Last week, we brought you the happy news that feminists were encouraging women to “grow out their body hair” during the month of January to raise awareness about the oppressiveness of traditional gender norms, and to speak out in defense of “body positivity.”
The idea is simple: women aren’t shaving off their body hair during the month of January, and, instead, are raising funds for an organization in the U.K. that helps educate girls and women about building self-esteem. It began with an Instagram post from a struggling actress, and eventually morphed its way into a social media phenomenon. At last count, nearly 3,000 women had posted about their participation in “Janu-hairy,” and the founder had raised nearly $2,000 for her charity of choice.
It seems like the perfect feminist cause, right? But it turns out, not all feminists are on board.
In an incredible piece for the ultra-feminist website, Jezebel, writer Prachi Gupta explains that white women embracing the hairy armpit trend aren’t actually demonstrating against oppression. In fact, they’re reinforcing it, as well as expressing support for notions of white supremacy, racism, and colonialism.
“Let’s please keep it in perspective: a white woman discovering and promoting the wonders of not shaving her pits, in the dead cold of winter, when we shave the least anyway, is not a particularly brave stance,” Gupta writes.
“Pretty white women are often celebrated for their bushy eyebrows or for their courageousness in growing long, silky strands from their pits, but it’s black and brown women and trans people we should be honoring and highlighting; they are routinely mocked, harassed, and threatened for refusing to conform to Euro-centric, Western standards of beauty,” she continues.
Then she really takes a whack: “While white women are liberating their pits, brown people, who have darker, and oftentimes coarser, thicker hair (in more places), are contending with colonialist expectations of what their bodies, and hair, are supposed to look like.”
Basically, it’s a symptom of white privilege — and, in a roundabout way, white supremacy — that white women can protest against oppressive, gender-reinforcing, Westernized standards of beauty just by not shaving their legs and armpits for a couple of weeks. And above all that, white women should feel ashamed that they’re even bothering to make an effort.
To top it off, shaving your pits is “colonialist.” Because, of course it is.
Ultimately, the point of the piece seems to be less about how white women are contributing to the breakdown of society by abandoning their razors for a few weeks in the middle of winter, and more about how utterly impossible it is, in the world of feminism, to pursue the actual cause of women’s rights. No matter how hard you try to free other women from the shackles of their oppression, there is always someone you’re leaving out — and perhaps worse, there’s always someone you’re unintentionally imprisoning further with your altrusitic actions.