In Adidas’ latest campaign for its Superstar shoe — the iconic sneaker with Adidas’ signature three stripes — the brand brought in a unique set of models, musicians, activists and artists who are all pushing boundaries in their crafts.
There was curve model Barbie Ferreira, alongside the innovative rapper Le1f, and Arvida Byström, the model, artist and photographer who regularly questions gender expectations with her photography, posting images of her own body hair.
From afar, Byström’s spot in the campaign looks like any other. She crouches down, with her feet tilted to the camera. But unlike most sneaker campaigns, her legs are covered in hair.
The reactions to the campaign have been mixed. On one hand, Byström was praised for attempting to break down a gender stereotype that all women are hairless, with people hopping onto social media to show their solidarity. “Those leg hairs match perfectly with the shoes, this is fashion at its finest,” one Instagram commenter wrote.
But at the same time, plenty of others have been made upset by it. As seen in the comments section of Adidas’ own post, there are comments like: “Gross” and “That’s not attractive.” And as Byström revealed in late September, since the release of the campaign, she’s been inundated with not just comments like “gross,” but with violent threats.
“My photo from the Adidas Originals superstar campaign got a lot of nasty comments last week,” she wrote on Instagram. “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. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to not possess all these privileges and try to exist in the world.”
It may not seem brave for a woman like Byström to pose with something as common as leg hair. After all, most women have it. But this response, and the level of vitriol coming her way, shows us all how brave and resilient women on the internet are forced to be, even when all they’re trying to do is exist how they are naturally.
If Byström was plus sized or not cis or not white, as she herself pointed out, it’s easy to assume there would have been even more threats.
Since the campaign’s come out, in a separate Instagram post, Byström has tried to separate herself from being seen as some kind of “feminist hero.”
“Even though I have hairy legs in an ad campaign, I guess to me it doesn’t make me a hero of any kind and also not more of a feminist,” Byström wrote.
She is just a woman, living life as she chooses, who happened to land an Adidas campaign. Now she’s dealing with the consequences of being a woman in the public eye.
Although body hair grooming is an entirely personal decision, it’s apparent that society — and some very insecure trolls on the internet — remains uncomfortable with the idea that women can make any decision regarding their body hair that they want.
Mic has reached out to Byström for further comment.