For those of us who love mustaches, November is like an early Christmas. That’s because each November, tons of hot dudes participate in what’s known as Movember, an annual mustache-growing event meant to raise awareness about testicular cancer. Now, a bunch of British ladies have created a female-centric version of Movember, called Armpits4August, now in its second year, which encourages ladies to grow out their armpit hair to raise funds to fight polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a disorder that effects up to 10 percent of women worldwide, and results in fertility problems, painful periods, and hormonal problems.
As the event’s organizers explain:
“We believe the shame a lot of people feel about their body hair is a consequence of living in a society that regulates, controls and dictates that female-assigned bodies must conform to incredibly narrow beauty standards, and which upholds a rigid gender binary that deems body hair a ‘masculine’ trait. This creates a physically, socially, and mentally damaging image of what is ‘natural’ – an image that turns out to be no more than an idea. There is no standard, universal, typical – let alone ‘normal’ – pattern of body hair for women, men, or anyone else. We think that the display of underarm hair growth every August will be one way of demonstrating this, so we are also constructing an online archive of photos to show the diversity of hair that we have: colour, shape, density, texture, speed, etc. We also provide resources and hold events to help you celebrate your body hair, including body-hair workshops, pit pride parties, discussion groups, and more!”
Of course, not everyone has the ability to grow out their armpit hair, and, say organizers, “We also recognize that attitudes towards body hair vary from culture to culture and are often influenced by religion or local custom; we do not wish to replace the oppressive beauty standard of hairlessness – which is particularly resonant within the West – with a similarly all-encompassing demand for everyone everywhere to stop depilating forever.” Organizers hope, though, that women who can grow out their hair do, and foster discussion in the process.
“I told my brother I’m raising money for PCOS by not shaving my underarms and he said, ‘Ugh gross,’” Armpits4August participant Tamara Webster told The Telegraph. “I said to him, ‘You have hairy armpits, do you think that’s gross?’ He said, ‘No, I don’t.’ The general reaction is that it’s gross, but we don’t know why.” Webster also noted that she’d received some pushback from other women, who were afraid that growing out their armpit hair meant they were a “certain kind” of woman. Teenage girls, especially, were reticent to participate, afraid that they’d be labeled a “scary hairy feminist” (not that there’s anything wrong with that), if they did.
And that’s exactly why Armpits4August is important — not just to raise awareness about PCOS, but to help challenge strict notions of what it means to be feminine. “Hairy armpits on girls are seen as a big deal, but doing this makes it a little bit more normal, which really is a good thing,” said Webster. “It’s important for girls to choose to have them either way. This is a good way of changing my mind about it as well.”