When, in this article's title, I say "these are the wonderful women who had armpit hair before Miley Cyrus", I'm not, in fact, referring to all the women who have ever lived, even though all the women who have ever lived have, in fact, all had armpit hair, because armpit hair is a naturally-ocurring phenomenon. No, I'm talking about the female celebrities who have defied popular pressure to be hairless and said, in Madonna's words, "Long hair...don't care!"
Over the past couple of days the Internet has been breaking over this image of Miley Cyrus. No, it's not breaking because of the heart pasties emblazoned with JJ; an homage to Joan Jett, who she inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. No, it's not breaking because her breasts are 100% on display. No, it's breaking because of the tiny amount of hair visible in one of her armpits.
Why are we so grossed out by armpit hair? New York magazine published an excellent article last June, which attempts to unpack this very thing. They explain that we have been disgusted by armpit hair for centuries, and that the function of armpit hair – to release sexually-appetizing smells to potential mates – is also the source of the disgust – with regards to sexuality, there's always a fine line between attraction and disgust.
However, that article doesn't really explain why we're much more disgusted by women with armpit hair than we are by men with armpit hair. I can only assume that our disgust stems from decades of social conditioning by popular imagery and advertising presenting hairless women as ideal women, something that has increased exponentially with the advent of online porn.
Hey, if Instagram consider a bit of pubic hair, a bit of excess fat, and a bit of menstrual blood inappropriate for human consumption, it's no wonder we still cringe at women who choose not to shave their pits.
Miley Cyrus, by posting her unshaven pits to social media, is pushing us all one step forward for the honest representation of women. Let's reflect on the women who came before her – women like Patti Smith and Madonna – who went unshaven like it wasn't any thing.
1) Patti Smith
Here's Patti Smith, on the cover of her 1978 album Easter, looking like a feminine goddess, armpit hair and all. Perhaps when Germaine Greer argued that women were more liberated in the '70s than we are today, she was onto something.
While Madonna may be currently spending her days courting controversy for the unsolicited kissing of R&B stars, last year she was doing the same for an arguably much worthier (although Elsie Stone argues what she did with Drake was just fine) cause: the public defense of women with armpit hair. "Long hair...don't care!" Amen, Madonna.
3) Lisa Bonet
Lisa Bonet: proving that if you wear anything with confidence, including massive amounts of pit hair, you can make it cool as shit.
4) Kathleen Hanna
Boston has just instituted a day in honour of Kathleen Hanna because, in the words of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, her activism for womens' rights has "never felt more relevant", and going unshaven most of the time is a tiny little part of that.
5) Julia Roberts
Hey, if America's Sweetheart can go unshaven to a Hollywood awards ceremony, can't everybody else?
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