Last night I took a cold shower before I went to sleep, because it was hot in my apartment. This morning, an arduous day of coffee-drinking and driving-range-going awaits me. I live in a drought-stricken area. Nevertheless, I will take another shower, because over the course of a lifetime it has been drilled in to me that a person showers every day. Unless camping or engaging in some equivalent "free-wheeling" activity.
I have no particular problem with showering every day. Showers are painless, and the standard is, in general, gender-neutral, although my impression is that in this, as in many other things, it's considered a bigger deal for a girl to be grubby than for a guy.
But showering is just one of the many things that goes into the minimum standards of female hygiene. You are expected to shave your legs every day. You are expected to keep your eyebrows under control. Facial hair is frowned upon. And, to my mind, all the sitcoms that joke about girls and all the products they bring with them everywhere, simply reinforce the idea that girls are expected to have particular, complicated, fussy beauty regimes.
I would like to make a couple of things clear: I am not opposed to complicated or fussy beauty regimes, and I know no quicker way to lift my mood than to spend a couple of hours in a Rite Aid examining every one of their moisturizing products. Also: I am not saying this is something men do to women. I have heard my female friends call out a girl for not waxing her mustache at least as often as I have heard guys do so.
But. It troubles me that these things are not optional. A girl who doesn't shave her legs is not just lazy, or irritated by stubble, she is saying something. It's not exactly unfair: after all, we're trying to make decisions about each other quickly, and because the norm of women shaving their legs is so strong, the odds are that she is, in fact, making some kind of statement.
It's just that, as I said in my comment to this post there seems to be such a wide range of neutral appearances for men, and such a limited range for women. I hate that. If you doubt me, consider how little age variation there is in men's clothing. What a man wears at 20 he can usually wear at 60. This is not the case for women.
I don't know. Every now and then some guy I know will say something that suggests that maybe what I see as a wide zone of freedom is actually much more heavily scrutinized than I know. I have heard some strongly worded comments about hair product on men, for example. And I enjoy the elaboration of style that women's fashion allows. I also feel that (for possibly related reasons) dressing like an out-and-out lunatic, when young, which I did (bright orange hair, super pale foundation, pink lipstick), is actually more acceptable for women than men.
Still. I would like to dress neutrally. I try, generally, to dress neutrally, but I wind up feeling like that carries with it content of its own.