It's 2016. For the sake of our monthly razor expenditure and our personal sanity, please can we just move past this already?
The thing about armpit hair is, everyone has it. It grows fast – so fast that you can go two days or three days or four days without thinking about the warm, concave spot between your chest and your tricep, then lift your arm and find a small forest. And it’s harmless. It doesn’t smell better or worse than a hollow of smooth, shaved skin, and it doesn’t get caught in zips or trapped in doors. It isn’t prickly, and it isn’t painful. Removing it is quick – four unconscious swipes of a razor, or two tugs on a strip of wax and it’s gone. But that’s your choice. Like the decision to paint your nails sky blue pink or define your eyebrows.
Which is why it’s particularly disheartening when a photo featuring some armpit hair goes viral, again. Because we all know a photo of a pair of defined eyebrows or bright pink nails wouldn’t.
But after Belgium-based student Laura Defalle shared the above portrait on Facebook, it was quickly commented on 7,000 times – and the comments were critical, barbed and mean. Thousands of strangers told her she’d ‘made them throw up 146 times’, called her a ‘pig’, and sent her links to razors online.
Thankfully Laura has found support from a local feminist group, who began responding to the comments on her behalf, and now she’s spoken out too.
‘I am a girl who decided to do what she wanted her body. And the consequences of this were collective humiliation, harassment, insults, threats,’ she said. ‘I’m often told that in Belgium and in France we do not need the feminism, that women have enough rights. All this violence proves [that’s not true].’
‘I want to show all the violence that comes from a girl saying no, for once, to traditional standards of beauty,’ she added.
But while Laura’s response sends a powerful message, she shouldn’t have to stand up for herself in this situation. It shouldn’t be a ‘situation’ at all. We should have learned by now that armpits are armpits – and that body hair is nobody’s business but the person’s who’s growing it.
Over the last decade, it’s felt like there has been body hair controversy after body hair controversy. There was Madonna’s Instagram post last summer, followed by the ‘pit party’ competition later in the year. There was the time Petra Collins was banned from Instagram because she took a picture of a girl wearing knickers with some pubic hair around the edges. And there was Yasmin Gasimova, who quit shaving for good – and was met by an onslaught of abuse.
Now, judging by the online reaction to Laura’s armpits (the fact that we’re having to type the word ‘armpit’ so often in one article only serves to emphasise the ridiculousness of this situation), it feels like no progress has been made since the days of Julia Roberts walking down the red carpet at the Notting Hill premiere, all grown out pits and red leather.
But that was 17 years ago – and we all know that if Renee Zelwegger had done the same at the Bridget Jones premiere this week, she’d have been treated by the tabloids in exactly the same way.
And that’s really depressing.