Underarm And Upper Lip Hair Fashionable Now, But Is It Empowering?
Hair, hair girls, have you uploaded your “hair statement selfie” yet on Insta-fuzz? It’s a popular trend this year you know, and a lot of women are boldly flaunting their lady pits and bikini fuzz as part of the hair revolution sweeping social media this year.
Even though 21-year-old Exeter University student Laura Jackson’s campaign “encouraging women to grow out their body hair” was just month-long; 2019 turned out to be hair-raising in many ways as women from the UK, US, Canada, Germany, Russia, India and Spain participated in the global movement.
Positioned as an “explicitly feminist” company, Billie also started Project Body Hair, a radical “image library of hair in all sorts of places it’s not supposed to be” starting with the return to the full bikini bush.
Desi girl MalaikaAroraOfficial ruffled a lot of troll hair with her fledgeling growth, but you gotta admire the “no shave no shame” Gorgeous@Alaskanhairygirl and Incredible@pansyisinsane for letting their thick bushy hair down as a symbol of body positivity. Among the top favourites though was viral YouTuber Official Rainbow Girl’s Unicorn pit trend with not one coloured underarm hair out of place.
In April 2019, Nigerian-American singer Annahstasia went ahead and set the “Big mood” by going au naturale in a Nike sports bra ad and from then on there was just no stopping the “go natural movement” despite the green vomit emojis.
The mega-bucks beauty industry quickly caught on with @gret_chen_chen’s “nose hair extensions” which became an unusual fad along with a major comeback of the “Hairiest Trend of 2016,” Furry Nails. Created by Jan Arnold, style director and co-founder of CND nail polish, this hirsute fashion accessory ranked high on the enamel charts of marmor, werewolf and crochet nails.
What must have made the opposite camp’s hair stand on end was the NY-based Billie’s “razors built for womankind” ads “revealing undisturbed axillary fuzz.” Positioned as an “explicitly feminist” company, Billie also started Project Body Hair, a radical “image library of hair in all sorts of places it’s not supposed to be” starting with the return to the full bikini bush. The move soon inspired other companies like Gillette to similarly celebrate a woman’s choice as part of the new feminist armpit hair revolution.
Clearly, the “gender-bending” that began with Frida Kahlo’s monobrow, Sophia Loren and Madonna’s unabashed smashing of beauty norms, rubbed on to “Pretty Woman” Julia Roberts, singer-activist Kelly Rowland, wild child Miley Cyrus, ‘90s icon Drew Barrymore and even supermodel Gigi Hadid, coming a full circle this year as loads of millennials and Gen Zers chucked the razor to make “half statement-half ornament” by embracing body hair.
Feminists have always challenged the “restrictive beauty culture” of stilettos, sculpted brows, cosmetics and sexy lingerie and society’s preoccupation with perfectly air-brushed women’s bodies. Today, youngsters have started out-rightly rejecting such ill-conceived standards of female beauty by consciously debunking societal pressures and expectations as they shift to normalizing hairy hashtags.
Something supermodel Emily Ratajkowski too supported by posing for Harper’s Bazaar with her arms lifted to proudly show off her armpit hair, her Insta pic collected millions of “likes” praising her for using her privilege “to fight for individual freedom and destroying beauty dogmas.”
“Supermodel Shows Off Armpit Hair In Powerful Photoshoot,” hollered a headline. That’s all very noble, But are these images really powerful? A supermodel consciously flaunting her “designer” armpit hair in a planned photoshoot; a Hollywood diva displaying armpit fuzz on the red carpet to hungry paps; a singing sensation dying her neat packet of body hair to make a fashion statement? That’s not “normalizing” body hair in any way.
The thing that matters, the change that needs to take place is letting a woman – and that means every woman on the street; young, old, mother, sister, CEO, secretary, teacher, nurse, pilot, bodybuilder, dancer, high-schooler, make her own choice for whatever reason, without any sort of body shaming or hairy expectations.
The revolution will be real when the young mother in the neighbourhood, who barely has time to have a bath isn’t singled out for not shaving her legs or underarms. The campaign will be a success only when the college student travelling daily in public buses, neck-deep in projects and theses, isn’t humiliated for her uni-brow or upper lip hair. The statement will be set in stone only when the elderly lady in the park, who has so many aches and pains to deal with that the last thing on her mind is shaving her armpits isn’t jeered at by cosmetic passers’ by.
Feminists have always challenged the “restrictive beauty culture” of stilettos, sculpted brows, cosmetics and sexy lingerie and society’s preoccupation with perfectly air-brushed women’s bodies.
The change will be palpable only when the pubescent in school, who has just started sprouting underarm hair and is already mind-numbingly conscious of it, doesn’t have to care about stray personal comments that cause deep psychological hurt in the teen.
All these women won’t proudly flaunt their underarm hair in your face in a “powerful” photoshoot, but that’s exactly where thinking has to change. There’s a huge difference between the luxury of flaunting underarm hair at will and the dire helplessness of not having the luxury of basic choice!
In the words of one of the hair revolution activists, “nobody should have to explain or apologize” for body hair, women “shouldn’t be defined by their grooming choices.”
It’s time women get a break from hair-raising questions like, do nuns shave their body hair? In what countries do most women shave their armpit hair? Is it customary for women in India to shave their pubic hair? – posted on random websites. No one asked Burt Reynolds to shave for the raw Cosmo cover shoot. Shahid and Ranveer epitomize “masculinity” in pics flaunting underarm hair. While an “unshaved” Mark Ruffalo oozed sexiness in his chest hair avatar. No questions asked!
The point then is, even though the female hair campaign is catching up and one of its ardent activists British student Laura Jackson “felt liberated and more confident,” some people, she pointed out, still don’t “understand or agree with why I didn’t shave,” adding that she “realised that there is still so much more for us to do to be able to accept one another fully and truly.”
Till that happens, let us revel in the immortal words of Frida and be our own muse, for “I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to better.” Isn’t it Amigas?
Gunjan Pant Pande speaks her mind in her short stories, blogs, opinion pieces and poems. When not on mom duty she reads, writes, travels, watches re-runs of stand-ups, photographs, paints, knits, chats up her girl gang and cooks soul food with her twist! The views expressed are the author’s own.