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Old feminism: Hairy armpits. New feminism: Hairy armpits.

March 1, 2014

Dove’s new deodorant ads:

A television commercial called “An open letter to the armpit” features several women in white tank tops taking turns reading a letter. “Dear Armpit,” begins the spot, which is directed by Pam Thomas and was introduced in January. “In the lottery of life, you drew the short stick. People shave you, pour hot wax on you, and your name is ‘armpit.’ People don’t treat you like skin because frankly, they don’t think of you as skin.”

After the product is shown, the women continue, “You can be a softer, smoother, more beautiful little armpit — you deserve our best care ever, and don’t you ever forget that.”

Print ads and billboards will also take the form of a letter written by Dove.

“Dear Razors,” says a print ad in the issue of People magazine that comes out on Friday. “Sixty-four percent of what you remove is hair. Thirty-six percent is skin. You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Another ad, addressed to Merriam-Webster, features a woman with her armpit proudly displayed, and asks in reference to one of the dictionary’s definitions, “Does this look like ‘the least desirable place’ to you?”

So naturally, Slate’s Katy Waldman has this to say:

I just wish they had honored hairy, scaly pits as well as smooth ones, since it’s hard to celebrate something while simultaneously policing every detail of its appearance.

Right–because we feminists just love hairy, scaly armpits!

Waldman’s post reflects the latest feminist obsession:

Some forty Swedish women gathered at a Malmö square in the afternoon on Thursday, taking a stand against the recent internet storm vilifying women’s hairy armpits.

We want to take a stand for all those that are insulted. It is about gender roles and letting everyone be themselves,” said Anni Isis, one of the armpit baring protesters, to the local Sydsvenskan paper.

The demonstration was organized by the Malmö Feminist Network (Malmös Feministiska Nätverk), which decided to “Reclaim the Hair” after Sweden’s online community had been whipped into a frenzy due to one woman’s hairy armpit being exposed during a live television broadcast of the Melodifestivalen song contest finals on Saturday.

Lena Ehrin from Ludvika in central Sweden was cheering the Swedish Eurovision candidate Loreen when her clearly visible underarm hair appeared momentarily on live TV and in the living rooms of an estimated 4.1 million Swedish television viewers.

A Facebook user then managed to take a screenshot of Ehrin’s hair, which he posted online – an image which then spread like wildfire across the site.

Within hours, thousands of people had “liked” the image, and hundreds had shared the image on their own Facebook pages, with an overwhelming number of crass and bullying comments attached.

“It is proof that many live in a narrow-minded and normative world. We have to challenge these structures,” said Isis to the paper.

All the women gathered in Malmö on Thursday had reacted to the massive online outcry that erupted against the woman and her hairy armpit.

“We need to show that this is a form of oppression based on a beauty norm and controlling the female body,” said Anna Gagliardo to local paper Skånskan’s web TV.

It all reminds me of this 1970s phenomenon — as well as this one.

Plus ca change, plue c’est la meme hairy armpit.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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5 Comments
  1. pabarge permalink

    Erin’s hair? Here:

  2. pabarge permalink

    and more here:

  3. “Talk to the armpit” is the new “Talk to the hand.”

  4. Mark S permalink

    There is nothing wrong with ladies who prefer not to shave their underarms – it’s perfectly natural and very attractive. It is the artificial convention of 1915 onwards that is wrong. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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