Numerous body-part fads and "challenges" have come and gone in recent years: the ubiquitous thigh gap, the bikini bridge ("the new thigh gap"), thighbrows, ab cracks, the "belly button challenge", the collarbone challenge, the A4 challenge, the iPhone 6 challenge, we could go on. And that's before we even get to the pre-social media muffin top, bingo wings, saggy knees and cankles.
There have been a few antidotes (#BigThighTwitter, mermaid thighs, hip dips), but you can't deny there's a cultural tendency to shame women for their bodies. Enter a new culprit: the concept of the "arm vagina" or "armpit vagina". This is the natural bit of skin that exists where a woman's arm joins her torso. We all have them, regardless of our size, so it's a pretty confusing thing for people to be fixating over.
And nowhere is this insecurity more prevalent than on the red carpet, according to Hollywood stylist Rebecca Corbin-Murray, who revealed this week that her A-list clients worry about their perfectly human bodily crease. “Sometimes it’s the weirdest part of their body [they're concerned about]," she told the Times. "They say, ‘I’ve got this horrible blah-blah’, and you think, ‘What are they even talking about?’ The one that comes up all the time is arm vagina.”
Corbin-Murray, whose clients include Emma Watson, Lily James and, formerly Sophie Turner, wasn't claiming ordinary women should develop a complex about their own arms, but emphasising the showbiz industry's ridiculous beauty standard.
So apparently there's now a name for that bit of chub I always complain about every time I wear a strappy dress? An armpit vagina? AN ARMPIT VAGINA?— Charlie Kelner ? (@charliekelner) December 1, 2017
Armpits may be "having a moment" in beauty and many more women may be taking pride in their armpit hair than they used to, but celebrities still apparently feel under pressure to look superhuman: with "freakishly fat-free" underarms, "as taut and smooth as a plastic Barbie doll’s," as the Guardian's Gabi Hinsliff pointed out.
Hinsliff also cleverly made the argument that such body shaming is emblematic of an industry that exerts power over women by belittling and "treating [them] like lumps of meat" who should be grateful for any attention – professional or otherwise – they can get from their male colleagues.
The "armpit vagina" first shot to prominence back in 2014 when Jennifer Lawrence pointed out her own "armpit fat" on the SAG Awards red carpet. “I know I have armpit fat, it’s OK … armpit vaginas, it’s awful!” To which reporter Giuliana Rancic responded self critically, as women are wont to in such situations, that she was now worried about her own. Sadly, as any girl or woman who's spent time around other girls and women will know, such bodily insecurities can spread like wildfire – and in the social media age the danger is even more severe.
Unattainable beauty standards in Hollywood are one thing, but it's quite another when ordinary women and girls are becoming obsessed with particular body parts and sacrificing their lives in in a bid to look as "red carpet ready" as celebrities at all times. Let's hope no one kickstarts an armpit Instagram craze – or, if they do, that it highlights the beauty of our very normal "armpit vaginas".
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