Believe it or not, the practice of women shaving their armpit hair in the United States is only about a century old. Before, apparently, around 1915, society didn’t really expect women to shave their underarm hair at all. This had a lot to do with the fact that razor companies weren’t shaming women into doing it yet, but also because, according to sources, back in 1915, even the mere mention of female underarm was enough to give men of the time an extreme case of the vapors.
Perhaps even more surprising, though, is the fact that the shaving of armpit hair among women didn’t catch on in China until the 1990s – a mere two decades ago! And despite, or perhaps because of, the practice’s relative newness, Chinese women are taking to the Internet in droves to proudly post photos of their armpit hair as a show of gender empowerment in the 2015 Armpit Hair Competition!
It’s one thing to chalk up the hairy underarms of Western women of days past to different standards of grooming for men and women both, but since the underarm shaving trend took hold in China much more recently, it’s easy to look back and pin the influence squarely on fashion magazines and brands pitching the Western look as the ideal of beauty.
Feminist activist Xaio Yue, 26, is the apparent founder of the contest and says that, with the contest and its related #WomensArmpitHairCompetition hashtag, she hopes to send the message that women need not be hairless to be beautiful. And, indeed, she blames Western influence, advertisers and grooming products manufacturers for the recent shaving trend.
Entries have been “pouring in” – in as much as you can use that phrasing for under 100 official entries to the contest, which apparently judges photos on beauty, confidence and originality.
Anecdotally speaking, according to friends and acquaintances of this writer, women who still don’t shave their underarm hair as a mere matter of personal preference are common in China, so it’s likely the activist hashtag represents only a small fraction of women in China who choose to sport the natural look.
According to Shanghaiist, though, there is at least a small contingent of women exercising their right to stand squarely on the pro-shaving side of the debate. Many women posted comments that no one “forces” them to shave their underarm hair and that they do it as a matter of personal preference, the site reports.
Of course, whether or not you choose to shave your underarm hair is and should be a matter of preference – hell, you’re free to shave your pit hair into dollar signs if you want to – but it’s nice to see an organized effort taking a stand against body shaming towards women that prefer not to take a razor to their underarms in China.
Also, contest winners will receive prizes in the form of condoms, vibrators and female urination devices, all of which are objectively better than, say, a 10-dollar Amazon gift card or something.
Photos: Global Times and Weibo via Shanghaiist