This is an academic book on women and body hair, a subject which has, until now, been seen as too trivial, ridiculous or revolting to write about. Even feminist writers or researchers on the body have found remarkably little to say about body hair, usually not mentioning it at all. If women's body hair is noted, it is either simply to accept its removal as an inevitable aspect of female beautification, or to argue against hair removal as a return to a ‘natural’ and un-oppressed female body. The only texts to elaborate on body hair are guides on how to remove it, medical texts on ‘hirsutism’ or fetishistic pornography on ‘hairy’ women. This book asks how and why any particular issue can become defined as ‘self-evidently’ too silly or too mad to write about. Using a wide range of thinking from gender theory, queer theory, critical and literary theory, history, art history, anthropology and psychology, the contributors argue that, in fact, body hair plays a central role in constructing masculinity and femininity, as well as sexual and cultural identities. Arguing from the theoretical position that identity and the body are culturally and historically constructed, the chapters each analyse, through a specific focus, how body hair underpins ideas of the ‘cultural’ and ‘natural’ in Western culture.
significance for the understanding of how gender identity, sex assignment and sexuality were configured during that time. Most often, the representation of hirsutism involved a visual spectacle, which in turn required a narrative to interpret the transgression of cultural norms regarding gender and sex categories. An analysis of these texts indicates that both word and image underscore the fluid and unstable nature of ambiguously sexed bodies, which ultimately serve to police and reinforce the superiority and dominance of the traditional male gender and sex conflation, as
In the opening lines of Justine
Larbalestier’s novel Liar , the protagonist, Micah Wilkins,
introduces herself as having been ‘born with a light covering of
fur. After three days it had fallen off, but the damage was
Right from the beginning, Larbalestier sets the reader up to view
hirsutism as shorthand for compromised
extensive medical literature around women’s body hair defined as ‘excessive’, and as an abnormality or aberration, called ‘hirsutism’. The only other writing on it is a fairly prolific amount of pornographic material, in magazines or on the Internet, on women’s body hair as fetish, or on shaved women as fetish.
Any consideration of women’s body hair, in short, is clearly regarded as a legitimate subject of only medical and cosmetic interest, with the two aspects being extensions of each other, as both have the aim of removing the hair. Otherwise
female body hair as a negative signifier, and as such offer an almost unique opportunity to analyse this taboo phenomenon in the context of mainstream popular entertainment outside the horror genre. Perhaps as a reflection of differing cultural attitudes, while the British adaptation uses a deliberate and well-developed semiotic strategy that associates the growing negative aspects of Ruth’s nature with her facial hair, the American film seems rather more squeamish and deploys comedy to cope with the ‘hirsutism’, focusing more on her facial moles as the signs of her
posed by a female body not constituting itself as
“absolute” other.’ 56 Jazmina Cininas’s Chapter 5 explores a historical fascination with hirsute women
and the relationship we can read between such hirsutism and the female werewolf,
exploring the ways in which excess body hair can function as a challenge
to both species and gender boundaries.
Lycanthropic growth of additional body hair is handled in