By Vidhipssa Mohan:
If you scroll through your social media feed, then you would definitely come across the hashtag #NoShaveNovember. Millions of people around the world celebrate the month of November by foregoing shaving. The idea behind this campaign is to save one’s monthly hair-maintenance expenses and donate the amount to No-Shave November, a web based non-profit organisation to create cancer awareness. This initiative aims to raise awareness by urging people to embrace their hair – as it is one thing that most cancer patients lose. In support of this campaign, mostly men are seen sharing pictures of their beards on social media, whereas the campaign nowhere explicitly mentions that it is just for men. Therefore, women have started contributing in their own ways as they feel the campaign is not inclusive. This maybe the result of the age-old patriarchal notion of how women are always ‘supposed to be’ hairless, and how men should always embrace hair on their body.
The students of Abhivyakti, the theatre society of Maitreyi College, decided to celebrate their own version of #NoShaveNovember through their play “Uncivilised Daughters”. The play promotes body positivity so that women feel confident in their own bodies and are not perturbed by society’s unrealistic expectations. To support their campaign, these students posted pictures of their unshaved and unwaxed bodyparts with #NoShaveNovember to fight the stigma of women having body hair. While this campaign started by students of Maitreyi, an all-women college, makes no mention of donating money for cancer awareness, it challenges society’s unachievable standards of beauty set for women.
Malvika Singh, the President of Abhivyakti, explained the motive behind the campaign. “We are doing this campaign to openly challenge the stereotypical mindset of our patriarchal society. The very reason of us taking part in ‘No Shave November’ is to break the stereotype, a stereotype which lies hidden under the unreasonable guise of hygiene and ugliness.”A similar movement was also started on Twitter this July by Adele Labo, a school student mocked for not shaving her hair. On her Twitter handle, it is written, “Les princesses ont des poils”, which roughly translates to ‘Princesses have hair’. The posts related to the campaign, on Abhivyakti’s official Facebook page, has received over 50 shares and more than 150 likes, till date.
The post has been appreciated by many people for challenging sexist norms. Arsh Dadwal, the Vice President of Abhivyakti says, “Our peers have been really supportive, though there were people who were a little hesitant initially. Our parents, for instance, didn’t take the idea very well but then we explained (to them) how important it is to reiterate (the idea) that women can make their own choices.” This positive feedback made these students extend this campaign and they organised an event called ‘Hair and There’ in which they discussed society’s definition of beauty and choice for women. The event was held on November 19, at Akshara Theatre from 4 pm to 7 pm.
The society has also received criticism and abuses for the work that they are doing. Malvika told Campus Watch that she has been getting calls and text messages to remove the content from her Facebook page. Their page’s inbox is flooded with messages calling the pictures ‘ugly’ and ‘disgusting’. The girls have also been slammed with comments like, “Can these feminists let anything go? Not everything is about equality.” They are being thrashed for promoting body positivity – which brings to light the patriarchal mindset of the society we live in.
When asked if the criticism has dampened their spirits in any way, Arsh replies, “We have always been up for criticism. It really helps. By listening to all these absurd arguments we have realised that there’s so much we have to work on. It’s so important to understand the fundamental flaw in this ideology of beauty standards.” This campaign attempts to question the idea of women being beautiful only if they have no hair on their body. The objective of the campaign, though very different from the original one, is to make women feel confident about the choices they make, to be more positive about their own bodies and to define beauty standards how they want to – and not conform to the ones defined by society.