Ashley Armitage is staging a war against female body hair fascists. Photo: Ashley Armitage
"Wow @instagram thanks for making it clear that an unshaven bikini line needs censoring" tweeted artist Petra Collins when her Instagram profile was shut down in 2013.
Two years later, women who aren't squeaky clean and completely hairless still go heavily criticised and censored on Instagram and other social media platforms, but this photographer hopes to change the status quo.
Ashley Armitage, artist and founder of female-focused photo agency Girls x Girls, stages rose-tinted poolside dreamscapes that are peppered with body hair, tampons, period stains and granny panties. By creating these gorgeous images, she hopes to change mainstream perceptions of femininity and normality, quashing narrow beauty ideals while catering to the female gaze.
"I'm interested in creating a platform for girls, by girls, completely the female gaze," Armitage told Refinery29.
The project came about through collaboration between Armitage and her subjects. "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," she says.
The feminist community has responded with praise and encouragement, but that hasn't stopped negativity from leaking through. "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 17-year-old friend, calling her a whore," Armitage says.
Blame pop culture, the media, the porn industry, and history in general for the fact that women have long been shamed into removing every errant hair that isn't on her head, lest some man quiver at the sight of it. Instagram sure hasn't helped by policing expression and consumption of images featuring the female body in its natural state, but we're glad to see more and more artists like Armitage joining the movement to champion it and promote acceptance.
Check out more of her work here.