Are women obligated to shave their legs?
The newest target of this ridiculous ongoing debate is Millie Mackintosh, former star of the U.K. reality show Made in Chelsea. The 26-year-old British beauty posted a poolside picture to Instagram from the French town of Megève. The photo shows a bucolic hillside landscape, and in the forefront are Mackintosh’s thighs, which are covered in a barely visible layer of blond hair. She captioned the photo #hotdoglegs.
That was all it took to spark criticism from her followers. “I wouldn’t eat that hot dog. Ewww. ALWAYS shave top as well as bottom. I find it so gross, ruins the view,” wrote @charliechically. “She doesn’t shave the top of her legs wtf,” added @rachred26. “Hot dogs aren’t hairy,” @vanessarodick rudely chimed in. Another user suggested she’d “lost brownie points” for not shaving her thighs, implying that smooth legs are a necessary part of being attractive.
Other fans came to the star’s defense, pointing out her right to do what she wants with her own body. “Everyone has hair on their legs get over it if she doesn’t want to shave let her be,” said @omfleila. “Who cares if there is hair there! Millie is human!!” wrote @daziiee. Another user, @leerhapsody, chimed in with “Man you guys think this is bad I should take pictures during winter, my legs are so hairy I can cornrow them. Get over yourselves.”
Shaving is commonplace in the U.S., where, according to a survey by American Laser Centers published by Glamour, the majority of women shave once or twice a week, and 11 percent shave every day.
According to Educate, Inspire, Change, women didn’t start shaving until the turn of the 20th century, but a marketing ploy changed that. Essentially, women were shamed by shaving-product manufacturers into believing they needed hairless legs and underarms. Eventually, beauty norms changed, and hair removal became de rigueur.
Mackintosh hasn’t addressed the social media shaming, but some celebrities are out and proud about forgoing razors and wax. Girls star Jemima Kirke hit the red carpet in a sleeveless red dress at the CFDA awards and wasn’t ashamed to show her underarm fuzz to the world. Mo’Nique had tongues wagging when she attended the Golden Globes in 2010 and pulled up her golden gown to show off a pair of hirsute stems. She was quoted as saying, “I must show America what a real leg looks like … because it’s too much in the morning, every morning, to shave, to cut, you got Band-Aids baby.”
And then there’s Miley Cyrus, who goes above and beyond when she breaks the rules. Of course, growing out her armpit hair was not enough — she had to dye it bright pink too. Now that’s a fashion statement.
Millie Mackintosh is no stranger to bullying. According to the Daily Mail, she told Fabulous magazine in 2013 that she was picked on so much as a child, she didn’t want to go to school. “At school, people used to call me names like ‘Sparrow Legs’ because I had such long, gangly limbs.” She added, “But you have to rise above that. My mum always told me to be confident. I learnt a long time ago how to deal with playground bullying. It’s a life lesson.”