Gender norms, stereotypes must be fixed at College

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COURTESY PHOTO / WM.EDU

When I came to the College of William and Mary, I naively expected that stereotypes would be nonexistent. Finally, I would be in a place where I could be free to be myself.. After all, my secondary education had been very different, as gendered expectations were prevalent. I remember realizing for the first time in seventh grade that something was wrong with the fact that I had leg hair. The members of the junior varsity soccer team were discussing how they shaved their legs, and I sat in the corner, unaware that I was even “supposed to” shave. Since then, I haven’t gone more than a week or two without shaving my legs, and I haven’t the slightest idea of what my legs would look like with grown-out hair. In high school, I told myself I shaved because I liked how my legs felt when they were smooth. In honest truth, I only shaved because everyone else did. If I had allowed the hair on my legs to simply exist, I would have been judged and gossiped about. Despite the fact that we were all literally cutting off our hair it became normal because everyone did it. When I came to the College, it was the first time I met people who didn’t care, who thought that not shaving your legs was just as normal as shaving your legs.

Among my friends at the College, both those who choose to shave and those who don’t, I have seen a great deal of self-love and acceptance. However, the majority of the women I know choose to shave their legs, and so it’s still the norm here.

Those who choose not to shave their legs have to answer questions about why they choose to let their leg hair grow. Something that shouldn’t be revolutionary is, and they have to be willing and ready to answer for their actions.

I still shave my legs. To be frank, I am not yet brave enough to go that much outside of the norm, as enough of my life is constantly questioned. I don’t know how to dress well or wear makeup, and so shaving my legs has given me a tiny way to fit in into what is considered normal femininity. But the College should not be reinforcing this societal stigma, and the fact that we do is disappointing. Gender norms are weird and confusing, and we should strive to do better than reinforcing societal stigmas about how to “be a woman.” Shaving your body hair should be a choice that one feels completely free to make, regardless of gender, and without fear that it will cause one to be viewed in a negative light. I know just saying how things should be fixes nothing, but this is the sort of issue that needs every person to commit to working on changing their mindset. My own mindset has been shaped by what society deems normal for men and women. When I see someone outside of that mold, my first reaction can sometimes be to judge them. Instead of judgement, we all ought to take a moment to appreciate people finding beautiful and different ways to express themselves in whatever form that may take, and seek to make the College a more accepting place for everyone.

Email Anna Boustany at [email protected]

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