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Weibo Women’s “Armpit Hair Contest”

An online “Armpit Hair Contest” has fuelled discussions on China’s female aesthetics. As many women posted selfies showing off their hairy armpits, not all netizens agreed on their beauty. For initiator Xiao Meili, the contest has fulfilled its purpose.

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An online “Armpit Hair Contest” has fuelled social media discussions on female aesthetics in China. As many women posted selfies on Sina Weibo showing off their hairy armpits, not all netizens agreed on their beauty. But for initiator Xiao Meili, the contest has fulfilled its purpose.

On May 26, Chinese women’s rights advocate Xiao Meili initiated a contest of women’s underarm hair on   Sina Weibo. She encouraged women to send ‘selfies’ with their arms proudly raised, showing off their hairy armpits. Forty-six women participated in the contest and posted photos under the hashtag “women underarm hair contest” (#女子腋毛大赛#). Amongst them were three of China’s five feminists who drew worldwide attention for their detention in March this year over their campaign for gender equality.

_83494865_chinaarmpithair3Xiao Meili, initiator of the armpit contest.

The contest, which ended on June 10, has been viewed over 1.54 million times on Sina Weibo and gained more than 1,300 comments up to June 11. Six winners were selected from the photo competition, based on the number of reposts and ‘likes’. The first place winner received a hundred free condoms, the second place got a vibrator, and the third place winners were rewarded with ten female urination devices.

 

“Why are hairy armpits a taboo for women?”

 

Weibo user “Zhu Xixi Loves Eating Fish” is the first-prize winner of the “Women’s Underarm Hair Contest”. She said she enjoyed her underarm hair and posted a picture of herself revealing her unshaved armpits while smiling with her eyes closed. In the added comment, she says: “When I was still heterosexual, my boyfriend at the time just took it for granted that I shaved my armpits for the sake of wearing sleeveless T-shirts – until I shaved all of his underarm hair and let him experience what girls go through.”

wow1Some of the participants. Winner Zhu Xixi is in the center.

“Chacha”, one of the second-prize winners, wrote on the contest page: “I love my underarm hair. It’s part of my body. I hope girls can reveal it without fear.” Another Weibo user called “Mimosa” commented to show her support and emphasize the importance of being true to oneself: “I think my hairy armpits look just fine, I never shave them,” she says: “I still wear vests in summer and I don’t feel ashamed of it. Most women have underarm hair. Why do we have to shave it? Why does it have to be a taboo? Do shaved armpits look beautiful?” She believes that there’s no point of listening to other people’s judgement as long as you are comfortable with yourself.

cef7c456jw1eslx9uyby3j20zk0no40pSecond-prize winner ‘Chacha’.

User “Poor and Bored” says that women shouldn’t shave their armpits for medical reasons: “Pulling or shaving armpits might lead to skin infection, as there are many lymph nodes in the armpits. It’s not good for your health. Nobody cares if you shave your armpits as long as you keep it clean.”

However, some netizens hold the idea that armpit hair is ugly and smelly. User “VansChan”, together with many other users, commented that shaving armpits has nothing to do with feminism. “Why is it relevant to women’s rights? Whether it’s men or women, revealing hairy armpits when wearing sleeveless tops is inelegant. We can smell it on the bus and subway. Allegedly, less than 30 percent of Chinese people use antiperspirants.”

 

“Shaving armpits has nothing to do with feminism”

 

User “Miseryzoe” is also an opponent of hairy armpits, and continuing the debate by stressing that men and women can’t be completely equal. She added: “I think hairy armpits for girls are ugly and disgusting. Shaving armpits has nothing to do with feminism. Most of these women who don’t shave their armpits are probably just lazy. I don’t believe they don’t think it looks terrible.”

After the storm of comments on the issue of women (not) shaving their armpits, Xiao Meili posted the history of shaving armpits on the Sina Weibo contest page. Shaving armpits started in the United States in 1915, when the fashion magazine BAZAAR published a photo of a woman raising her arms revealing shaved armpits. Then Gillette launched the razor for women to shave their armpits. The advertisement persuaded women to shave and “remove the objectionable hair” so that women would be beautiful, attractive and sanitary.

Gillette1920s marketing campaign pursuading women to shave their armpits.

Xiao Meili had stated that the purpose of Weibo’s “Women Underarm Hair Contest” is to free women’s armpits and open up the discussion on the “definition of feminine beauty”. Women should have the right to choose whether they want to shave their armpits or not. One of the users “Tender 10384” showed her support for Xiao, stating that “the goal of this contest is not to suggest that women should have hairy armpits, but to make women realise that they have the ownership to their own body – women shouldn’t be forced to shave armpits under the pressure of stereotypes or the mainstream aesthetic.”

