Have you heard of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome? Neither had I, until I saw this coverage of Armpits4August, the charity group raising awareness of PCOS, as it’s known, by growing out their underarm hair for one whole month.
Like Movember, in which men grow out their mustaches for the month of November to raise money for men’s health, Armpits4August has women grow out their armpit hair to raise awareness of PCOS, a disease so common that it affects up to 10% of women, yet so little is known about it that no one is even certain of where it comes from. One symptom of PCOS is hirsutism, or excess body hair growth, so the choice to let one’s underarms go free seems appropriate.
23-year-old Gina Fuller, the campaign’s co-founder, told the Telegraph that the group chose August “because it’s the month where your armpits are out so everyone can see them,” not to mention the “most difficult month” to have extra hair on your body.
But beyond raising awareness of this fertility-decreasing, diabetes-causing disease, the organization aims to combat and dismantle damaging gender norms about where it is and is not appropriate to have hair on a woman’s body. From their website (emphasis theirs):
“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.
“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 ... 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.”
Talk about killing two birds with one stone!
We at BUST wish we had heard about this campaign early enough to join it, but even if it’s too late to ditch the razor for women’s health, you can still consider going au naturale for funsies: Armpits4August’s website has a handy list of tips and tricks for growing out your hair ‘round there.
Hairy pits haven't been just for French women and activists for some time now, which is heartening. Check out these photos of famous ladies who ditched the razor for no reason at all:
Grimes and her baby pit hair, from our April/May issue
Patti Smith on the cover of Easter
The now-iconic photo of Julia Roberts at the 1997 Notting Hill premiere
(And this awesome Tumblr of women [and men] baring their hair in the name of body positivity.)
Would you grow out your pits for PCOS? What about just in general? Let us know what you think of this clever campaign in the comments!
Thanks to New York Magazine
Photos via Armpits4August, the BBC