On Frida Kahlo's moustache: a reading of <i>Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair</i> and its criticism

Neil Cocks

in The Last Taboo

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780719075001
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702567 | DOI:
On Frida Kahlo's moustache: a reading of Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair and its criticism

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Margaret A. Lindauer, in her recent monograph Devouring Frida, offers the most rigorous and sustained assessment of Frida Kahlo's various texts yet published. Her readings of Kahlo's texts demonstrate how certain ‘signifiers’, for example the scissors held at crotch height in Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940), resist any easy or stable position within the ‘masculine’ oppositions. They can, and have, been read both as a phallic symbol and as a symbol of castration – both the phallus and its lack. Lindauer charts the play of these ‘floating’ or ‘shifting’ signifiers in the text in order to disrupt the ‘naturalised’ dichotomies of patriarchy. She claims that a signifier such as ‘hair’ is too bound to notions of sexuality and gender in the work of previous writers on Kahlo, but to her too it must be ‘hair’, even if in ways which oppose these previous readings of the term. Kahlo's initial refusal to trim her facial hair is an important moment for the critical discourse.

Keywords: Margaret A. Lindauer; Frida Kahlo; Cropped Hair; castration; phallus; shifting signifiers; patriarchy; sexuality; facial hair; gender

Chapter.  8940 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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