July 27, 2011

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I’m going to keep things brief today because (as you may know if you’ve been following along) I’m trying to hunker down and get an academic paper written these days. Though it’s been a challenging exercise trying to streamline everything I’ve been reading/thinking/talking about in the last little while, it’s been interesting/exciting, too.

Today I’ve been re-reading a great article by Magdala Peixoto Labre called “The Brazilian Wax: New Hairlessness Norm for Women?” which was published in 2002. It’s a really smart piece — and though it’s not a new piece of writing, it really seems to support thing kinds of things I have been hearing from young women as part of my research. I’ve also been revisiting an article by Merran Toerien and Sue Wilkinson called Gender and Body Hair: Constructing the Feminine Woman (2003) which also has all sorts of interesting things to say.

One of the arguments I’ve mentioned (because it comes up again and again) as a reason that people are opposed to full pubic hair removal for women is because it makes them look like little girls. Now while I think the issue is a lot more complicated than that, I can certainly understand why there is a knee jerk reaction around it. It’s easy to see how hairlessness can be equated with youth, and as such, with the way little girls look before they become women.

As Toerien and Wilkinson write, “given that body hair may be understood both as a signal of (sexual) maturity, and as a symbol of masculine strength, the requirement for women to remove their hair may thus reflect the socio-cultural equation of femininity with a child-like status, passivity and a dependence on men”. (p. 338)

Labre writes this:

“By rendering women childlike, the Brazilian wax can be viewed as supporting women’s submissiveness, inferiority, and dependence on men. At a first glance, the Brazilian wax may seem to increase women’s control over men by enhancing female attractiveness and power of seduction. Instead, the practice reinforces the idea that women’s main role is to attract men while at most providing women with access to secondhand power or power achieved via control of men.” (p. 126)

I think I’ll leave it there for now and get back to the paper… but there’s lots here to think about. I always love hearing people think about the stuff I post — so please feel free to comment or send me an email.




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