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'Shave slave' rebellion: hairy armpits as a feminists manifesto

Alexander Alexeenko - 07.03.20

For centuries, a woman’s well-being depended on her attractiveness in the men’s eyes (and their views on this attractiveness). Having gained independence in the middle of the 20th century and partly succeeded in the struggle for their rights, the ladies realized that their well-being was again dependent: this time on the dictates of social norms, largely imposed by cosmetics manufacturers. This article on the eve of International Women's Day is dedicated to the history of the battle of women for a return to naturalness.


In fact, the history of female nudity (and its conventionality) in the second half of the last century is easy to trace: it is well documented in detail on women magazine’s photographs, in adult films and many reportage beach photos. If Playboy, XXX films and others can still be suspected of “fan service” — a distortion of the objective picture of the world to please the erotic impulses of men (and their willingness to pay for these impulses), but ordinary every day scenes shot by non-professional photographers was not directed.

What is observed? One of the online entertainers somehow put together a whole selection of men's magazines from different years, illustrating hair removal trends. Evolution was definitely moving towards an ever-diminishing hairline: figuratively speaking, from the beard of Jason Momoa through the beard of Zach Galifianakis and Captain Jack Sparrow goatee to the smooth-shaven chin of Dwayne Johnson.


In the 1950s, the young ladies with a photo in Playboy had a nude body decorated with a lush triangular bush (in contrast to the rhomboid “male type of hair”), which by the 1980s had turned into a narrow strip, in the 1990s became a whimsical “intimate hairstyle ". In the beginning of the millennium completely shaved. Moreover, razor isn’t enough: hair is removed to zero at best case by sugaring, at worst — by total laser hair removal.

Armpits shaving and depilating in general in a certain sense became the peak point of aesthetic and ethical discussions and, in particular, neofeministic discourse. The struggle for the post-millennial hairiness of the armpits is based on the ideology of bodypositive, so unloved by the patriarchal and their Vedic friends. Some people associates bodypositive with the struggle against fat shaming — the humiliation of overweight people. However, in reality, the object of the application of force among body-positivists is wider: they are against all attacks on people with an unconventional appearance.


In their opinion, all people can be beautiful and all women without exception: old and young, with acne (inflammation of the skin) and vitiligo (pigmentation disorder), XXL and XXS, with stretch marks and scars, and so on. This struggle goes under the high slogan “Stay yourself, you are beautiful”: if you do not want to shave your armpits and do manicure - do not shave and do not manicure, you are already good without this.

The perfumery and cosmetic giants are not at ease for sure. They are forced to change the tone of commercials from glamorous to casual sports, declare their support for an inclusive beauty approach and freedom of choice for their audience. But even if a girl with freckles is shot in such a video, she is still perfectly fit. And, although shaving seems to be “her choice”, the unshaven girl will not be shown.

But fashion Houses eagerly joined the body-positive topic: from Dior creative director Maria Grazia Curie, who released on the catwalk t-shirts with a feministic agenda, to other fashion brand, include the teenage girl brand Monki, owned by the Swedish giant H&M . Deaf, freckled, XL-sized with the unshaven armpits appear on podium. Sweden is generally a European stronghold of feminism, but other countries are beginning to follow its example, albeit with caution. Many Italian brands, for example, launch the plus-size range. Everything is logical: women themselves earn money, starting in early youth, they buy clothes for themselves — they need to like it.


All range celebrities decided to ride on the body-positive agenda. If in the 1990s unshaven armpits were a punk manifesto in the spirit of Patti Smith and Riot Grrrls, then in the 2000s feminist stars like Julia Roberts, Jemima Kirk and Madonna (at the same time, many were only occasionally) risked to show their hair. Social networks add popularity, and PR is good for anyone except an obituary.

In the late 2010s, body positivity is an integral part of neofeminism. Progressive audience applauds to unshaven armpits of supermodels Gigi Hadid in Love magazine and posts their own pics on social networks under the tag #hairypitsclub. And one Oscar Laureate, Francis McDormand has come there without makeup and styling, and everyone clapped. Now women not cater to nobody, but brands cater to women. Times like this, Girl Power.

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