Instagram photographer aims to normalize body hair

Nov 23, 2015 at 12:00 a.m. ET

Miley Cyrus did it. So did Madonna, Lady Gaga, Julia Roberts and Jemima Kirke.

All of these strong female celebs have proudly and unapologetically showed off their body hair, either on Instagram or on the red carpet.

Despite that, women are inundated with messages that body hair is bad and must be shaved, waxed, plucked and lasered off, at any cost, otherwise men won't want them. And, despite the trend of dyeing both underarm and pubic hair, many still feel that the natural fur that covers everyone's bodies is somehow unnatural.

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Photographer Ashley Armitage is doing her part to address the stigma with her NSFW Instagram account. She regularly posts photos of women showing off their body hair, granny panties and even their period stains.

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"I’m interested in creating a platform for girls, by girls, completely the female gaze," she told Refinery29. "It’s often both me and the models deciding what we want to create together, and both parties have agency. I'm giving the woman power, not taking it from her.

"My friend who did the pubic hair photo, she's always like, 'Oh, take photos of my leg hair... take photos of my pubic hair; it looks so cute today.' [And I thought], now is a good time to post this photo of my friend's natural body, up close. It says, 'Hey, we have a choice. This is beautiful, too," she said.

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But it hasn't been without criticism... and plenty of it.

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"I wasn't expecting that much of a negative reaction," Armitage said. "But then one person came in and said something really hateful, tagged their friends in it, and those people came in and tagged their friends."

The common theme among those criticizing her work was that they were men. "I was watching every single commenter, and there were 45-year-old dads with Instagram photos on their profiles with their daughters and their wives. They were commenting on this photo of my friend, calling her a whore," she said.

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Some of her photos were flagged on the photo sharing site, sending out the message that "in order to be decent and acceptable, we must shave," she said. Armitage isn't for or against shaving. She's (rightfully) against anyone telling a woman what she can and can't do with her body.

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"It would be so sad to me [if] a young girl already has in her mind that the natural body she will grow into is unhygienic, and [if] it was already ingrained in the boy's mind to shame and police [a] body that is not [his]."

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