A few days ago Nike Women published an image via Instagram featuring Nigerian-American singer Annahstasia Enuke with the caption, Big mood. The artist was pictured wearing a black sports bra, silver accessories with her right arm stretched above her head. However, it was not what she wore on her body that caused the social media uproar but rather was sprouted from her body. Enuke’s stretched right arm revealed the singer’s unshaven armpit which social media critics had a lot to say about. 

One commenter wrote: "The only good thing about this is that the rest of us who still shave and wax will have more men around." Another went as far as saying, "That’s disgusting. I get it’s natural but it’s not cool." Of course, many of the artist’s fans ran to her defence as they applauded Nike’s body-positive ad. However, the fact that such an image raked up over 8,000 comments in a debate about what a woman should or should not do with her body reveals a great long-standing issue of body acceptance and double standard within the industry and society at large. 

This isn’t the first time a brand is choosing body freedom and consciousness over society’s standards. In 2017, in collaboration with adidas Originals for their Superstar campaign Swedish artist Arvid Byström published a photo on Instagram wearing the brand’s original sneakers as she posed in a dress with her unshaven legs exposed. Following the release of the image, the artist was met with a storm of vicious backlash and comments, some of which included rape threats.

Even earlier this year, British model and actress Cara Delevingne posted an image in promotion of her new drama film Her Smell, where she posed with her arms above her head revealing her hairy underarms. In the caption, she explained that the hair was, in fact, artificial and just for the film, however, that didn’t prevent the hundreds of vomit emojis and critique the star received in her comment section in response to the image.

In a great number of these comments, many reference Julia Robert’s iconic feminist red carpet moment in 1999 where she casually flaunts hairy armpits in a red sequinned dress.

Society's great issue with female body hair Nike's latest ad sparked the conversation once again | Image 0
However even following these few, but powerful social statements, there are unfortunately still people who feel they have the power to tell women what to do with their bodies. Society does not seem to have an issue with policing male body hair as there are an even greater amount of campaigns with men sporting leg and underarm hair that have been men with no backlash. So why aren’t women allowed to carry the same standard? 

Although some of the opposing commenters have also been female, the issue society has with female body hair is a product of capitalist patriarchy that has been created to hold women to subservient standards. The point is not that women should or shouldn’t shave, it’s that women should be allowed to do whatever they please with their bodies without the contesting voices of 8,000 commenters. With Nike being one of the world’s greatest suppliers of athletic products, one can only hope that them standing in solidarity with women’s body can help create a global influence that allows the rest of the world to catch up with normalising female body hair.