beauty

In wonderful news, there's yet another part of your body that isn't good enough.

When the most recent cover of Maxim India was released, featuring actress, singer, philanthropist and all-’round beautiful human Priyanka Chopra, the publication probably expected nothing out of the ordinary.

It’s a fairly standard cover for the magazine: a three-quarter length shot with Chopra fiercely staring at the camera, using one hand to hold her hair up.

The words ‘The world’s hottest woman’ are printed below her name and, as with most magazine covers, you simply can’t fault the image.

But that’s precisely what has people talking.

Along with the ‘flawless’ skin on her face, her neck and her arms, there’s another part of the 33-year-old’s body that’s (literally) impossibly smooth: her armpits.

I don’t know about you, but never in their 25 years of life have my armpits ever looked anything like Chopra’s do on this cover. And it appears I’m not the only one.

On both Twitter and Instagram, people are calling out the magazine’s use of Photoshop, demanding to know why yet another part of women’s bodies must be digitally altered. 

On Twitter, #armpitgate is gaining some serious traction.

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Many have taken directly to Chopra’s Instagram account to challenge her. 

“Too much photoshop..looks like a wax statue,” commented one user. Another wrote, “Don’t think you need to be photoshopped you should speak out against this…need to send positive message to our girls.”

Interestingly, Chopra has defended herself, arguing that her armpits really are that smooth. Great!

Here is another “pit-stopping” picture to add to the debate. #WillTheRealArmpitPleaseStandUp #nofilter #armpitdiaries A photo posted by Priyanka Chopra (@priyankachopra) on

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You see, it’s not that our beauty ideals are so unrealistic that they can only be achieved with the help of a computer. It’s just that some people, like Priyanka Chopra, happen to really be that perfect.

It’s just that I, and presumably everyone reading this, don’t belong to that group. So guys, can we all just chill out, stop challenging these problematic standards, and accept that unfortunately we’re fundamentally flawed and have funky armpits?

…Nope. Sorry. I’m not buying it.

Especially because after seeing Chopra’s Maxim cover, and quietly seething about my seriously less-than-perfect pits (it’s winter, okay?!), I started to notice that hairless, creaseless, tanned armpits are the norm when it comes to digital images.

Just look at this picture of Delta Goodrem from The Voice Australia site.

Image via The Voice.

That's a whole lotta NOPE right there.

I refuse to believe that's an actual, natural armpit.

Because I know for a fact that no matter how often you shave, or wax, or goddamn epilate, as a human you still have hair follicles. The skin under your arms is still a different colour to the skin on your face, and your armpit is still a concave shape that, no matter what, is affected by some sort of awkward shadow that makes it look hairier than it actually is.

And you know why I know this? Because I've been self-conscious about my armpits since I was 13. I've looked at them in the mirror and wondered why, no matter how regularly I shave, they never look smooth. I've wondered why the skin under my arms is so much lighter than the rest of my skin, making the hairs look even darker than they already are. I've wondered whether people notice them - and judge me - for being unkempt and unfeminine.

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I don't feel this way because having 'perfect' pits is an intrinsic part of being a woman, or because my mother taught me to over-value my appearance, or because I'm vain and narcissistic. I feel this way because when I looked around growing up, I didn't see armpits like mine. And I still don't.

These are not real armpits.

For some bizarre reason, women's armpits have become so offensive that they simply can't be shown publicly in their natural form. Instead, it looks like the skin from their neck or arms has been copied and pasted onto their armpit to appear consistent with the rest of their body.

I know airbrushing has been around for a long time. I know I'm not supposed to believe that the images on the covers of magazines are real — and I don't. I also know women face many more tangible barriers to equality that might make calling out airbrushed armpits look rather petty.

But it's not. Because airbrushing armpits is yet another part of the deeply ingrained and complex web that serves to oppress women psychologically and logistically. It's an ideal which demands yet more of our time, more of our energy, more of our stress. (Post continues after gallery.)

Chopra's cover literally named her as the hottest woman in the world, and yet there was still a part of her that was so 'imperfect' it needed to be digitally altered to look entirely unnatural.

And you know what? Even if she's telling the truth, and her armpits really do look like that and weren't airbrushed, there's still something to be said for the extreme lengths we go to in order to achieve a 'human doll' look.

We're socialised to believe hair is ugly, inconsistent pigmentation is ugly, pores are ugly, protruding muscle is ugly.

That women, in their natural state, are ugly.

When I asked the Mamamia office to send me some pictures of their armpits to include in this post (anonymously), only two sent me theirs. I think it's because there's a great deal of shame around this weird, banal part of our bodies.

Watch: Mamamia staff share the moments their bodily functions betrayed them. (Post continues after video.)

I remember my high school netball team fighting over who had to play Goal Keeper because we'd forgotten to shave that week day. I've watched women actually constrict their movement so as not to show their imperfect underarms.

Magazine covers, as benign as they sometimes seem, do make a difference. They establish norms - especially when they're around something we can easily go without questioning, like the natural appearance of a woman's armpit.

It's important to continue to have conversations with each other about what is and isn't realistic, because otherwise we silently absorb ideals we don't even realise we're seeing.

Ultimately, the only power I have is to say this: I've got some funky armpits, and it's okay if you do too.

Has your self-image ever been affected by the way women are typically depicted?

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