Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Smooth skin

We were at the cottage last week and Elli was running around with her cottage friend, a six year old boy.  The two of them came into the cottage and the boy began to talk:

Cottage Boy:  I am growing hair on my legs.

Elli:  I am growing hair on my legs too.

Cottage Boy:  No, girls don't have hair on their legs.

Elli:  Yes they do, my mommy has hair on her legs and she shaves it off!

Kids are utterly clueless about many things but they are hyper aware of gender, gender roles, and the ways in which people treat each other based on gender.  This shouldn't be surprising since the skills people need to survive change dramatically with location, season, tradition, weather, and other factors but figuring out how adults act, how they treat each other, and what is expected of a person based on their gender and other characteristics is always key.  In no society ever were people able to comfortably not care about why others do things.  We tried hard to raise Elli without enforcing gender norms but she picked them up from other sources quite handily and was extremely aware of them even before she could speak articulately enough to describe them.

It was also kind of strange that this boy would be unaware that women had hair on their legs - presumably this means that his mother is very careful to keep her legs constantly shaved or waxed.  I don't have a problem with either state of being, hairy or not, but I do feel like it would be better to acknowledge the reality that body hair is a reality for pretty near everybody regardless of gender.  Feminism shouldn't be about enforcing a state of hairiness on women as that is just as repressive as enforcing a state of hairlessness; far more useful is the goal of simply letting women choose without judgement or repercussions.  I do think it is a good thing though to make sure children know that this is a choice that is being made.  Hiding body hair away and pretending it never existed doesn't seem like the right way to go when one has children that will take that as a lesson.

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