Dove’s latest out of home campaign addresses an inhibiting yet often overlooked source of insecurity for women and girls: societal beauty standards for underarms.
The #FreeThePits campaign, launched Monday, aims to challenge New Yorkers’ underarm anxieties with a familiar scenario: grabbing an overhead subway pole on a hot day. Rather than cave to the insecurity of showing stubble — or more — to surrounding riders, however, the women featured in the campaign imagery are completely unbothered.
“Underarm confidence starts with elevating conversations around underarm anxieties,” said Pranav Chandan, Dove parent company Unilever’s U.S. head of deodorants. “We wanted to intercept women in a contextually relevant moment with messages of empowerment to help them confront these insecurities and feel confident.”
Not the most obvious source for body insecurity, the look of one’s underarms can still cause judgment and shame, according to an “underarm confidence survey” conducted by Dove, which inspired the work. The survey of women and girls in the U.S., U.K. and Brazil found that eight out of 10 women don’t believe their armpits look, sweat or feel like “the ideal.”
“A seemingly innocuous area of the body, it’s clear that armpits are a barrier to body confidence in women,” said Chandan.
This is reflected in the behaviors of those surveyed, noted Chandan, who pointed to findings that seven in 10 women are less likely to go on a date or job interview as a result of insecurities about their underarms.
More findings show that over half of U.S.-based women and girls surveyed said they are less likely to hug their loved ones, see a doctor for a health check-up or wear the clothes they want when they feel insecure about the way their armpits look. More than half of young girls said they would be less likely to raise their hand in class.
“We know this is largely fueled by narrow beauty standards around the ‘perfect’ pit,” said Chandan.
And even though underarm insecurities are inhibiting in some way to most women, six out of 10 respondents admitted that they have judged others’ pits.
Dove’s campaign launches at the start of New York Fashion Week, a purposeful decision as “women from all over will be in New York to set new standards in beauty and fashion,” said Chandan. “We hope for underarm confidence to be part of this conversation.”
In addition to the out-of-home ads, Dove will also host a “Pit Stop” pop-up at Chelsea Plaza on September 7, where it will hand out free Metrocards and “Pit Kits,” including a deodorant sample and “other items to keep them feeling fresh and confident as they navigate the city,” said Chandan.
This article originally appeared on Campaign US.