Within days, social media was in an international buzz over the The Free Your Pits Movement as young people all over the world proudly posted their colored armpit hair pics on Facebook and Instagram, posing in solidarity with those who stand for freedom of choice, body positivity, personal expression, and a new international standard of beauty.
Most of the young people happened to be woman, adolescents. Young women who were waiting for a reason to proudly share their pits, and their opinions and stories.
As a mother of daughters and a beauty blogger, I was both stunned and excited to hear what the world had to say about this subversive trend, which started with a blog post which I had written. I knew that I had tapped into something bigger than armpit hair.
I recently interviewed psychologist and Wise Minded Parenting author DR. Laura Kastner about the importance of young women and body-positive movements, and here is what she had to say.
1.When you heard about the Free Your Pits Movement, how did it excite you as a psychologist who works with young women?
As a psychologist specializing in adolescent development for more than thirty years, I was elated in reading about this movement.
Everyone has heard that old maxim, "There's nothing new under the sun". Well, this movement is! It is novel and innovative, while being a harmless and creative way of expressing one's freedom of choice and unique identity.
2. You are an expert on the adolescent brain....Talk about the benefits of a movement that both unifies young people and encourages safe experimentation, and how the teenage brain craves these sorts of things.
Around age 13, the brain becomes fundamentally remodeled and more sensitive to dopamine and rewards . Kids will do almost anything to experience the high of dopamine, the neurochemical that is released in anticipation of exciting new experiences. Teen health advocates rejoice!.I say, bring on the harmless excitement and experimentation of the Free Your Pits movement!
3. In what ways can the kind of empowerment that comes through belonging like FYP positively affect a young woman?
I think it is important because it promotes a healthy conversation about notions of beauty, independent decision-making and questioning stereotypes. It unites people in a body-positive conversation, and lord knows teenagers need more encouragement to love their bodies.
I've always appreciated the way teens explore their identities through hair and clothing. Hair can be shaved, dyed, braided, top-knotted, dreaded and changed up. But now we have PITS! Truly, FYP is a break-through and public expression of autonomous choice and identity.
3. Do you see the Free Your Pits Movement as giving young women an opportunity to confront and show their support of important social issues such as feminism, gender identity, and body positivity?
FYP inherently challenges the gender-typing of females. It stands for choice, autonomy and the freedom to define yourself in the way you like. It challenges stereotypes. It is healthy.
Despite the headway made by women in the last few decades to be liberated from gender-typed notions of what it means to be a "powerful and successful female", girls are still constrained by pressures to be pleasers and accommodators.
Although a compulsion to please others and seek extreme forms of excellence may sound good, perfectionism and the compulsion to chronically subordinate one's needs to others are basically unhealthy. These features are associated with depression, anxiety, intimate partner victimization and eating disorders, all of which occur at higher levels in females.
5. Our culture perpetuates some really hard to attain standards of beauty directed at women. Talk about the importance of body positivity in the mainstream media, and young women's sense of self.
Having specialized in the treatment of eating disorders, I could write books (and have) on the importance of establishing a healthy identity for girls. The values related to the hyper-masculinity stereotype for boys and the beauty and perfectionism stereotypes for girls are rife with problems. Boys are supposed to be buff, dominant over women, aggressive and never vulnerable. Girls are supposed to be skinny, beautiful, always nice, not too ambitious, and pleasing to others, preferably effortlessly.
I hope that enlightened young people, male and female alike, can embrace the FYP movement as a rejection of a rigid beauty stereotype. FYP doesn't mandate a dogma around having to grow your pits or dye your pits. It promotes the values, "You get to choose", "Don't let others dictate your notions of beauty" and "Express yourself positively". Hopefully the very analysis of these values will generate more conversation about the unhealthiness of rigid notions of beauty, perfectionism, and letting others determine your bodily choices.
To keep up with the FYP movement, check out our @freeyourpits on Instagram.