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Should women participate in Movember?

Alleviating the stigma

The secret’s out: women have body hair.

In recent years, beauty trends have become more inclusive when it comes to personal grooming, with more women opening up on why they don’t shave and embracing their naturally hairy selves. This Movember, Billie, a razor brand, has taken the movement even further and are challenging women to grow their moustaches too.  

Movember is an annual event that focuses on raising awareness for prostate and testicular cancer, mental health and issues pertinent to men. Founded in 2003, the Movember foundation has funded programs globally concerning mental health awareness, education surrounding prostate cancer and other health research. According to its website, four million moustaches have been grown worldwide to honour Movember and raised $574 million CAD since its creation. The company’s motto is simple: during the thirty days of November, moustaches and beards will be grown globally in solidarity.   

Embracing women 

 Despite being traditionally male-centred, Movember has begun to embrace women. The foundation preaches that anyone, not just men, are affected by the realities of mental illness and prostate cancer. From mothers to friends to relationships, women play a significant role in male health. The reality of mental illnesses and prostate cancer affect not only the males in our lives, but everyone. It is similar to how the Pink Ribbon, a breast cancer charity organization, is centred around female health but welcomes everyone to stand with them in their goals to create awareness. Movember is striving to do the same. By participating in Movember, women can play an essential role in breaking down the stigmas surrounding male health and can inspire the men around them to get help if needed.  

In addition, the official foundation recognises and stresses the importance of  female-identifying participants. Coined “Mo’sistas,” the organisation encourages women to partake in promoting, advocating and increasing awareness regarding male health. The website outlines practical steps “Mo’sistas” can take: signing up to the initiative, fundraising, advocacy. There is no gender barrier to joining the movement, staying active during the month and having necessary conversations in the community.   

Mo’sistas hypocrisy 

However, despite its appearances, Movember does not support the growth of women’s body hair. While it encourages participation, Movember has not explicitly encouraged women to grow out their own hair. In fact, on their website, the organization openly states that women can “do everything Mo Bro’s do, they just don’t grow a Mo!” 

Startup shaving company Billie is looking to change this.  

They are raising the stakes and encouraging women to grow out their moustaches for this Movember. Leading with the catchphrase “A ‘stache is a ‘stache, and we shouldn’t let our perfectly good ones go to waste.” The advertisement aims to normalize the appearance of female body hair in the media. In the ad, a number of models with visible moustaches are featured flaunting their hair with pride. The ad later shows familiar methods applied by women to remove hair but ends with those same women being instructed to embrace their hair instead.   

Is this campaign a good way to alleviate body hair stigma?  

A body hair revolution 

“Women are just opting to keep their hair, similar to how a man might like to shave his beard or not,”  said Billie co-founder Georgina Gooley to Refinery29. She believes that the more we show female body hair in the media, the more that “society becomes more accepting that the choice shouldn’t be imposed on women.” 

“Hopefully we’ll see all types of body hair and it’ll get to a point where, whether you see it or not, you won’t be raising your eyebrows,” she said. Aside from the ad, the company will also be matching any donation of up to $50,000 to Movember, according to Fast Company

Outside of this movement, women across the world are flooding the media with images of them embracing their body hair and changing the standard of beauty, one hairy armpit at a time. Celebrities like Emily Ratajkowski and Amandla Stenberg are using their platforms to spread the message and they’re not alone. According to market research company NPD Group, the beauty industry category “shave body” has dropped five per cent in just one year. Meanwhile, the category “skincare” is up eight per cent for the same time period. Procter & Gamble’s grooming category, which includes Gillette, has had a sales decrease of 5 percent in 2019.  

There is an intense amount of pressure on women to be hairless; leading women to undergo great lengths (even surgery) to adhere to this standard. This movement has put a positive spin on the simple fact that anyone can grow body hair and is helping alleviate entrenched stigma surrounding women’s body hair. At the very least, the extra hair will help keep us warm just in time for winter.  

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Mayowa Oluwasanmi

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