Armpits4August – keep your body hair and raise money for charity
Armpits4August is a month-long charity event, set up to challenge beauty norms by asking participants to grow their underarm hair for all of August.
Women are encouraged to throw away their razors and wax strips to raise money for Verity, the charity for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) sufferers.
Women’s Views on News was intrigued and so got in touch with the organisation’s Sarah Hickmott to find out more:
Could you tell us a bit about the project?
It’s a month-long charity event where we ask women to stop removing their underarm hair (or any other body hair they wish), get sponsorship from friends and family, and in the process raise awareness and money for Verity, the UK’s only national charity for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (for which a common symptom is hirsutism – excess body hair), and also challenge rigid beauty norms that demand women appear hairless.
What inspired the project?
I started trying to grow out my body hair a couple of years ago, mostly because as a feminist I think that becoming self-aware and mindful of our own actions, and working towards bodily autonomy is really important.
I found it really hard (I still do to an extent) and realised how much having PCOS added to that difficulty. I also became aware of the impact that different surroundings and situations had on how confident I felt with body hair. (I talk a bit more about this in the guest vlog I did for ThosePeskyDames).
We – myself and the rest of the Armpits4August team – decided we wanted to try and create a space where women could experiment with growing their body hair, discuss how they feel and think about why they feel compelled to remove their body hair, so that in the future they can make an active choice and own their decision either way.
What are the overall aims of the project?
To raise money for and awareness of PCOS, and in particular that hirsutism is a common symptom (and consequently that many women have more body hair than is usually assumed as ‘natural’). Also, to provoke discussion about women and body hair more broadly and provide some images of women with body hair – something that is very rarely seen.
Can you tell us a bit about the Armpits4August team?
A few of us are on the same MA course, and other people have got involved either through personal connections (mostly from other feminist spaces) or, having heard about the campaign, asked to get more involved. We organise online and regular ‘real life’ meetings where we delegate tasks and responsibilities on an ad hoc basis. In the future I think we will work towards having more specific individual roles and better accountability.
Do you have any plans for growth?
We definitely plan to grow and spread in 2013 (and indefinitely until the campaign is no longer needed!) but concrete plans will have to wait until after August. We’d love to capitalise on the amazing response we’ve had in our first year, and would especially love to hear feedback or ideas from outside the team as to how we could do things differently or improve. Please get in touch by emailing us at email@example.com
Tell us a bit about the PCOS charity
Verity is the only national UK charity supporting women with PCOS, and they have been very supportive of our campaign. Please see their website for more details.
How can people get involved?
By participating and growing out their pit hair or, equally importantly, telling us why they feel they can’t grow out their pit hair! We strongly encourage women to blog, vlog or post photos (positively or negatively), and to start their own conversations amongst friends, family or local feminist or women’s groups. At the end of August we are also encouraging people to throw their own pit parties to celebrate and discuss a month of being pit proud. More broadly, though, just keep spreading the word and talking about it!
Some men have contacted us to say that they are going to support us by either shaving or dying their pit hair for a month in solidarity – we think this is great, but really we only request that men express respectful and uncomplicated solidarity with women seeking to take ownership of their own bodies.
What sort of feedback have you had?
Overwhelmingly positive in most cases! We expected a lot more negativity because of the stigma of body hair, and I think it has proved that there is a real value in doing things, like Armpits4August, that help keep these issues up for discussion. Sometimes the fear that is instilled in us about people’s potentially negative reactions is worse than it actually turns out to be!