Januhairy: a feminist experiment

The #januhairy movement encourages women to grow out their body hair for the month of January to challenge patriarchal body norms and fundraise for the UK charity Body Gossip and its body image education programs. Like Movember, Januhairy challenges social stigma around bodies and health, and raises money for a good cause. So what makes Januhairy so controversial in the media?

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Laura Jackson, founder of #januhairy

Laura Jackson, a UK university student, first grew out her body hair as a performance piece in her drama program. Laura started the #januhairy movement this year to invite other women to join her in breaking the stigma, and normalizing a new image of the female body.

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From SputnikNews.

“Pretty white women are often celebrated for their bushy eyebrows or for their courageousness in growing long, silky strands from their pits, but it’s black and brown women and trans people we should be honoring and highlighting; they are routinely mocked, harassed, and threatened for refusing to conform to Euro-centric, Western standards of beauty.” –Prachi Gupta on Jezebel.

Since then, Januhairy has received backlash from both outraged men and critical feminists. This controversy is what makes Januhairy a great locus for exploring how people envision social values and progress today, challenging the sustainability of current patriarchal relations.

I review some “Pros” and “Cons” of Januhairy to break down the major social concerns coming to light in this movement.

Pros

Fundraising

The movement moves beyond the month of January by fundraising for Body Gossip, a charity that educates youth on body image. The empowering community and impact of #januhairy continues.

Celebrating Individuals & Community

Laura understands #januhairy as an “invitation,” an open invite to all women to participate as they see fit and embrace their best selves. A brief Instagram search linked #januhairy posts with the tags: #bodypositivity #self-love #feministpride. Januhairy has been able to bring together women to share love and acceptance.

Subversive Potential

Often, images have played a huge role in women’s oppression (think sexist magazines and ads). However, the diverse women involved in Januhairy produce their own self-portraits which challenge traditional representations of gender, body type, and femininity. Thus the other popular tag, #takeupspace.

Claiming Time & Resources

When Laura started the Januhairy movement, her mother asked, “Is this just you being lazy, or are you trying to prove a point?” (WTOL). We live in a society that manufactures beauty regimens and hair removal as a duty of women– something they can uphold or shirk. Januhairy challenges hair removal as a consumerist necessity, and allows it to be a personal choice.

Cons

Limited Impact

As a monthly challenge, Januhairy may give the impression that its cause is trivial; women need only grow their body hair out for a month, then they’ve done their part– the problem is solved. After January, advocacy around women’s body hair will fade into the background. More so, is this act of visibility enough to actually challenge and change patriarchy?

Diversity and Representation

Critics have noticed that Januhairy is dominated by white women and armpit hair. What about sideburns, moustaches, and other body hair? Trans people and women of colour often receive less visibility, and more hatred, in response to their body hair. These women may need to reconcile with colonial and racist pushback in growing out their hair: a decision that cannot be “decided upon so casually.”

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Is #januhairy inclusive? Some images from my Instagram search.

 

Politics vs. Personal Choice

We’ve heard of the “male gaze,” the constant objectification and regulation of women’s bodies in a patriarchal society. I like how #januhairy allows women to claim their own bodies. However, an activism that displays women’s bodies may play into further objectification and scrutiny of women’s bodies. Does growing out body hair need to be judged as a political act or can it just be a personal choice?

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What are your thoughts on Januhairy? Let us know in the comments!


Freya H-T
24/01/2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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