Participants in the month-long project starting August 1st are asked to grow their underarm hair -- or any other body hair -- for the whole month. Some of the project's organizers suffer from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a leading cause of infertility among women,whose symptoms include acne, bloating and hirsutism. Other founders don't have PCOS but are interested in unpacking the female beauty standards that require shaving, waxing and plucking body hair.
"I'm medically classed as a hirsute woman," founder Sarah Hickmott told the Guardian. "I used to absolutely hate my body hair because of bullying. I feel better about it since meeting other feminists."
Those taking part in the month-long grow-out hope to raise money for Verity, a Polycystic Ovary Syndrome charity, by asking friends and family to sponsor them. Last year, the British-based movement raised £4,000.
"The idea is to set a challenge," organizer Chloe Marshall told the Independent. "Until you question these things you don't know what you feel comfortable with, rather than just automatically doing the thing most expected of women."
In a blog for The Huffington Post UK, Hickmott wrote: "Over time we are aiming to have pride in our body hair rather than shame, and to challenge the idea that post-pubescent women with body hair -- no matter how much -- are disgusting, unhygienic or 'unnatural'."
Hickmott was also careful to emphasize that Armpits4August makes no judgements about women who do decide to remove their body hair, writing: "It is emphatically not about saying that only what is 'natural' is acceptable or beautiful, but that women should be free to make these choices, consciously and actively, and without the fear of provoking disgust, hatred or being shamed."
British woman Siobhain Fletcher, who suffers from PCOS, made headlines last year when she allowed her facial hair to grow out in support of male prostate and testicular cancer for Movember.
“My condition used to contribute to depression and anxiety but this is for a good cause and I want to highlight that people shouldn’t judge you on what you have on your face, it’s what is inside that matters," Fletcher told the Mirror.
Another brave woman bucking expectations about body hair is college student Balpreet Kaur, who was mocked on Reddit for sporting facial hair. Kaur, who does not remove her body hair in accordance with her Sikh faith, responded with incredible grace to her Reddit tormentors.
"When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away," she wrote. "However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can."
Here's hoping that the Armpits4August women succeed in raising awareness and money for their cause -- and here's to celebrating women like Fletcher and Kaur, for withstanding criticism and standing up for themselves with dignity.
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