A social media competition has sparked an 'armpit selfie' trend among young women in China. Directly translated as "girls not plucking armpit hair competition" (女生腋毛不拔大赛), the movement encourages women to grow their natural body hair and upload pictures of their unshaven armpits on China's popular social media site, Weibo.
So far, the online contest has attracted more than 28 million views and thousands of selfie submissions. And while there are no official prizes as such, the top 10 armpit selfes will be curated on the competition's main discussion thread on Weibo.
Most of the photos are uploaded with comments detailing the participants' support for the concept. The images vary from women showing off full patches of underarm hair to girls posing playfully with ponytails tucked under their arms.
According to MSN China, the latest selfie trend is inspired by the wider 'natural beauty' movement accross the world.
Weibo user @Alicey (@怪力愛麗絲) said, "My armpit hair is my pride. I've always believed that armpit hair is sexy so I have never shaven in my life...Why are guys with body hair seen as 'manly', but girls are forced to shave? We need to advocate for change."
Another user, @NewForcesOfCulture (@文化產業新勢力) said, "Hairless airmpits might be seen as more 'asthetically pleasing', but I really don't support women having to shave. Natural beauty is true beauty."
'Body hair activism' has been gaining momentum in recent years. While the armpit selfie competition appears to be the first of its kind in China, popular Tumblrs like 'The Hairy Legs Club' and 'Very Hairy Legs' have been getting positive feedback for encouraging women to question the stigma of female body hair by sharing pictures of their unshaven legs online.
The Facebook group Women Against Non-essential Grooming has also gained made headlines for challenging gendered beauty norms, sparking fan art and spin-off memes like 'Celebrities against non-essential grooming'.
Last month, a gender studies professor from Arizona State University offered female students extra credit if they don't shave their armpits or legs for ten weeks, with some students reporting that it was a 'life changing experience'.
"It definitely made me realise that if you're not strictly adhering to socially prescribed gender roles, your body becomes a site for contestation and public opinion," said participant Stephanie Robinson.
The latest wave of pro-body hair movement in China is yet another encouraging sign that women are turning their backs on the outdated aesthetic standards - a trend that the global beauty industry desperately needs to focus on.
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