Girl About Globe | The politics of tuft love

Linda Kennedy

Are you rocking a fine ‘pit this month, ladies?

Januhairy is a campaign in which participating women grow their body hair. The aim is to get women to love the hirsute look. Tricky enough, you might think – but encouraging society to respect that look may take many more Januhairies.

First, let’s consider the pros and cons of Januhairy.

For: The month of January is cold. Body hair adds warmth. No complaints here if the timescale were to be extended into February, at which point the campaign could change name to Fur-uary.

Against: January is just after Christmas and just before Chinese New Year. Both events involve a lot of eating. As well as being chubby, does one really want to be hairy? It might be better to wait a while – and launch an alternative campaign, say ‘Armpril’, in April.

Let’s move onto the politics. The format of diarised fuzz accumulation already exists for men – Movember, of course, held in November, when men are encouraged to grow moustaches and be unshorn to order.

Not to split hairs here, but there is a disparity between Januhairy and Movember. I call it the gender grooming gap.

One campaign – Januhairy – is to challenge convention. The other – Movember – is to raise awareness of men’s health issues, and funds. Both have serious aims, but the means used by women elicits social condemnation, whereas the means used by men draws a laugh. Women have to fight. Men are just having fun.

Movemberers hold Mo-ments, like shaving together to get the month started. And by adding a swagger to the upper lip, Movemberers don’t risk reactions of disgust. Theirs are comedy bristles, whether the chosen ‘tache is a handlebar, Dali, Imperial or pencil. No one’s masculinity is questioned. Social media talks about men ‘rocking a fine Mo’. Companies even encourage male staff to join in.

Stubble brings more trouble for women.

Body hair on women is taboo. It’s telling to see Big Hair (the industrial complex, not the condition so many women, including me, suffer when it’s humid) marketing the latest techniques on hair removal. Gillette’s YouTube video showing its ‘Venus Swirl’ in action shows a razor shaving a ribbon of purple. There’s not a female leg in sight. The ‘Venus Swirl’ promises a flawless shave and one could not deny the ribbon looks silky and lustrous. The greater point is that women’s body hair is so frowned upon that the process of getting rid of it doesn’t visually refer to it.

It’s against this background that Januhairy takes place, which makes it all the harder for women to post their shins and armpits, with shout outs like ‘so, gang, how have you styled yours? A pigtail? Scrunch dried?’ But they do. Thousands of hits come up on social media for #Januhairy.

Ultimately, though, it may be that Januhairy has a simpler and more achievable goal than Movember. Awareness-raising is a concept which doesn’t necessarily get results. Think about the non-hairy profile boosts that already take place in relation to women’s health: pink ribbons and other pink products for breast cancer, for example. Do not be sure this is working. The term ‘pinkwashing’ is used more and more, as companies are called out for making money from pink products, and the reality emerges that greater public perception does not equal cash to fund medical research.

Januhairy is bold enough to focus only on getting female body hair accepted. It offers no health awareness-raising as an excuse for joining in.

Overall, though, the political complexities of these issues are enough to make me tear my hair out.

Categories Opinion