Photographer Challenges the social norms of beauty

By Erica Wong |Staff Writer|

Ruby BirdWe live in a society where women punish themselves in painful ways in an attempt to conform to an external definition of beauty and sex appeal.

London-based photographer, Ben Hopper, has started a campaign to challenge our typical standards of beauty by creating a photo series consisting of a diverse group of models, actresses, and friends.

Society has convinced us that women in their natural state are ugly and unclean.

Hopper aims to highlight a woman’s beauty through displaying their underarm hair, reminding us that these two are in no way mutually exclusive.

These striking images cause a lot of mixed reactions, but Hopper’s whole concept of this series, as told to the Huffington Post, is to show the “contrast between fashionable female beauty and the raw, unconventional look of female armpit hair.”

Julia Roberts showed off her hairy underarms at the 1999 Grammy Awards and it took people by surprise. Roberts’ bold move was so shocking that 13 years later it’s still being talked about.

Julia Roberts

The unfettered growth of female underarm hair (or even hair on other parts of the body) has become one of the ultimate social taboos.

A UK study found that 99 percent of women removed some type of body hair, mostly from their legs, eyebrows, underarms, and pubic area.

Something so natural has been conditioned to be such a visual shock, and Hopper’s project has been the subject of many heated debates.

Hopper aims to challenge what he calls “societal brainwashing” done by the beauty industry.

The social norm for women to not have body hair is one of many “double standards females have to deal with in a male-dominated society,” said senior Jacob Calloway.

“It’s unattractive in my eyes,” Calloway explained, “I don’t mind minor stubble on your leg, because it happens. But if body hair gets out of control, it’s not lady-like to have it and it shows poor hygiene in a way.”

However, not all males feel so strongly about body hair.

“It’s preferred, but not really mandatory. Besides, how could I ask someone to do something I wouldn’t even do myself?” said Blake Plott, student.

“As I matured [into] a person and an artist, I realized I liked armpit hair. I think it can be a beautiful look,” explained Hopper in his Huffington Post interview.

Yet, many people still find underarm hair so unappealing that it affects their desire to even read about the subject.

Some women are indignant about the expectation of grooming in order to be aesthetically pleasing and considered attractive.

“I feel like it’s not fair. No one should expect another person to do anything to their body to appeal to the opposite sex,” said Carolyn Valenta.

“I think the photographs praise body positivity and you should do what makes you happy and feel confident,” Valenta continued. “But I think in general, the aesthetic is more attractive if you groom.”

Although many women support these feminist ideals, they may not follow them.

The decision to shave or not lies completely in the hands of the individual holding the razor.

The ultimate question that must be answered is: What makes you feel beautiful?

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