Firstly, let’s clear up one important point: people rarely “flaunt” body parts. It’s a verb widely and snidely used by tabloid media to attach sexist, body-shaming judgement to women.
We don’t “flaunt,” “flash” or “show off” breasts, bums, baby bumps or armpit hair simply by virtue of having them. And just because Sharon Stone once sat legs akimbo without underwear in Basic Instinct, crossing our legs is not actually an act of seduction.
The latest woman to be subjected to a veiled public pummelling over her right to body autonomy is Lourdes Ciccone Leon, who has the tenacity to have armpit hair.
Yes, as the 20-year-old was enjoying a break with friends in Miami, a photographer with a long lens was taking photographs of her in her bikini. Grim enough you might say.
Lourdes, 20, posing for a photograph taken by her mother, Madonna
The images then became the centre of sexist reports on how Madonna’s daughter “flaunts her unshaven armpits” (that one’s courtesy of The DM). Or how about The Sun’s hot take: “casually displaying her hairy armpits for all to see”?
Even celebrity news site OK! got involved, declaring Ciccone Leon’s “super hairy armpits” as “surprisingly sexy”. Good heavens. Bet she’s so glad of the approval.
Meanwhile, we’re trying to figure out 1) why we’re supposed to give a shit about what a singer’s daughter’s armpits are doing on holiday and 2) what year are we living in?
In the puritanical Victorian era, a woman showing ankle was considered scandalous – are we seriously supposed to have forgotten the advances of the following centuries and gasp behind our hankies at someone’s armpit grooming routine?
Thing is, her body hair choices are not even new. The same outlets covered her pits in 2016, when her mother posted this picture on Instagram:
Here, Ciccone Leon was posing for her mother to poke fun at outdated reactions to a woman not razoring off her body hair, with the caption:”❤️#rebelheart the reactions lol”.
It echoed Madonna’s pose in 2014 with the message “Long hair, don’t care!”:
Given that she established a while ago that she doesn’t remove her armpit hair, why is the press still focusing on it? Is it a surprise that she hasn’t bowed to their pressure to conform?
She doesn’t shave them, folks - when will that stop being an issue?
Admittedly, the Daily Mail and The Sun are easy targets to criticise when it comes to sexist treatment of women. Given their history (DM consistently criticises women, The Sun’s famous for printing pictures of bare-breasted teenagers) we don’t expect better of them and aren’t particularly surprised when they focus on the prime minister’s legs instead of national policies.
Still, targeting a relatively low-profile figure while she’s on holiday with a sly attempt at body shaming is rage-worthy. It's telling young women everywhere that a natural human function is something that they – and not men – need to be concerned with, that they need to be careful they are not “flaunting” or “showing off,” something that the male gaze may not find attractive.