The last taboo: women, body hair and feminism

Karín Lesnik-Oberstein

in The Last Taboo

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780719075001
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702567 | DOI:
The last taboo: women, body hair and feminism

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The vast majority of women in Western culture, as well as in many other cultures, remove the hair on their bodies. Women's body hair is apparently seen as either too ridiculous and trivial – or too monstrous – to be discussed at all, and is, in this sense, truly configured as a taboo: something not to be seen or mentioned; prohibited and circumscribed by rules of avoidance; surrounded by shame, disgust and censure. It is also in this sense that this book refers to it as ‘the last taboo’. The book focuses on feminist analyses of body weight as a problem for women: as an oppressive patriarchal ideal that regulates and controls, or produces, the female body. It suggests that the problem of women and body weight has become as much a means for the patriarchy to define and control ‘femininity’, as a site of resistance to patriarchy, and also explores body-hair removal in relation to maleness. In these senses, it is perfectly logical that there are fetishes both for ‘hairy women’ and for ‘shaven’ women.

Keywords: women; body hair; feminism; taboo; fetish; female body; patriarchy; body weight; hair removal; femininity

Chapter.  8549 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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