Can We All Calm Down About Armpit Hair, Please?

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imagePhoto Courtesy of Ben Hopper.
We've been hearing a lot about women's body hair lately. Whether it's the ongoing debate over whether women should go Brazilian or bare their pubic hair, or a snapshot of Madonna flashing her unshaved armpits on Instagram, hair is on our brains — and, er, our bodies. Well, now there's another voice to add to the conversation. London-based artist Ben Hopper recently released his latest series of photos, called "Natural Beauty," to HuffPost Women, and it features women baring their (underarm) bush.

Hopper’s series showcases women who have let their pits go au natural, but instead of photos that simply exist for shock value, his pictures reveal the subtle (and beautiful) side of embracing your body hair. "The title is strictly talking about the armpit hair which is natural and can be a beautiful thing," Hopper said. Indeed, the hair doesn't detract from the beauty of the women photographed, rather it's a part of their overall stunning aesthetic. "It's a varied collection of women," he said. "Some grew the hair especially for the pictures. Some contacted me when they already had fully grown hair."

Keep reading to learn about the fascinating history of how body-hair removal became the norm and the latest rage-inducing ads that are trying to shame women into a bald-body look.
BenPhoto Courtesy of Ben Hopper.
Hopper kicked off the project after taking up photography in 2007, and as it evolved, he found himself reading up on the (sorry) hairy history of our obsession with all-smooth-everything bodies. "It has to do with beauty brands, who needed to extend their razor clientele and created one for women about a century ago," he said. "Most people [now] can't even stand the look of a hairy female armpit. Now, that is brilliant marketing."

And, unfortunately, that "brilliant" marketing scheme still exists in advertisements today. Just this week, Veet dropped a series of rage-inducing ads that tell women to avoid "dudeness," implying that a woman with body hair is less feminine and hence, less attractive. So, in the minds of advertisers and marketers, the message we want to send to the modern woman is if you're hairy, you're a man. Couple that with the fact that women who do grow their body hair are instantly labeled as "gross," "lazy," or that other dirty F-word, "feminist," and it's no wonder most women refuse to embrace the body hair that grows (hello!) naturally on them. Pretty infuriating, right?

In the end, Hopper doesn't want his series to seem like a charge for women to embrace their pubic hair. "As I told The Huffington Post, I don't want to say that I want [all] women to start growing their armpit hair," he said. "I just think that it's a possibility, and people shouldn't dismiss it. I'd like people to question the whole thing." Scrolling through the photographs of these gorgeous women sporting their inborn hair, I started questioning exactly why I'm such a stickler for a smooth shave. Check out the entire series on Hopper's blog, and then come back and let us know what you think.



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