Armpits4August is a month long charity event for women and everyone with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which started in August 2012. For information on PCOS click here
Participants grow underarm hair for one month, and ask friends and family to sponsor them to raise money for Verity, the charity for people with PCOS.
PCOS affects up to 10% of women and is even more prevalent amongst trans* men, yet it’s hardly ever talked about. A common symptom of PCOS can be hirsutism (excessive hair growth), so by growing our body hair we are working towards having pride in our body hair, not shame. Armpits4August will provide a stimulus and safe space to discuss the complicated, emotional, or embarrassing experiences of body hair that women, trans* and non-binary people often have. 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!
We acknowledge that not everyone has the same opportunity to take part in Armpits4August and that in a racist, sexist, classist, disableist, trans*phobic and lesbophobic society, some women, trans* and non-binary people may simply not have the option to grow their body hair as a political act without it having personal consequences, such as increased harassment, having treatment withheld whilst transitioning, being questioned about their ability to self-care, etc. We hope that, if this and similar campaigns are successful in changing social attitudes about body hair and femininity, it will become easier in the future for more and more people to participate.
We also recognise 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. However, we do think that having a go at letting it grow can be a fun and empowering decision for many people, and so we strongly encourage anyone who is interested to take part in Armpits4August 2013!
We welcome comment, debate, encouragement and criticism on twitter, the facebook group or via email, especially from those who have experienced the intersections of oppression (race, class, gender, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation etc.) differently/additionally to ourselves, and are keen to engage with critiques of the limitations of such a project as well as its benefits in order to make it as inclusive as possible. We do not, however, welcome any attempts to tell us that post-pubescent women with body hair (no matter how much) are disgusting, unhygienic, ‘unnatural,’ etc. Nor will we accept any form of misogyny, sexism, racism, homophobia, disableism, classism or any anti-feminist/trans*/queer rhetoric or other such hateful speech: these comments and emails will be deleted.