Young Chinese feminists are growing their armpit hair for women’s rights

Shaving—or not shaving—is a personal choice, but it’s also become a public statement. Lately, the movement to embrace female body hair in all its natural glory has become an expression of empowerment and a positive way to rebel against age-old beauty standards. To wit, women have been forming Tumblr societies like the Very Hairy Legs Club and Women Against Non-Essential Grooming, ladies have been dying their pit hair every color in the Crayola box,  and some have become Internet-famous for embracing their body hair and refusing to shave.

Now, women’s body hair movements are going global—with a growing group of young Chinese women on social media proudly refusing to shave their pits.

Last summer, a ladies-taking-armpit-hair-selfies trend took hold of Weibo, a Chinese social media platform. This summer marks the return of the armpit-selfie-hair trend on Weibo, and now feminist Xiao Meili has started a competition to see who can post the raddest armpit hair photo.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the only thing better than an armpit selfie trend is an armpit selfie CONTEST. As this is a feminist movement, the prizes being offered are a playful send-up to gender equality—as the New York Times reports, the grand prize is 100 condoms, the runner-up will receive a vibrator, and second runner-up will receive 100 female urination devices that enable ladies to pee standing up.

While talking to the Times, Xiao made it clear that she’s not shaming women who shave, she just believes that not shaving should be an equally valid and respected choice.

“Men have more freedom in terms of what to do with their bodies. I’m not calling on everybody to grow underarm hair. I’m just saying if some people don’t want to shave, the rest of us should not think their underarm hair is disgusting, unhygienic, uncivil or not feminine enough.”

Xiao reiterated to CNN the importance of woman feeling supported in making their own choices for their bodies.

“Women should have the right to decide how to deal with their bodies, including small details like armpit hair. You can choose to shave it, but you shouldn’t be forced to do so under the pressure of stereotypes.”

Xiao is dealing with the “small detail” of body hair, but in the past she has committed herself to larger gender issues. Last year she walked 1,200 miles, posting a letter to officials in every city she stopped in to shine a light on sex abuse in Chinese schools, a march that served as a bold call to arms.

We love Xiao for fighting for women’s rights on all front. Though, of course, there is a world of difference between the body hair movement and the fight to eradicate sexual violence, there is a connecting underlying message: women should have autonomy over their own bodies. And that’s a message we 1000% support.

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