Student searches for natural beauty

Central City senior Claire Kelly hasn’t cut the hair on her head in three years or shaved her legs or armpits since Dec. 10. “It’s less about growing out all of my hair and more about just feeling like a natural woman,” Kelly said.

Mercedes Trent

Central City senior Claire Kelly wants to be natural.

She wants to feel her hair running down her back, the wind in her leg hair and the full effect of her true brows.

She hasn’t cut the hair on her head in three years, her eyebrows have been untouched for a year, and she hasn’t shaved her legs or armpits since Dec. 10.

“It’s about experiencing my body naturally,” Kelly said. “I like feeling it all. It’s a cool thing to experience for a little while.”

When her roommate was writing a paper for class, she learned the history of why women started shaving. As a result of her research, her roommate participated in ‘No Shave November.’

Kelly thought at first it was something she could never do. She’s always been “the kind of girl who shaved her legs every day,” but one day she was shaving and, legs itching and bleeding, she had enough.

Kelly, who has been shaving since she was 12, experiences discomfort in the reactions she faces and struggles to find the balance between pursuing her experiment and the social repercussions.

“It’s supposed to be liberating,” Kelly said. “But you don’t know how weird it is until you have to go out in shorts.”

Kelly prefers to wear skirts, but lately she has been wearing pants because it’s too hot for tights and she is nervous about going out in a skirt.

“It might be silly to put myself in discomfort for other people’s comfort,” Kelly said. “But I don’t know what strangers will think. They don’t know me or why I’m doing it.”

She said a boy once told her “men don’t want to feel that” in reference to her leg hair. He also called her dirty.

Kelly said wearing capri pants is “a big step” for her. She wears cardigans over her tank tops to class but is anxious about removing them.

Kelly wants to continue the experience until she is “comfortable” about going out without worry.

“It’s definitely a process, and I’m working up to it,” Kelly said.

She said there is more to being natural than just not shaving.

When her hair was cut to her shoulders after high school she felt “emasculated.” Since then, her “most spiritual experience” has been growing out the hair on her head.

“I’ve grown to have this serious attachment to it,” she said. “I spend a lot of time taking care of it, manicuring it. It’s as important to me as a limb. I feel like my hair is my crown. It defines me as a woman.”

As a result of her experience, Kelly has started questioning why women get rid of their hair.

Kristi Branham, an assistant professor in women’s studies, said shaving is a “social convention” that has developed from a particular beauty culture. She identifies long head hair and smooth legs as “secondary gender markers: ways in which we signal our gender or sexuality.”

Leigh Gaskin, a student assistant in the women’s studies program, believes the social convention comes from women competing with one another for the attention of men.

“Women are not going to rebel against something they feel may give their ‘competitor’ an advantage,” Gaskin said.

Kelly agrees women may feel pressure from what they conclude is the male preference, but she thinks that’s unnecessary.

“I just want to be like a pioneer for women,” Kelly said. “I really love being a woman, and I want other girls to realize they can feel beautiful and womanly and not have to do the things they do or spend all that money.”