Feminism / Internet / Race

Nobody Anywhere Should Care About Madonna’s Armpits

Yeesh, Madonna. Okay, this is not news, so don’t expect me to spend more than several words on this. Madonna recently snapped this picture with the caption, “Long hair…… Don’t Care!!!!!! #artforfreedom #rebelheart #revolutionoflove.”

Long hair…… Don't Care!!!!!! #artforfreedom #rebelheart #revolutionoflove

A post shared by Madonna (@madonna) on

First off, Madonna did this in the 1980s and we’re still alive. Second, the multitude of white lady celebrities who have done this include Patti Smith, Julia Roberts, Helena Bonham Carter, Sophia Loren, and the list goes on. That’s cool, Madonna. You do you. But also note to people out there making statements: is there anything more #WhiteWomensFeminism than declaring yourself part of some “revolution” ( and one “of love,” at that) because you Instagrammed your armpit hair? (No.)

My first reaction was “Well, at least she’s not being racist again.” Except maybe yeah, kinda. If we’re going to make any statement about beauty standards, let’s start with things like this, this, or this. A teacher of mine used to say that when it comes to growing and learning, rising tides lift all boats. I never thought that to be true. A shitstorm of publicity stunts lifts some boats, and sinks all the other ones, as it continues to drown out legitimate conversations on beauty standards and just has us focus on hair. With feminism’s increased trendiness, marketing, and monetization, let’s be wary that we don’t get into this territory.


3 thoughts on “Nobody Anywhere Should Care About Madonna’s Armpits

  1. I’m all for women rejecting beauty norms and femininity, but it’s notable that it’s a photo of her in makeup and “sexy” lingerie, posing for the camera—it’s still all for the male gaze. When a straight, white, feminine woman displays body hair for the male gaze, she certainly still faces misogyny for it, but it’s nothing like the hatred reserved for those who reject femininity and men altogether—see how quickly straight women distance themselves from “hairy, man-hating lesbians” (see this blog for endless examples); even when they don’t dare say the word “lesbians” it’s very strongly implied. There’s another conversation to be had about the relationship between whiteness and femininity, especially how it relates to black women, which is not my place to have, but definitely relevant.

    Hair is an important subject to talk about it, since it’s so thoroughly vilified in women and an important aspect of the hatred of female bodies. I don’t think you necessarily have to talk about every single beauty standard in the same breath. The argument “We can’t talk about x unless we also mention y” is a false axiom, like the time a fellow activist claimed we shouldn’t write a press release criticizing the police for its institutional racism and homophobia unless we also mentioned that the educational system, psychology, medicine, and everything else is also racist and homophobic. It’s like arguing that anti-racists shouldn’t waste energy talking about representation in TV shows when there are bigger problems going on, like hate crimes. Let’s contextualize things, for sure—Madonna, as she appeals to the male gaze, and has a history (and present) of racism she hasn’t made any effort to work against, isn’t starting a revolution for women. But it’s a fact that female bodies and body hair are hated, and that’s not an issue that has disappeared, or even lessened, in the last several decades, so it’s still worth talking about, although Madonna shouldn’t be the catalyst for those discussions.

    • I don’t disagree that hair is an important topic to talk about. But to me body hair is very much a white feminism topic, as are conversations about breast feeding, and changing your married name, “childfree” living, etc., and I actually do get turned off by how often these topics dominate the feminist conversation.

      As a side note: Madonna’s picture may have been intended for the male gaze, but from the comments on her Instagram, most males (and just people) are turned off by it, so the whole thing has kind of echoes of Miley Cyrus’ MTV awards performance that killed boners all over America.

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