you know, my opinion matters?) about stuff like …. breastfeeding transmen, transmen being pregnant… maybe your hubby needs a break? I’m not saying he’s not being an ass, I’m not saying you’re not right, I’m saying… it takes a while to unravel a whole life of being immersed in a patriarchal culture. And he may not even yet realize that’s a culture that harms him as well.
cdobbs May 28, 2013, 3:17 pm
I’m not saying that just because men are only mild dicks here and not super dicks that we should consider ourselves lucky and take it….i just think the LW has no clue what a feminist is….it does not make you a feminist because you don’t wear makeup or shave your legs….she’s making it sound like she is the next coming of rosa parks….maybe her husband doesn’t take her seriously because, well not shaving your legs is a stupid issue….and i don’t think the husband is some misogynist a$$hole because he is attracted to a woman who looks like a woman and not some hairy beast that looks like a man from the knees down…if you want to call yourself a feminist look at real issues like equal pay for equal work
Amybelle May 28, 2013, 7:34 pm
a woman who doesn’t shave her legs doesn’t look like a hairy beast or a man. A woman’s legs in their natural state are hairy, just as men’s are, therefore hairy legs are a gender neutral trait. There is a current societal standard (in the US at least) for women to shave their legs, but to say that a woman that doesn’t do so is ‘beastly’ or masculine is sexist and misogynist. If you’re not attracted to women with hairy legs, fine, tastes differ but to call that beastly or manlike makes you a misogynist a**hole.
Temperance May 29, 2013, 4:31 pm
She definitely did NOT act like she was the “next coming of Rosa Parks”. It was pretty clear that this is an example of an issue in her relationship with her husband and not the end-all, be-all of her identity as a feminist.
Skyblossom May 28, 2013, 2:55 pm
You mention feeling like a doormat and so choose shaving your legs as a way to make a stand. I wouldn’t consider shaving your legs as making you a doormat so I wonder why this specific issue at this time? I would consider you a doormat if your husband makes all the important decisions for the two of you. If you are an equal partner in choosing things like where you live, if you have children, how to spend your money, if, where and when you go on vacation, which appliances to buy and which of all these things has priority in your lives I wouldn’t consider you a doormat. If your husband is making most or all of these decisions then I would take a stand on these types of things and I would do it by saying I was an equal partner in the marriage and had an equal say in what happens that affects you both. Do you feel that your opinions are treated as second rate in your marriage?
Skyblossom May 28, 2013, 3:16 pm
Now to specifically answer the question about how to talk about this with your husband.
First, you need to know why this is important to you. Why do you feel like you need this? To help identify your answer you could write all your reasons down on a piece of paper.
Tired of shaving.
Tired of ingrown hairs.
Feel I’m shaving due to pressure from society.
Feel husband doesn’t take me seriously.
Once you have your list go back over it. Which areas can you compromise and which areas are nonnegotiable?
Maybe you realize you’re tired of shaving and resent the time it takes.
Talk with your husband and get to the root of why he wants you to shave your legs. He could also make a list.
Likes the feel.
Likes the look.
His friends will make fun of him if his wife has hairy legs.
Then see where you can reach a compromise that incorporates the needs of both of you. Maybe you agree to shave when your legs will be seen in public and he agrees to not complain when you don’t shave at any other time. Maybe you skip shaving through the winter and shave through the summer except skip shaving on the weekends.
So, see where you can both compromise and come to an agreement that will meet the most basic needs of both of you.
Miss MJ May 28, 2013, 5:35 pm
You know, LW, even if your husband is reluctant to see a counselor, there’s nothing that stops you from seeing one on your own. Just reading your letter and updates here in the comments, there seems to be a lot more going on with you than whether you shave your legs: communication issues (which, true, you cannot fix your relationship communication problems all by yourself, but maybe a counselor could help you with figuring out how to make yourself heard in a more assertive way, since you feel like a doormat at times and that may be leading to you taking a stand on one thing, when what you really want to do is be more assertive in another area), questioning your relationship and skirting on playing the “what ifs” game, and just the fact that you’re growing and changing in general and sometimes that’s hard on a long term relationship. It might help you to get more insight into what you want and what kind of relationship you value and who you are and who you want to be and how to get there, and a counselor is a great way to do that.
katie May 28, 2013, 10:02 pm
well, its been a long day and i have to go to bed and i didnt read everything, but thanks for all the support for not shaving my legs. i seriously always thought i was a “bad” woman because i hate shaving. so thanks for showing me that doesnt have to be true! fuck shaving!
related: my NO!NO! thing ran out of batteries tonight and i of course forgot the charger in chicago. damn it.
Ammie May 28, 2013, 11:36 pm
I agree with you that leg-shaving is part of female sexuality as infantilization, along with the prizing of big eyes, baby-soft skin, and blonde hair.
