Hairy armpits have always been embraced by punk rock girls and feminists. After all, nothing says “fuck the man” quite like a good pair of unshaved lady underarms.
But no one has spoken out against the scourge of shaved pits quite as loudly as girls in China are doing right now. On May 26, the 2015 Armpit Hair Competition launched on Chinese social media site Weibo, and the month-long contest has received countless entries. Young women in China are flooding the site with pits pics uploaded with the hashtag #WomensArmpitHairCompetition. Why? Because Xiao Yue, a 26-year-old feminist, is tired of women thinking they have to shave.
“Women’s armpit hair is considered to be offensive, rude and ungraceful — how come it makes people so uncomfortable?” Xiao told Shanghaiist. “Women’s underarm hair can be adorable, interesting, humorous, sexy, serious, connotative and ever-changing.”
This isn’t the first time Chinese women on social media have reclaimed armpit hair, and Xiao isn’t the only one leading the trend. Young women all over the world are picking up where feminists in the 1970s left off and proudly posting their armpit hair selfies on Instagram, with the hashtags #hairypits and #pithairdontcare.
A photo posted by Josephine Heather Chaplin (@heathersmeander) on
While the occasional celeb has been spotted on the red carpet over the years with a subversive peek of pit hair showing (I’m looking at you, Julia Roberts), the press has traditionally viewed women revealing their body hair as an embarrassing accident. But there’s no way mainstream media can ignore the current wave of international bloggers, celebs, and feminists who are calling for women to put the razors down and let their natural body hair grow.
For instance, Miley Cyrus made waves when she posted photos of her dyed-pink pits in early May.
That said, not everyone is on board with the trend. When actress Jemima Kirke of HBO’s Girls stepped out on the CFDA Fashion Awards red carpet in a long sculptured red dress that revealed her unshaven armpits, the Internet lost its shit. Kirke got such pushback on Twitter that she responded with a tweet asking everyone to calm down and leave her pits alone.
While celebs are the most recognizable faces of the trend, young college-aged women across the world are also pushing the boundaries of female body acceptance on social media.
Liverpool student Yasmin Gasimova, 19, embraced her Turkic ancestry and furry bod in a widely-read post on The Tab.
“If you think the au naturel look is gross, it isn’t – you only believe that because you’ve been conditioned to see it that way your entire life,” wrote Gasimova, “You’re under no obligation to be sexy, and you can still be sexy and hairy at the same time. If you’re trying to pull, there ARE guys who appreciate a hairy woman. I’m speaking from experience.”
So far the pit hair trend sweeping several countries has received a lot of public support from both celebs and hairy lady-lovers alike.
Guess what, @mileycyrus , I like ur armpit hair & ur boobz & ur you-ness let that freak flag fly lil ma because you are doing JUST FINE
Regardless of the response, the armpit hair trend doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, but only growing in momentum. Which makes sense, after all—women didn’t start shaving their body hair until the previous century. In fact, a study published in a 2014 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that 87 percent of women surveyed removed part or all of their pubic hair.
Thanks in large part to porn and shifting beauty norms, for the past few decades, the trend has moved towards women’s bodies being as smooth and hairless as an eggshell. But here’s hoping these badass Chinese ladies will change that. Let it grow, girls. Let it grow.
Mary Emily O'Hara is an LGBTQ reporter. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, NBC Out, Daily Dot, Broadly, Vice, the Daily Beast, the Advocate, Huffington Post, DNAinfo, Al Jazeera, and Portland's Pulitzer Prize-winning newsweekly Willamette Week, among other outlets.