Hairriot? A dyslectic spelling of Harriet? Not really.
Rather, it’s a contraction of “hair riot”. So it has a lot to do with hair, but
mostly in Sweden and not with all kinds of hair.
It all started on March 10, at the 2012 Swedish Eurovision
Song Festival finals, which were won by a generously-haired singer, Loreen.
Aside from having a nice voice, Loreen also has a highly elastic figure, which
she displays in a wild dance, while softly singing. But her most visible asset
is a thick mane of straight but voluminous, fluffy hair. Her hair is visible to
such a degree that her facial features are mainly left in the dark. For the
most part only a pretty nose protrudes from the tangle of dark tresses.
However, singer Loreen’s remarkable hair is just an accidental
backdrop to this report concerning human reactions to human hair. The moment when
Loreen’s victory in the 2012 Swedish Eurovision Song contest was declared, the
audience became ecstatic, as is the custom of audiences at such events. They
raised their arms, waving, shouting and cheering.
TV-cameras responded by taking the usual sweep around
the Globen Arena in Stockholm to cover spectator reactions. For a few seconds the
cameras zoomed in on Lina Ehrin (32), a pleasant-looking librarian. There was
nothing special about Lina or her behaviour. She was raising her arms and
waving just as excitedly as everybody else in the audience. But some males in a
different audience, the TV-watching crowd back home, noticed that Lina had
unshaven armpits: she was brazenly displaying her axillary strands of hair. She
had evidently left these evolutionary adornments provocatively immaculate.
So some TV-watching males took resolute action. Without
delay they posted screen-dumps of Lina Ehrin’s armpits on the web, complete
with sneering comments like “how disgusting”, “haa, nasty”, etc. It looked like
a case of mobbing on the web and as such it was duly reported by the tabloids.
But by now the opposition, mainly female, started to
take angry action – what was wrong with displaying your natural hair in your
natural armpits? Pictures of celebrity armpits (with hair) were posted as
evidence, among them of mega-beauty Sophia Loren, complete with axillary hair.
A multitude of girls started posting pictures of themselves, again displaying
their hairy armpits. Some even showed how they had dyed their armpit hair so it
would match their dyed head-hair – brown, black, orange, even green.
Now this hairy thing exploded and became viral. A
Facebook group “Recapture our hair!” (in Swedish) got over 10 000 members
in the first day and the Twitter hashtag #hairriot
had a similar number of followers. It seems that – at least in Northern Europe –
young women are not in the least ashamed of showing their axillary hair. On the
contrary, they are proud of it, disregarding any commands from the fashion industry
or the cosmetic crowd.
A religious litmus paper?
It seems that the (crazy?) idea of people shaving their
armpits is not much older than a century in the US and in the UK. In the rest
of Europe it didn’t start until well after WWII. However, Mohammed apparently
recommended armpit shaving. So the next time you see a shaved armpit, you may (at
your own risk) use the observation as a religious indicator, as a (rather
inexact) litmus paper for religious affiliation. Could it be the reason why 50%
of the Alabama/Missisippi populace believes that President Barack Obama is
Muslim? Maybe Southerners have seen presidential pictures that we haven’t.