Women with beards in early modern Spain

Sherry Velasco

in The Last Taboo

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780719075001
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702567 | DOI:
Women with beards in early modern Spain

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The numerous representations of hairy women in early modern historical, literary and iconographic texts in Spain reveal the popularity of the theme, as well as its 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. Historically, women with excessive facial and body hair have been presented as monsters, anomalies and human prodigies. Visual imagery of bearded women during the early modern period was also frequently reproduced as examples of androgynes and hermaphrodites, who were believed to possess both male and female primary and secondary sex characteristics. In his 1601 treatise, Libro de fisionomía natural (Book of Nature Physiology), Jerónimo Cortés includes lasciviousness in his account of masculine women. Undoubtedly, one of the best examples of how hirsutism can evoke a multiple of responses is found in Miguel de Cervantes's best-selling seventeenth-century classic, Don Quixote.

Keywords: hairy women; Spain; hirsutism; body hair; sex characteristics; Miguel de Cervantes; Don Quixote; masculine women; bearded women; androgynes

Chapter.  4886 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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