Chinese activist launches armpit hair photo contest to challenge gender stereotypes

Most women's rights advocates aren't interested in turning back the clock. But China's Xiao Meili hopes to do just that with a contest on messaging site Weibo. The goal: find the best photo of a woman's untamed armpit hair—a look she says was popular in China until the 1990s. "For my mother’s generation, a woman not shaving her armpits is totally natural," the 25-year-old tells the New York Times. "I'm not calling on everybody to grow underarm hair. I'm just saying if some people don't want to shave, the rest of us should not think their underarm hair is disgusting, unhygienic, uncivil or not feminine enough." About 40 women have entered the contest, which has drawn 1.2 million views and 1,150 comments—not all of which have been positive, reports the BBC.

"No one forces me to shave my armpit hair. I do it because I think it's gross not to," one visitor writes on Weibo. "It's not polite to leave your armpit hair unshaven, no matter if it's men or women," another adds. However, "the pictures have proved that women can celebrate their bodies, desire and love, whether homosexual or heterosexual, whether their underarm hair is long or short and in spite of raised eyebrows from passersby," writes Wei Tingting, who was arrested in March for planning to campaign against sexual harassment. The contest closes Thursday and the winner will be chosen partly on the number of shares and likes an entry gets. The prizes up for grabs include 100 condoms, a vibrator, and 10 devices that let women pee while standing.