Guest blogger Chloe Marshall is a London based freelance journalist who regularly writes articles for queer publications, including g3 magazine, Out in the City, and Transliving International. Chloe also contributes her writing to feminist, activist causes, Armpits4August being the most exciting yet. Armpits4August are busy exposing their pits and challenging beauty ideals, and Chloe is part of a dedicated team who are spreading the word.
It’s summer in the UK, and vest tops and shorts are getting a well deserved outing from our wardrobes. But wait, doesn’t that mean we have to get our beach bodies ready? Honed, toned, de-haired, and otherwise made more pleasing to the male gaze? Or maybe not. Many women across the UK are taking the challenge of growing out their armpit hair throughout the month of August, to question these prescribed beauty ideals and raise money for a crucial women’s health cause.
Armpits4August is a collective of women who are tired of the constant pressure to be preened to supposed perfection, and have set up an event in order to draw attention to the issue of hair removal, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). To promote the event, the team has done everything from ‘arm-bushing’ London’s famous statues by adorning their armpits with hair, to doing some loud, proud promotion and exposure of their very own armpit hair. While public responses have been mixed, the vast majority of onlookers are supportive and either way, a crucial question is thrown out there to start a much-needed conversation.
Almost everyone has body hair, and yet it’s generally the least hairy gender that is expected to remove the most. When asking most women why or how they remove hair, the answer is usually that it just happens, unquestionably, regularly, and without giving it much thought. Body hair is usually first removed as a teenager, when almost everything about the human body is embarrassing. Then by the time we reach adult womanhood, it’s an automatic act that’s so far ingrained that we’re almost conditioned to do it.
Similar to the ideals of Feminists For Choice, Armpits4August believes in encouraging choice; in this case for women to claim ownership and make autonomous, if unconventional, choices about their physical appearance. The decision to grow instead of remove body hair may seem radical in one sense, but in another sense, if we bypass the expectations of cultural gender norms, it is simply the most natural thing to do. Ultimately, this campaign is about supporting those with PCOS, while strongly emphasising that the female body need not be hairless to be beautiful.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a distressing condition that affects around one in ten women, and one of the many side effects is hirsutism: excessive body hair. By not shaving, waxing, epilating, or undergoing any other excruciating, expensive hair removal procedures, we’re also showing solidarity with our naturally hairier sisters. Women with PCOS also face much higher chances of diabetes, obesity, acne, and infertility, PCOS being the most common cause of female infertility related to ovulation. Despite the fact that approximately 10% of women suffer from PCOS, it’s a condition that’s rarely discussed in the mass media, and with no medical cure, funding is sorely needed for more scientific research.
Armpits4August is actively encouraging all women to get involved by being sponsored to grow their pit hair, with all proceeds going to Verity, a leading PCOS charity. If you’re not quite ready to join the hairathon, or you’ve already broken that hairy August rule, then fear not. You’re still invited to converse with us, spread the word, and maybe even sponsor one of our increasingly bushy pits. Any and all support is greatly appreciated, and in return, Armpits for August promises to keep everyone updated with photos of their gorgeous, natural underarms.