When Swedish model and artist Arvida Byström chose to star in a recent Adidas campaign with unshaven legs, she never could have predicted the ridiculous, vitriolic backlash that would befall her. Ironically, Byström discusses gender roles in the video advertisement, telling the audience: “I think femininity is usually created from our culture. So I think everybody can do feminine things, can be feminine. And I think in today’s society, we’re very scared of that.” On her legs are light brown hairs. On her feet are grey Adidas Originals. And now, in her inbox are countless rape and even death threats.
“Me being such an abled, white, cis body with its only nonconforming feature being a lil leg hair. Literally I’ve been getting rape threats in my DM inbox,” the model wrote in an Instagram post. “I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to not possess all these privileges and try to exist in the world. Sending love and try to remember that not everybody has the same experiences being a person.”
A post shared by arvida byström (@arvidabystrom) on
As Metro points out, the hostility hasn’t been limited to her inbox. Comments on the video on the brand’s YouTube page are just as angry and hurtful, including statements like, “Horrible! Burn it with fire!” “shave your legs b*tch,” “f*** off feminist scum,” and “good luck getting a boyfriend.” And these are just the ones that haven’t been removed yet.
This reaction is depressing at best and legitimately terrifying at worst. In what universe does simply being a woman and choosing not to shave your legs beget this kind of open hostility? It’s the year 2017. Women have body hair. Some shave it, some choose not to. Big deal, right?
Adidas recently addressed the backlash, telling Refinery29 they are “honored to work with creators like Arvida for their creativity, diversity and unique ideas. We lend the breadth and depth of our brand to give our collaborators a platform for positivity, discussion, and change.”
It’s commendable that Adidas created a campaign that not only champions gender nonconformity but allows its star to truly be herself. What’s not cool, of course, is that we’re living in a society in which men feel emboldened to threaten a woman simply because they don’t like her grooming habits.
But luckily, not everyone has had negative things to say about Byström’s choice to sport au naturel legs. “It is something absurd to say in 2017,” wrote one Instagram commenter. “But she is so brave to show natural legs, you go girl!”
Truth, but here’s to getting society to a point where not shaving for a few weeks doesn’t need to be considered “brave.”