Swedish model and artist Arvida Byström is no stranger to baring her body hair. Brimming with proud displays of cellulite, armpit hair and sex-positive imagery, her Instagram posts regularly challenge aspects of what it means to be a woman in Western society. But when Byström’s body-hair advocacy was shared in a more public setting – in the latest Adidas Superstar campaign – Byström soon became a target.
The campaign in question, which features Byström’s visibly hairy legs as she models Adidas Originals Superstar Bold trainers, resulted in the artist receiving a barrage of negative comments, including rape threats. Addressing the issue in an Instagram post, the artist said she had “been getting rape threats in [her] DM inbox”.
She said: “My photo from the @adidasoriginals superstar campaign got a lot of nasty comments last week. Me being such an abled, white, cis body with its only nonconforming feature being a lil leg hair [...] I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like not to posses [sic] all these privileges and try to exist in the world”.
Launched earlier this year, the Adidas campaign, which featured celebrities such as model Adwoa Aboah and artist Dej Loaf, was intended to subvert traditional gender roles, encouraging consumers to “free yourself from standards”.
While Byström, who is also the co-editor of Pics Or It Didn’t Happen: Images Banned From Instagram, a book dedicated to challenging Instagram’s censorship of women’s bodies, also received support from some of her followers over the campaign, her wider point urging people to remember that “not everybody has the same experiences being a person” is worth remembering.
If a white, blonde, cisgender woman’s body hair is enough to drive people to hurl rape threats at her, the reality for women of colour and trans women – who are either more likely to have darker and more voluminous body hair or aren’t afforded the luxury of proudly displaying hairy legs, armpits or facial hair – is often similarly volatile, even deadly.