Why Chinese Feminists Are Sharing Armpit Hair Pics

We know that there are legitimate reasons we should all love our armpit hair. Well, let's add another one to that list! Photos of Chinese feminists' armpit hair are making the rounds on Chinese social media site Weibo in an effort to combat gender inequality and domestic violence. These ladies know that even small campaigns can cause a big stir, and they're certainly doing just that.

Feminists in China have been more prominently in the news as of late. Back in March, the country detained ten feminists activists in a protest against sexual harassment on public transportation. China released five of those detainees, but the other five remained incarcerated—they were ultimately released. These women were also making plans to hold a demonstration in a Beijing Park. With such overlapping views, is it any wonder that three of five women who remained incarcerated for their protests are now participants in the armpit hair awareness campaign?

The social media based protest began with feminist activist Xiao Meili. While the protest is, in fact, a contest with the best armpit selfie winning things like vibrators and condoms, it's none the less an effective way to make a statement about women's control over their own bodies. Meili explains to CNN, "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." Meili raises a great point about whether or not stereotypical beauty regimes are a result of the male policing of women's bodies, and in my opinion, the answer is a really loud, "duh."

The activist also questions when shaving became so popular in China. Meili recalls that her mother had little concern for her underarm hair, but now, shaving is a nearly universal part of Chinese women's lives. The practice actually didn't become popular until about twenty years ago when Western standards of beauty began to pervade Chinese culture.

Though there have been many decrying Meili's web based protest and contest as reductive, the small social media activism is doing exactly what it was meant to do. It's raising awareness of the ways women's bodies are acted upon by others. Whether it's through the furthering of gendered standards of beauty or raising awareness about domestic violence, the contest is making a splash and sparking a much needed conversation about feminism and Eastern culture.

Images: Weibo