That said, your husband has probably never heard that before (or makeup as simulating the face’s appearance during sex, which is why makeup on toddlers in beauty pageants makes our skin crawl… some of us, that is), so he doesn’t know, and he might think it’s overthinking things.
Furthermore, while it’s nice to challenge beauty standards, I think it’s important to ask ourselves 2 things.
1) Do we recognize that sexual attraction is a 2-way street, and that we perform gender at least in part to elicit the socially conditioned favor and interest of the opposite sex? (If so, are we willing to give up their interest for the sake of a political statement? Because we can’t force them to find something attractive after years of being conditioned to find it unattractive.)
2) Are we free ourselves of social conditioning when it comes to the attractiveness of our partner? If you stop shaving and your partner should be proud to be seen with you in public with full hair on your legs and underarms, should you be just as proud to be seen with him if he starts taking up styles of dress that are eccentric for males (say HE starts shaving his legs and underarms and wearing sundresses and lip gloss)? Are you ready to put your money where your mouth is?
There’s certainly a lot of obnoxious sexism built into our culture. But not everything needs to be a campaign, either, especially when you recognize that you’re not really exempt from social expectations either. I love my boyfriend’s excellent muscles and his ability to fix things and the slightly deeper, professional tone he takes when he’s answering his work phone. All those things get me really hot. All of those things are, to some extent, male gender performance that he really shouldn’t feel obliged to conform to, but they’re harmless to him, they’re hot to me, we’re both creatures of our society, and it’s tiring to worry about these things 24-7. 😛
AliceInDairyland May 29, 2013, 12:31 am
Bah, I just felt my legs and they are stubbly. I pretty much only shave my legs if they are going to be seen by the general public. I have never heard a word about it, except for appreciation if they are particularly smooth. Why don’t you just shave whenever you feel like it?
I am so intrigued and confused by this whole post and all the comments. Too busy makin’ rhubarb jam for this!
Temperance May 29, 2013, 4:42 pm
LW, I am one of “those feminists”. I call myself a feminist proudly (and will call out women who say that feminists are icky/stupid/ugly), didn’t change my last name when I was married a few months ago, and I have a more advanced education than my husband does. I don’t shave my legs that often because I am lazy and tend to cut myself open every single time, without fail.
Your husband doesn’t get to tell you that you’re wrong for identifying as a feminist, or that you’re stupid for feeling that way. Even if he’s not saying it, he’s implying it and making you feel inferior, and that’s the problem. The rest of the problem is that you don’t feel comfortable telling him how you feel because he minimizes it.
That in and of itself is patriarchy in action; men and boys are taught from a young age that their opinion matters more, that they will be “head of household”, and that what they say is important. I had to call my husband out on this for interrupting me on more than one occasion, but he finally gets it.
SasLinna June 3, 2013, 6:21 am
Hi LW, I just wanted to give you a perspective from a woman who doesn’t shave much. I rarely shave my leg hair and pubic hair, only the armpits. My boyfriend has never commented on it. Early on I had mentioned casually in conversation – I think before we were even together as a couple – that I don’t do it. For me it’s not even a subject of debate. If my boyfriend said he loved shaved legs, I might do it for him more often, but I would not respond well to him saying that my slightly hairy legs are “gross”. You can state a preference without being so rude about it…
I’m also staunchly feminist (I became one in my early-mid twenties) and I have had discussions about feminist topics with all my boyfriends. Specifically about rape culture, like BreezyAM mentioned above. They were all pretty feminist-minded, but none of them agreed with me on all points. Yet they were all very respectful about it.
The point that stood out to me in your letter is that your bf is dismissive to you and that he doesn’t want you to speak to others about your relationship. That’s kind of a red flag to me. Don’t let yourself be bullied. You married young, you’re still very young, and just because you’ve married this guy doesn’t mean you have to stay with him forever. You get to have your beliefs and to express them. I think the amount of pushback you got here is ridiculous. The leg shaving thing might seem like a detail, but it can be a symptom for something bigger. Don’t look away, confront these issues you have with your husband.
hazel July 9, 2017, 9:05 am
Really surprised that so many people think it is okay for him to expect her to shave her legs when she doesn’t want to. If she was insisting he shave his balls back and crack everyday just because she thougth it looked nicer and rolled her eyes when he said he couldn’t be bothered and it made him feel disrespected to be pushed to do it, wouldn’t that be bullying? Having to shave your legs is a right old pain, the resulting stubble is well itchy! if you want to do it that is absolutely fine, we all do pesky things because we like to feel or look a certain way- but rolling your eyes at someone who doesn’t want to is really extreme. It is only hair!! It isn’t napalm. It won’t snake out and grab passing small children.
Alison Widmer September 20, 2017, 1:16 pm
How about not bothering to give him reasons for not shaving? How about it’s your own damn business? If he wants to know he can ask, but really, do you ask him when he doesn’t shave?
If you are naturally a doormat, then that’s YOUR problem, not his, and you should work on that. Blaming him is ridiculous.