Last night David came over for supper. (I baked homemade cornbread, which was delicious, and we also had tossed green salad, cheddar cheese, fresh fruit, Fruits Rouges hot tea, and dark chocolate.) Then we took off for a presentation at the C. G. Jung Society titled "The Queen of Sheba and Her Hairy Legs" by Jungian analyst Ronnie Landau. (Ronnie is a woman.)
Apparently the Queen of Sheba was extremely beautiful. She also had hairy legs--very, very hairy. The story goes that, when the Queen of Sheba came to visit King Solomon of Israel, Solomon (who had heard of the hairy legs) arranged a path for her to approach his throne that would involve lifting her skirts to step over some watery areas. This allowed Solomon to verify that, yes, the Queen of Sheba did indeed have extremely hairy legs. The Queen of Sheba agreed to an application of creams to remove the hair before further involvement with Solomon. The Queen of Sheba then stayed a while in Israel, consorted with Solomon, and finally returned to her country.
So, in the Queen of Sheba, we have a very beautiful woman with very hairy legs. Do we see the hairy legs as a deformity or as part of her beauty? If we see the hairy legs as undesirable--why?
We do seem to be averse to body hair, at least for women. Yet women naturally have body hair--arm hair, underarm hair, leg hair, and pubic hair. Many women shave their underarm hair and their leg hair, and some even shave their pubic hair--at least they try to have just a small confined area of pubic hair, and they certainly don't want any pubic hair to show around the edges of their bikinis. Women who pose nude for Playboy have usually removed all but a very small amount of their pubic hair. Even men, I think, don't want to have too much body hair. A man with lots and lots of body hair probably feels like an oddity.
Why is this? Drawing on points raised in the presentation "The Queen of Sheba and Her Hairy Legs" and on my own additional reading and experience, I would say that this is because body hair is adult-like and animal-like.
First, body hair is a sign of adulthood. Children have smooth bodies, while adults have body hair. Feminists in the 1970s pointed out that women were traditionally supposed to remain childlike, while men took on adult roles. The husband earned the money and made the decisions for the family, while the wife raised the children, did the housework, obeyed her husband, and was financially supported by him. Men dominated all professional fields and ran the country, while working women confined themselves to teaching, nursing, and secretarial work, and women weren't even allowed to vote. The visual sign of body hair complemented the adult role of men, while the visual sign of a smooth and hairless body complemented the childlike role of women.
In the 1960s and 1970s, many women stopped shaving their legs and underarms. They allowed themselves to be naturally hairy. I believe that this was a way of saying, "I am an adult. My body hair is a visual sign of my adulthood. Adults have body hair. I will relate to you as a fellow adult."
Second, body hair is something that we humans share with animals. Animals, particularly many mammals, have body hair, or fur. Certainly, the primates do. Body hair connects us visually to our animal nature. It seems more traditionally acceptable for men to have this animal connection than for women to do so. Even men, though, don't want to be too animal-like--excessive body hair for a man is not considered attractive. We seem to feel it important to separate ourselves from the animals, from our instinctual nature, from our sense of smell. (It was pointed out at the Jungian presentation that head hair is very acceptable, probably because we are happy to adorn the site of our brains and intellectual functions with hair. Our head and intellect are seen as exclusively human, while our bodies are seen as connected with animals.)
As David pointed out, the 1960s and 1970s celebrated hair. Not only did many women stop shaving their underarms and legs, but many men grew their head hair quite long and acquired beards. I do think that this was at least partly to celebrate our animal nature. Sex, in all its sensual appeal, was celebrated--its smells and sounds and tastes. I believe that hair was part of the primal enjoyment of sex that came to the fore in the 1960s and 1970s.
So, to reiterate, the traditional practice is that men don't want too much body hair so as not to be too animal-like, but that they do want enough body hair to show that they are adults. Women, on the other hand, don't want any (or want very little) body hair so as not to be animal-like and so as to remain childlike. Traditionally, there has been something shadowy about our animal nature for men and women and about adulthood for women. This shadow is represented by a hairy body, or by the Queen of Sheba's hairy legs.
What would it look like for us to embrace our shadow--for men and women to embrace our animal nature and for women to embrace our adulthood?
Well, I think we would be openly hairy. We would openly enjoy the sensual side of life--not only sight but also sound, touch, taste, and smell. We would enjoy all these sensual aspects of sex. In addition, women and men would openly be peers, fellow adults. Women and men would stand together as fellow adults, embracing our animal nature, in all our hairy glory!
Our hairy glory. We consider head hair beautiful. Can body hair not be beautiful, too? When we embrace the animal/adult shadow, we will have "The Queen of Sheba and Her Beautiful Hairy Legs."