Xiao Meili, a woman’s activist in China, has started the “Armpit Hair Competition” as a way for women to “embrace” their bodies.
“Girls are often anxious about their armpit hair as if it’s a sign of being dirty or uncivilized,” she explained. “But we should have the freedom to choose whether to accept what grows naturally on our bodies.”
The competition is very popular on Chinese social media network Weibo. Women post pictures of their underarms “while others are pictured with their ponytails tucked under their arms.” The organizers will choose the top ten pictures.
“Women’s armpit hair is considered to be offensive, rude and ungraceful — how come it makes people so uncomfortable?” asked Xiao Yue, a 26-year-old feminist. “Women’s underarm hair can be adorable, interesting, humorous, sexy, serious, connotative and ever-changing.”
Charlie Liu, 25-year-old environmental researcher, entered the competition. She is one of 40 involved who posted pictures of her armpits under the hashtag #WomensArmpitHairCompetition.
“I love my armpit hair, which is a part of my soft body hair,” she exclaimed. “I hope girls will show it off without fear.”
Not everyone is embracing the concept.
“What is this competition?” asked one woman on the social network. “No one forces me to shave my armpit hair. I do it because I think it’s gross not to.”
The organizers did not state what prizes the ladies could win, but that did not stop people from submitting pictures. In 2014, the pictures received almost 30 million views. Li Tingting, a feminist who was arrested for attempting “a protest to raise awareness of sexual harassment and domestic violence.” Her picture featured her half-naked body.
“I think this competition is very meaningful,” she said. “Consumerism is gender-based. The market is filled with all kinds of shaving products for women. We need some space to think about why women are obliged to shave ourselves. Men walk around half naked in China all the time, why can’t women? For women, we need to free our minds and our bodies. For me, my body is my battlefield.”