Yes, it’s that time of the year again! A time when young women across China raise up their arms — as one; in order to take selfies showing off their armpit hair, which they then post online to support women’s rights and just maybe win a prize in one very unconventional photography competition. What a time to be alive!
Some 40 entries have already been made into this 2015 Armpit Hair Competition, which kicked off on Weibo on May 26 and ends on June 26 (Send your armpit selfies in now!). The hashtag #WomensArmpitHairCompetition has already piqued the interest of more than a million curious netizens and has generated thousands of comments.
The contest was started by 26-year-old feminist activist Xiao Yue in order to bring attention to the idea that women do not need to be hairless to feel beautiful. Prizes will be given out for the most “characteristic, beautiful and confident” displays of online underarm hair. The first place winner receives 100 condoms, second place gets a vibrator and the lucky third place winner gets 10 female urination devices.
“Women’s armpit hair is considered to be offensive, rude and ungraceful — how come it makes people so uncomfortable?” Xiao says. “Women’s underarm hair can be adorable, interesting, humorous, sexy, serious, connotative and ever-changing.”
According to Xiao, the concept of armpit hair being uncivilized is another unwelcome Western import that didn’t catch on in China until the 1990s and now is being propagated by the media and advertisers in order to promote consumerism and shaving cream over natural beauty.
The contest is not the first of its kind. Just last summer, women were also encouraged to post pictures of their unshaven armpits on Weibo. The call to action seemed to make a bigger splash last year, attracting more than 28.5 million views and thousands of picture submissions within just five days.
In exploring this year’s contest, the Global Times asks the eternal question: “To shave or not to shave” and tries to get at the root of this hairy issue. One contestant, Charlie Liu, a 25-year-old environmental researcher in Beijing, submitted a black-and-white photo of herself wearing a bra and proudly showing of her armpit hair with the caption: “I love my armpit hair, which is a part of my soft body hair. I hope girls will show it off without fear.”
Liu told the Global Times she used to shave her armpit hair in college, but her outlook changed after taking a gender studies course and participating in the production of China’s version of the Vagina Monologues. She asserts that women’s need to shave their body hair is a direct result of commercials and advertising. Liu says she can no longer be swayed to pick up the razor. Instead, she is considering taking the next logical step and dyeing her armpit hair.
Of course, not everyone is ready to go all natural. A fair number of responses also came in from women on the other side of the issue. “What is this competition? No one forces me to shave my armpit hair. I do it because I think it’s gross not to,” one netizen posted.
“It’s not a question of pleasing anybody,” another Weibo user wrote. “According to our universal aesthetics, it’s not elegant.”
Women’s rights activist Li Tingting also took part in the contest, posting a photo of her half-naked body showcasing her armpit hair and a message saying, “Punish domestic violence and love armpit hair.
Li was released on parole in April and is still closely monitored by police. She was detained for more than one month along with four other female activists after organizing a protest to raise awareness of sexual harassment and domestic violence on International Women’s Day. According to the BBC, for Li, underarm hair is just another small battleground in the larger war for gender equality. “Men walk around half naked in China all the time, why can’t women?” she asked. “For women, we need to free our minds and our bodies.”
Where do you come down on the great debate of our time? Got pics to prove it?
by Alex Linder
[Images via Global Times & Weibo]