The last taboo : women and body hair by Karín Lesnik-Oberstein

By Karín Lesnik-Oberstein

'The final Taboo' argues that physique hair performs a important function in developing masculinity and femininity and sexual and cultural identities. It asks how and why any specific factor can develop into outlined as 'self-evidently' too foolish or too mad to write down about.

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Many feminists will, of course, argue in favour of a political relevance of one position over another, but I am more concerned here with the structure of the argument and its consequences. This chapter will focus on the various meanings of 19 20 The last taboo body hair, without taking for granted a dichotomy between natural and artificial – instead looking at its various formations. It is my contention that to analyse these meanings, rather than using them as a starting point, does not constitute a defeatist approach.

Precisely because of these unappealing characteristics, body hair can have an important function within feminism, as it demonstrates that certain conditions need to be in place before it can become an acceptable topic for debate, even for feminists. It is difficult to discuss body hair precisely because it is either claimed to be a self-evident form of patriarchal control (and then can be quickly dropped) or dismissed as irrelevant. 5 That many feminists in history experienced a similar response is well documented; this work belongs and owes much to such a feminist tradition.

Her other features were by no means bad. But when she smiled her white teeth gleamed and flashed in a 37 38 The last taboo manner that rather disgusted him, for there was something wild and barbaric about it. ’ thought the Captain. ’ Even as she was he did not find her altogether unattractive; for there was about her a strange kind of vehemence, a liveliness of expression, a brilliance of complexion and colouring that could not fail to make some impression on him. [. ] For a moment he saw her in full length.

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