I’ve always considered myself a loud and very, very proud feminist. To me, feminism has always been about owning my body and my opinions and not taking ‘no’ for an answer. But when I got into a heated debate over why I chose to shave my legs, I struggled to find the words to explain why that was my personal choice.
Choice feminism is the idea that any decision made by a woman is an inherently feminist idea because it was made by a woman. The central idea is that because we now have the freedom to make our own decisions without the influence or control from our male counterparts, we should embrace any decision made by a woman as it was made autonomously. Linda Hirshman, an American lawyer, coined the term ‘choice feminism’ back in 2006 to name the belief that feminism had allowed women to make whatever choices they want. It has since spread to mean all decisions, and has, in many ways, entirely lost its meaning.
In the 21st century, many people find it difficult to accept that as feminists, we still make choices that aren’t necessarily feminist ones. I’ve felt this a lot myself. I used to tell myself that shaving my legs was a feminist choice, but in my opinion, it's not. I used to tell myself that I was doing it because I had the choice over whether I wanted to shave my legs, but really, I didn't. The problem is, it was so embedded in me that shaving my legs was the correct thing to do because I was a woman, that I said I was doing it because I was a feminist, but that’s not the case.
I was doing it because I was expected to and because that’s what I’ve always been told was right. All around us, the beauty standard is to have the smoothest, shiniest legs. It’s always been portrayed as ‘weird’ to wear a short skirt and show off your hairy legs. I know it’s not, but that doesn’t stop it being a factor in the everyday decisions I make as a woman.
Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are many people out there who shave and do it completely autonomously, but I'm sure many of us believe we are shaving for ourselves, without realising that we have an internal bias.
The truth is, you can’t really make a ‘feminist choice’ if you’re not making a choice at all. I pretended like these decisions didn't affect my views of the movement; I entirely separated them from each other. But if we stop addressing the fact that we have internal biases, and we pretend everything is feminist, then how do we expect the movement to achieve anything?
Unless we accept and then address these pressures, we will never move forward. So yeah, I shave my legs and yeah, I’m aware it’s not completely my decision. But I'm not going to keep telling myself that it’s a feminist choice, because for me, it isn't. It’s a choice I make because I feel expected to and because I’ve been brain washed by everything I’ve seen around me. I am a feminist who shaves her legs. Is that a contradiction? I'm not sure, but let's not shut down conversations about internal bias; let's talk about it.