I bought my first hate mail ever over not shaving my legs. Or, extra exactly, over having the audacity to write about it for NBC Information Assume. Inside an hour, I had a dozen emails. By the following morning there have been two dozen extra ― plus greater than 100 Twitter notifications.
I’d written in regards to the double requirements surrounding leg hair, which I’d found by means of a no-shaving experiment. Although some individuals thanked me for sharing my expertise, the overwhelming response to my piece was anger. Readers informed me I used to be overreacting. They referred to as me narcissistic and silly.
As a substitute of questioning social pressures, these commenters wished to uphold the established order. They had been nearly vindictive of their pursuit of this: I undergo for my accomplice, their messages mentioned. What makes you suppose that you simply don’t need to?
“This can be a two method avenue,” one Twitter consumer informed me. “There are many petty issues that gfs and wives would get pissed at if males modified additionally.”
The underlying assumption, on this message and others, was that companions stress one another. In some way this makes it equal and due to this fact acceptable.
Cue a spherical of disgrace for everybody.
It’s an enchanting — and regarding — perception. For one, it’s a zero-sum recreation. Everybody loses after we disgrace one another, particularly over one thing as innocuous as shaving. I didn’t harm anybody after I stopped. I wasn’t unclean or unhealthy. I used to be simply questioning a system.
The disproportionate response, within the type of hate mail, was an try and ostracize me to stress me again into shaving. The implication, this “I suffered so it’s best to too,” is a component pleasure and half schadenfreude. It says: You don’t should have it simpler than me. You don’t deserve a method out.
In terms of leg hair and physique presentation, individuals of all genders are burdened by disgrace and conformity and management. However this kind of pondering is greater than anyone social challenge. Most just lately, it’s additionally come up in conversations round President Joe Biden’s student debt forgiveness program. Those that’ve already paid off their loans, in addition to those that didn’t want them, could really feel as in the event that they’ve put of their time and that present loanees ought to do the identical.
Perhaps what we needs to be pondering as a substitute is that this: You don’t should undergo now. I didn’t should undergo then, both.
Perpetuating disgrace and struggling, on matters starting from pupil loans to physique hair, doesn’t assist anybody. Brené Brown, a analysis professor on the College of Houston, has a whole physique of labor devoted to the ways in which disgrace hurts us. It leaves us feeling disconnected. It messes with our sense of worthiness.
Worst of all, it retains us small — as a result of being seen means being weak. It means dealing with the plenty. Or, in my case, dealing with their hate mail.
Individuals are obsessive about disgrace. It’s current in our political discourse. It’s current in our past, “from Salem to [Jerry] Springer.” One tutorial article on the topic even goes as far as to say that understanding shame is vital in following “the political and cultural panorama of the USA.”
However has this obsession with disgrace served us as an entire? Brown would argue no. She advocates for honesty and realness as a substitute. In her 2012 bestseller, “Daring Greatly,” Brown gives the next: “To like ourselves and assist one another within the strategy of turning into actual is maybe the best single act of daring enormously.”
Changing into actual and overcoming disgrace’s cultural maintain can take myriad kinds. When it comes to physique hair, what if we acknowledged the cultural pressures we really feel? What if we determined, as people, the best way to finest navigate them?
When it comes to pupil mortgage debt and different social points, reminiscent of gun management, what if we questioned the techniques in place? What if we requested: Who does this method profit?
The purpose of my preliminary article was by no means to say that every one girls ought to cease shaving or that every one males ought to worship bushy legs. Everyone seems to be allowed preferences.
However that doesn’t imply we are able to disgrace individuals who don’t conform to our beliefs. There’s a quote by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from her 2019 book, “Dear Ijeawele,” which reads, “Educate [your future daughter] that her requirements are for her alone, and never for different individuals.”
To comply with Adichie’s suggestion, you, as a person, should make your individual selections about your physique. In case you select to shave your legs (or face or again or arms, and so forth.), incredible. In case you select to not, that’s incredible, too. Do what works for you.
Life is tough sufficient with out forcing ourselves to suit into one another’s bins.
Natalie Schriefer is a bi/demi author from Connecticut. She acquired her MFA from Southern Connecticut State College. Her latest publications embody items with NBC News Think, Ms. Magazine and bi.org.