'Women's Armpit Hair Competition' was an online competition that happened on Weibo, where young Chinese women were sharing their unshaven underarm.
The competition saw thousands of women taking selfies of their hairy armpits was said to be challenging social norms and encouraging women to keep their body hair.
The competition happened during the summer, when Xiao Meili, a women’s rights advocate, started asking photos of women’s armpits.
Her goal was to challenge a growing belief in China that women must have hair-free armpits to be beautiful, sexy and attractive.
On May 26 she began a contest on the Sina Weibo messaging site for the best photo of a woman’s unshaven armpit. To amplify the message, she appealed women to post pictures of themselves online under the Chinese hashtag “women’s underarm hair contest."
Meili and a few of her friends were the judges, with the winners picked based mostly on the number of reposts and “Likes”.
Xiao Meili said that:
"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.”
Shaving armpits is relatively new in China, dating only from the 1990s, she said. “For my mother’s generation, a woman not shaving her armpits is totally natural.”
Although the contest site has had more than 1.2 million views, not that many women that participated in the competition.
However, it did attract some prominent feminists, like Wei Tingting, Li Tingting and Zheng Churan. The three women are among five who drew worldwide attention for their detention in March ahead of a planned campaign against sexual harassment on public transportation.
The women were released on bail in April but remain under police supervision.
Judged according to the number of Likes and shares that their photos accumulated on social media platform Weibo, six winners were chosen.
The first place winner was 'Zhu Xixi loves eating fish' who had 202 likes and shares. In an interview, she said that she was sick of her boyfriend taking her bare armpits for granted that she would shave her armpits so she could wear sleeveless T-shirts.
The second place was Weibo user 'Chacha' with 135 likes. She said that she wished girls would show off their hairy armpits "without fear."
And at the third place is Weibo user 'Miao Zhao', who said that "who says armpit hair isn't beautiful. If you don't want to shave it, just leave it unshaven."
There were similar movements that took place in the past on social media networks, with varying degrees of user participation and enthusiasts.
But this one by Meili was considered particularly unique, because Meili actually rewarded the winners with unused donations she received from a walk she undertook from Beijing to Guangzhou in 2014 to raise awareness of child sex abuse in China.
The awards reflect a feminist orientation: The first prize is 100 condoms, the second is a vibrator and the third is 10 female urination devices, which allow women to urinate while standing up.
To Meili, the competition was never about a radical move, but a chance to start a conversation.
This can be seen from the participants, where most of them were posting themselves online mainly to support women's rights through the unconventional competition.
"Women's armpit hair can be adorable, interesting, humorous, sexy, serious, connotative and ever-changing," she said.