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March 28, 2012 7:00 PM   Subscribe

How weird is my (unremarkable for either coast) gender presentation going to seem to people when I live in New Orleans?

I'm moving to New Orleans from the west coast with my girlfriend to be closer to family, and she is a little worried about how her appearance (and mine, though I am more femme than she is) will read to people. I recall when I last lived there a couple years ago, I never--literally not once, never ever--saw women with unshaven legs or underarms, no matter how hipster or crunchy or whatever. I don't mind shaving so I just sacked up and did it, but my girlfriend does. Am I just remembering incorrectly, or is it really as uncommon/noticeable as I remember? How much of a problem would it be for her to, say, go to an office job in a skirt and blouse with unshaven legs?

We'll be living in the Irish Channel, but probably (?) spending a lot of time in the Marigny/Bywater, since that's where the queers hang out. (Right? They hang out there, right? We will make some queer friends, right? Right???)
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think that going to an office job in a skirt with unshaven legs would register as weird anywhere in the US, except perhaps Santa Cruz. She should just wear pants.
posted by yarly at 7:03 PM on March 28, 2012 [14 favorites]

In my experience, New Orleans is a pretty hip city for the South. But it's still the South, where "odd" things take a little longer to take hold. For what it's worth, your gender presentation wouldn't cause a batted eye in many parts of my city, and I live in the conservative midwest. Your girlfriend may have to conform a little, at least until she discovers her office's culture.
posted by cooker girl at 7:14 PM on March 28, 2012

Here in Cambridge, ankle-length skirts with unshaven legs are totally normal for office jobs (except maybe in banking or law or other suit-wearing professions). But friends from here who have moved elsewhere have found that that wasn't the case. A friend got fired from a job in Pittsburgh for same; my guess is that New Orleans workplaces are probably similarly not cool with those choices.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:15 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it will be noticed and considered weird unless the hair is light enough to not be noticed or the legs are otherwise covered. Some places may be fine with it regardless - they will be the places that are more lenient with visible tattoos or casual clothing, etc.
posted by vegartanipla at 7:19 PM on March 28, 2012

I'd be careful with this in New Orleans---as another poster said, it is still the south. I worked for a bank there only seven short years ago where the dress code for women was still dresses and skirts, no pants allowed, so skirts with unshaven legs are likely to cause some raised eyebrows at many workplaces. There are things about New Orleans that are wildly liberal--never met so many openly D/s couples, swingers, stripper soccer moms, sex club frequenters in my life. But depending on the industry and the area of town and the groups of people you are around-there are still a lot of really conservative things about the city as well.
posted by supercapitalist at 7:20 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

My New Orleans workplace is pretty conservative, but no one would say anything about unshaven legs or any other personal grooming choice within the bounds of decent hygiene. I really doubt anyone will care.
posted by CheeseLouise at 7:30 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

As long as you're good at your job and a decent human your girlfriend would be fine.

I was so butch when I lived in the south that people regularly called me sir, until they took a second look or I opened my mouth. I never once had anyone be rude to me or hassle me, not in small towns nor large cities. I didn't live in New Orleans, but I traveled in Louisiana. The only butch lesbian I know who ever had "work" problems, was a bald, tatooed woman who worked as a baggage handler for an airline. I can't remember if the problem was the hair or the tattoos, but it was a low-skilled job and she was rather surprising to look at, not just butch, but possibly like that person you'd avoid in the alley (or like someone I would follow into an alley, but that's neither here nor there).

If said butch lesbian is a jerk, or terrible at their job, yes people will use it as an excuse to pick on you (or your girlfriend). If she works at a low-skills job she may have to conform somewhat nominally: wear a bra, or wear slacks if she doesn't shave. Skillz get you a long way towards doing whatever the heck you want.

People may not be politically correct in the south, but they are generally more polite.
posted by thelastcamel at 8:03 PM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

i go around small town oklahoma with unshaved legs and underarms. i did the same in texas and in arkansas. most people don't notice, some give me dirty looks, it's been a decade since anyone has approached me about it.

if your girlfriend wants to wear skirts that show her legs and also not shave, she might find some resistence at work. this can be avoided with pants or ankle length (classy, respectable) skirts. this, also depends on the job - hippie non profit, probably not an issue - a bank, probably more of an issue.
posted by nadawi at 8:13 PM on March 28, 2012

(to clarify, i'm a 30 year old woman)
posted by nadawi at 1:38 AM on March 29, 2012

To add something that occurred to me overnight, it might not even end up being much of an issue depending on your girlfriend's work location: many, if not most, public buildings in New Orleans are air conditioned to high heaven year-round. In my building, the a/c runs at between 68 and 72 daily, so it's actually quite chilly and uncomfortable to be barelegged. I wear pants or tights every day not because anyone minds seeing my bare legs but because it's freezing indoors. Maybe this will be the case at her workplace as well, if it's some kind of high-rise, law firm, bank, university, cultural heritage, etc. type of setting.

And yes you'll make friends, really no matter where you hang out. Don't worry about that part!
posted by CheeseLouise at 7:14 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I live in a small town in Tennessee. I occasionally see unshaven (or not-shaven-lately) legs and I frequently see unshaven underarms. If anyone in cosmopolitan, tolerant, somewhat-weird New Orleans has a problem with this, it is their problem.
posted by workerant at 9:17 AM on March 29, 2012

I suppose it depends on where she's working. I work at probably one of the most conservative organizations in the city, and I cannot imagine anyone here caring how hairy one's legs are.

But I have to concur with CheeseLouise - it's friggin' freezing inside, especially in the summer. I have to keep a space heater under my desk year-round.
posted by pyjammy at 1:08 PM on March 29, 2012

I don't think New Orleans has changed much since you lived here. I have seen some unshaven ladies, although it may have been more when I was in college at Tulane (and doing college radio, at that). I think your experience in a professional office is going to vary depending on the office, and depending on how much you care about being different. I work in a pretty conservative office and you would stand out as the crunchy Californian here, but they think I'm a crazy hippy Californian for reasons that wouldn't bat eyelashes back home. CheeseLouise is right about the air conditioning though - I never wear skirts without tights here because my office is quite cold.

And yes you will meet queer-types in the Marigny/Bywater and all over the city. Even in a very conservative city there are a lot of hip, fun, open people, and I know quite a few lesbians. You'll be just fine! :)
posted by radioamy at 2:36 PM on March 29, 2012

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