opinion

Do you know the story behind the woman who shaved her legs in a hotel pool?

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On Sunday night, a 20 second video was posted to social news and discussion site, Reddit.

The clip, initially shared in a forum titled ‘Trashy,’ and hours later posted in another forum named ‘Public Freakout,’ showed a woman shaving her legs in a hotel pool in Florida.

As children swam around her, the woman sat on the steps of the hotel pool and shaved, unknowingly being filmed by what can only be assumed to be a stranger sitting a few feet away from her.

“Oh my God, this lady is shaving in the pool,” says the woman filming. “Oh, I hope she don’t shave her hoo-ha next.”

Immediately, Reddit users started to comment. Three days later, the highest-rated comment reads, “If public pools have taught me anything, it’s that people are disgusting animals.”

The commentary ranged from, “Imagine the inadvertent gulp of water that sometimes happens when you’re swimming… with all the shaved hair in it,” to “It’s like watching a large animal in a zoo,” to “What a fat disgusting piece of garbage,” to “Did anyone else’s penis retract inside them?”

Another comment reads, “Lets [sic] be honest here, she’s just polishing a turd. She should be at the gym trying to deflate herself instead of shaving her f**king legs.”

Over the next few days, the story appeared on most major news websites, on news programs, and all over social media. On Studio 10, the words ‘What a grub!’ appeared at the bottom of the screen while the show’s hosts groaned over the top of the footage. “I need a bucket,” said Denise Drysdale once she’d seen the clip. “I’m going to vomit. That makes me feel really ill.”

It was a story everyone could cover, because the angle was crystal clear: Ew. This woman, no matter who she was, or why she’d decided to shave her legs in a communal swimming pool, had committed a major social transgression, and thanks to the wonders of the Internet, everyone could watch it and laugh.

It wasn’t just that her hair and dead skin would be floating around the pool. It was the potential for disease. For infections. And to a similar extent, her sense of utter entitlement. 

Image via Reddit.
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Of course, no one knows anything about this woman. What her name is, where she's from, whether it was her children swimming nearby. No one knows what her life looks like.

And that's precisely the point.

Because when I saw the clip, it reminded me of someone.

I have an aunty who just turned 60, who I can very much imagine shaving her legs in a hotel pool.

I can imagine it, because she does similar things all the time.

She once wore a top as a dress, and felt absolutely gorgeous in it. One really hot day she refused to go anywhere near a pool - even dip her toes in - because, she announced very loudly, 'I have my periods!'. When she had her son, she yelled at anyone who looked at him. She routinely asks strangers whether they're pregnant, and very often, they're not. Her greatest joy in life is going on cruises, and I can only imagine that her behaviour might be confronting. The way she eats, the way she speaks, the way she approaches strangers and the way she spends all her time.

My aunty has a developmental delay, and does all sorts of things the general public would find bizarre. On countless occasions, someone could have taken a photograph, shared it online, and piled on about her 'inappropriate' behaviour.

I'm not suggesting I know anything about the woman in the video. But neither does anyone else.

Listen to the Mamamia Out Loud team discuss the woman shaving her legs in a hotel pool, and everything else women are talking about this week. Post continues after audio.

It is, of course, unusual for someone to shave their legs in a communal pool. People do unusual things every day. But what I saw when I watched that video was a picture of vulnerability.

A woman who either hadn't been taught what was socially acceptable, or didn't quite know how to adhere to it.

As I watched her, I felt compassion, not anger.

I saw a woman who doesn't benefit at all from public shaming. From being called a "gross b*tch," a "disgusting slob," and a "monster" by people she's never met. Whose weight has precisely zero bearing on anyone else. Whose leg hairs were, for most, hundreds of thousands of kilometres away.

For me, when it comes to publicly shaming a complete stranger for transgressing a social norm they might not entirely understand, only one act is morally reprehensible.

And it has nothing to do with shaving your legs in a hotel pool.

For more from Clare Stephens, you can follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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