The Politics of the Razor

The Politics of the Razor

~Sarah Steffen

I enjoy watching my boyfriend shave his face. He stands in front of the full-length mirror hung on his bedroom door, usually naked, while I lay in his bed waiting. Ok, let’s be honest, I don’t really care about the shaving aspect of this activity, but whatever. The other day, I asked him if he disliked shaving.

“Well yea,” he replied offhandedly, “that’s why I put it off for so long.”

“Does it make you feel young?” I wondered aloud.

“No,” he said. “It makes me feel like a man.”

Honestly, I was surprised. When I think about shaving, I almost always think of how childish it makes me look. I shave my legs for fancy events when I wear heels and short skirts, but it’s a rarity.

I once tried shaving my bikini line when I was about 13, and I got such a bad rash and itchiness that I have never tried it again. I clip it and keep it neat, but that’s it.

So that my boyfriend, in contrast, feels manly when he shaves, is really interesting.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that he likes to shave, it’s much more comfortable to kiss him this way, but why is his perception on shaving so different from mine?

Would I ever let him watch me shave my legs the way that he allowed me to watch him? Of course not. It’s a private event, the de-hairing of my legs.

We shower and dress together, but shaving, to me, falls into the category of taking a dump together, which we agree isn’t cool.

What makes shaving such a private and unpleasant task in my mind? Is it about women preparing themselves for men in private, so as not to burden them? Is it the sacred act of primping, an event that men may not infringe upon? Or maybe we are preparing a feast for men to consume, and don’t want to ruin the effect by letting them see all of the effort that goes into it?

Why do we shave anyway? Pick, pull, pluck; choose to do this week after week. Why do we make ourselves smaller, less of what we are? And how does this process, that so offends me, make my boyfriend feel empowered and manly?

We sit on the razor’s edge of conformity and rebellion so subtle that we will not be punished for it. And to what end? Whose hand is holding the blade?

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