Chinese women in the UK have joined an online debate about shaving their armpits.
Supporters of the viral campaign are posting pictures of their underarm hair in a contest which is also sweeping China’s version of Twitter.
Chinese women all over the world have been been posting selfies on social network Weibo of the hair they allow to grow in their armpits.
‘Girls not plucking their armpit hair’ is about challenging social norms and encouraging women not to shave their body hair.
Thousands of pictures have been uploaded to the site, with the main page gaining millions of views.
There are images of women proudly showing off their underarm hair, while others are pictured with their ponytails tucked under their arms.
Organisers are expected to eventually compile a top 10 of the best pictures, although there doesn’t seem to be any prize for first place.
The trend has swept China after several other campaigns that have urged women to embrace a more natural type of beauty.
Last year the Hairy Legs Club trend on tumblr was inviting women to post their photos to ‘make a statement about social expectations of beauty’.
It featured pictures of women from around the world who decided to ditch the razor.
It’s not restricted to Chinese women. Female students at an Arizona university were being offered the chance to earn extra credit by not shaving their armpit hair for a whole semester.
The unconventional offer was made by women and gender studies professor Breanne Fahs at Arizona State University as a way to get her students to challenge social norms.
And as part of the Natural Beauty series, London-based photographer Ben Hopper recruited dozens of models and actresses to grow out their body hair with the aim of proving that they don’t need to conform to expectations to be attractive.
Xiao Meili, a prominent women’s rights activist in China, launched the ‘Armpit Hair Competition’ on Weibo, China’s popular micro-blog.
She said: “Girls are often anxious about their armpit hair as if it’s a sign of being dirty or uncivilized.
“We should have the freedom to choose whether to accept what grows naturally on our bodies.”
Having body hair is considered ‘manly’, she said, but Confucius said our bodies, hair and skin were given to us by our parents and should not be harmed.
While some argue hairless underarms are not traditional in Chinese society, others say it is impolite not to shave.
Chinese people used to consider a glimpse of women’s armpit hair mysterious and charming.
However, many people have challenged Ms Xiao’s approach.
“What is this competition? No-one forces me to shave my armpit hair. I do it because I think it’s gross not to,” one woman wrote on Weibo.
“It’s not polite to leave your armpit hair unshaven, no matter if it’s men or women,” another wrote.
But a Chinese girl student posted: “I love my armpit hair. I support natural hair, confidence and equality.”
Many Chinese websites are now deluged with pictures of women proudly displaying hairy underarms.
Li Tingting, another women’s rights activist, posted a photo of her half-naked body showing her armpit hair and characters saying “punish domestic violence and love armpit hair”.
She was released on parole only recently after being detained with four other activists.
They were held in police custody for more than a month for organising a protest to raise awareness of sexual harassment and domestic violence.
“I think this competition is very meaningful. Consumerism is gender-based. The market is filled with all kinds of shaving products for women” Ms Li said.
“We need some space to think about why women are obliged to shave ourselves.
“Men walk around half naked in China all the time, why can’t women?
“For women, we need to free our minds and our bodies. For me, my body is my battlefield.”
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