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Shaving armpits is relatively new in China. According to Xiao Meili, it was not a widespread custom in until the 1990s. Since then, similarly to America and Europe in the 1920s, the idea was spread that women have to shave their armpits – making many believe that they have to in order to be accepted by society. The contest on Weibo has created a buzz amongst young Chinese women, helping them understand the difference between “can” and “have to”: they can shave their armpits, but they don’t have to.

By Yiying Fan, edited by Manya Koetse

©2015 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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About the author: Yiying Fan is a world traveler and Chinese freelance writer from Shanghai.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Muralidaran

    September 1, 2016 at 7:23 am

    I find hairy women very sexy. Women who shave their body including their armpits are like school children not matured grown up women. Therefore shaving must be totally stoped in women and men, especially women.

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China Fashion & Beauty

The Mulan Makeup Challenge: Traditional Chinese Makeup Goes Trending

Recreating the Mulan make-up look was the biggest beauty challenge on Chinese social media this July.

Manya Koetse

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Will traditional Chinese make-up make a comeback because of Disney’s Mulan?

Since Disney released the official trailer for its live-action Mulan movie earlier this month, Mulan is recurringly appearing in the top trending lists on Chinese social media.

Among all the different topics relating to the upcoming Mulan movie, the Mulan make-up challenge is one that jumps out this month.

The Disney live-action trailer showed a scene in which Mulan, played by Chinese American actress Crystal Liu Fei (刘亦菲), has a full face of betrothal makeup. The original animated Disney movie also features a full makeup Mulan.

Although there was also online criticism of the ‘exaggerated’ makeup, there are many people who appreciate Mulan’s colorful makeup look.

On Weibo, many showed off their skills in copying Mulan’s makeup look this month.

By now, the hashtags “Mulan Makeup Imitation” (#花木兰仿妆#) and “Mulan Makeup Imitation Contest” (#花木兰仿妆大赛#) have attracted over 300 million views.

Makeup such as lipstick has been used in China as far back as two or three thousand years ago.

Makeup vlogger Emma Zhou explains more about Tang Dynasty (618-907) makeup customs here; the skin would be whitened with rice flower, followed by the application of ‘blush’ (pigment of strong-colored flowers) to the cheeks and eyes in a round shape, to emphasize the roundness of the face.

A floral-like decoration would be placed in between the eyebrows.

The yellow forehead, as can be seen in the live-action Mulan, is also known as “Buddha’s makeup,” and was especially popular among ladies during the Tang Dynasty. A yellow aura on the forehead was believed to be auspicious (Schafer 1956, 419).

Although contemporary Chinese makeup trends are much different than those depicted in Mulan, traditional makeup seems to make somewhat of a come-back because of the Disney movie, with hundreds of Chinese netizens imitating the look.

Beauty bloggers such as Nico (@黎千千Nico, image below) receive much praise from Weibo users for their makeup look. Nico wrote: “I even opened the door for the delivery guy this way!”

It is not just girls imitating the look; there are also some boys showing off their Mulan makeup.

Although many still find the Mulan makeup look exaggerated and even “laughable,” there are also those who think it looks really “cool” – of course, depending on whether or not the application is successful.

Want to try it out for yourself? There are various amateur tutorials available on Youtube (in Chinese), such as here, here, or here.

The Mulan make-up hype will probably continue in 2020; the Mulan movie will come out in late March.

To read more about Mulan, please see our latest feature article on Mulan here.

By Manya Koetse

References

Schafer, Edward H. 1956. “The Early History of Lead Pigments and Cosmetics in China.” T’oung Pao, Second Series, 44, no. 4/5: 413-38. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4527434.

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China Celebs

Iconic Shanghai Singer Yao Lee Passes Away at the Age of 96

Yao Li, one of the seven great singing stars of Shanghai in the 1940s, has passed away.

Manya Koetse

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Chinese singer Yao Lee (姚莉), the ‘Queen of Mandarin pop,’ passed away on July 19 at the age of 96.

The singer, with her ‘Silvery Voice,’ was known as one of the seven great singing stars (“七大歌星”) of Shanghai of the 1940s.

For those who may not know her name, you might know her music – one of her iconic songs was used in the hit movie Crazy Rich Asians.

Yao’s most famous songs include “Rose, Rose, I Love You” (玫瑰玫瑰我爱你), “Meet Again” (重逢), and “Love That I Can’t Have” (得不到的爱情).

Yao, born in Shanghai in 1922, started singing at the age of 13. Her brother Yao Min was a popular music songwriter.

When popular music was banned under Mao in the 1950s, Hong Kong became a new center of the Mandarin music industry, and Yao continued her career there.

On Weibo, the hashtag Yao Lee Passes Away (#姚莉去世#) already received more than 200 million views at time of writing.

Many Chinese netizens post candles to mourn the death of the popular singer, some call her passing “the end of an era.”

“Shanghai of those years is really where it all started,” others say.

Listen to one of Yao’s songs below:

By Manya Koetse

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