Activist Xiao Meili is urging social networkers to expose the social forces that play out across the female body by growing out their armpit hair in a month-long competition. Issuing ‘a call to underarms‘ via Weibo, the Chinese micro-blogging site, women are being invited to reject what is still a fairly recent phenomenon in China: shaving hair from their armpits. Whilst this body grooming trend dates back to the 1920s in the US, such body modification was only adopted in China during the 1990s but is becoming increasingly popular or indeed normative amongst women. Advertising for hair removal products is considered responsible for this rise – much like it was in the States – and Xiao’s competition has of course polarised opinion and prompted the usual concerns over hygiene, elegance and being civilised.
Discussion has also engaged with Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution (2007) and how the director requested that lead actress Tang Wei grow out her underarm hair in order to appear more authentic for the film’s 1930’s setting.
Women’s body hair truly does then offer a global set of stakes and alongside challenging concerns for social construction, “naturalness” and above all choice, participants are also in with a chance of winning 100 condoms, vibrators and urination devices.