China’s feminist movement has been getting more and more inventive – and the most recent campaign challenges the idea that armpit hair is unattractive. Xiao Meili is doing so through a contest she started on May 26 on the Chinese messaging site Sina Weibo, calling upon women to send pictures of themselves with their armpit hair in all their glory.
The painful concept of shaving off pits to conform to universal beauty standards came to China as recently as the 1990s. The person behind this contest, Meili, is a 25 year old women’s rights advocate – finding this new growing fad bizzarre and unnecessary. “For my mother’s generation, a woman not shaving her armpits is totally natural,” she said in a telephone interview to The New York Times.
“Men have more freedom in terms of what to do with their bodies,” Ms. Xiao continued. “I’m not calling on everybody to grow underarm hair. I’m just saying if some people don’t want to shave, the rest of us should not think their underarm hair is disgusting, unhygienic, uncivil or not feminine enough.”
“Women should have the right to decide how to deal with their bodies, including small details like armpit hair,” Xiao tells CNN. “You can choose to shave it, but you shouldn’t be forced to do so under the pressure of stereotypes.”
Hairy Not So Scary
She and her friends, who will be judging the contest together, are collecting images that women post with the hashtag “Women Underarm hair contest”. The article claims so far, only 40 women have sent in entries, but the contest has created the buzz she would have liked- with 1.2 million hits. Winners will be based mostly on the number of reposts and “likes” an entry has attracted.
The media might be responsible in perpetuating this vanity, too. “The media coverage on female celebrities’ underarms is disgusting, as if women shouldn’t have hair or it’s something to be ashamed of, while male celebrities openly show off their armpit hair,” she tells CNN.
Wei Tingting, Li Tingting and Zheng Churan, three of the five feminists detained in March in China on the eve of a campaign against sexual harassment on public transport, are all participating in the contest.
“The pictures have proved that women can celebrate their bodies, desire and love, whether homosexual or heterosexual, whether their underarm hair is long or short and in spite of raised eyebrows from passers-by,” participant feminist Wei wrote on Weibo says the article.
But not all the comments on the contest were encouraging. Out of the 1150 odd comments it has attracted, some hate mail surfaced too.
“This is not a question of pleasing anybody,” wrote a Weibo user with the online handle Arnorosayang. “According to our universal aesthetics, it’s just not elegant.”
You can read the full article here: The New York Times