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A Hairy Situation

It turns out Sweden's tolerance extends only so far as its armpits.

Photo by Richard Kern

Most of the world views Sweden as a bastion of liberal-socialist tolerance and forward-thinking feminist ideology, but it turns out the country’s open-mindedness extends only so far as its armpits. And if them shits are hairy, all of the talk of acceptance and the perils of prejudice gets tossed down a drain clogged with short-and-curlies.

This hubbub about hair began in March, during the finals of the Melodifestivalen national song contest, when school librarian Lina Ehrin’s unshaven underarm was caught on camera for a split second and beamed directly into the fragile eyes of millions of viewers.

A screengrab was uploaded to Facebook shortly afterward, racking up thousands of abusive comments about how disgusting Lina was for neglecting to shave her pits. A Facebook event page called Ta Håret Tillbaka! (Take the Hair Back!) was quickly created to defend Lina’s right not to shave and urging women to post pictures of their own furry enclaves.

The page quickly garnered 15,000 likes and hundreds of pit pics, the group began organizing real-life protests, and the discussion exploded from the social-media sphere and spilled into the mainstream tabloids. Befuddled by all of this tufted outrage, we spoke with Deidre Palacios, one of the founders of Ta Håret Tillbaka!, and asked her why her fellow citizens care so much about hair.   VICE: What do you mean by saying you want to “take the hair back”? Did it ever go anywhere?
Deidre Palacios: It’s not meant to be taken literally; it’s more about women reclaiming the notion of hair. I thought only my friends would care—I never imagined it would spread like it has. I think the debate makes people think in new ways. A girl contacted me today and told me her boyfriend wouldn’t accept her having hairy armpits. She was really shocked, and it shed new light on him.

There’s a picture of your own hairy underarm on your group’s Facebook page. Are you personally offended by the negative comments you’ve received?
No. However, I do care when women who’ve uploaded pictures of their pits get death threats. When that happens, I contact the police. Why do you think Swedes have been so provoked by a little female body hair that’s completely natural?
That’s something I really don’t understand. I work as a sex-education teacher and talk to teenagers a lot. I’ve noticed body hair is more or less a taboo. I let the students know everybody is different—some are hairier than others, and that it’s completely normal. Are you going to organize any public events similar to the protest in Malmö where girls gathered to publicly display their fuzzy pits?
I think I’m going to take it further in one way or another. A lot of the members are active hair campaigners, so I really think that something will come out of this. I recently saw a YouTube video of girls singing a song about hair.