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Body Hair Removal: The ‘Mundane’ Production of Normative Femininity

Abstract

Although women’s body hair removal is strongly normative across contemporary Western cultures, only two studies of ‘mundane’ depilation have been published, and they were based on data from the US (Basow, 1991) and Australia (Tiggemann & Kenyon, 1998), respectively. The present survey, comprised of a sample of 678 women, extends this work. We investigated UK practices, a wider array of body regions and removal methods, and the relationship between depilation and age. Over 99% of participants reported removing some hair, most commonly from the underarms, legs, pubic area, and eyebrows. Shaving and plucking were the most common removal methods. Significant relationships between age and leg, pubic, and facial depilation were found. Results document the normativity of hair removal, and we argue that hair removal is part of the taken-for-granted work of producing an ‘acceptable’ femininity.

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Correspondence to Merran Toerien.

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Toerien, M., Wilkinson, S. & Choi, P.Y.L. Body Hair Removal: The ‘Mundane’ Production of Normative Femininity. Sex Roles 52, 399–406 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-005-2682-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-005-2682-5

Keywords

  • body hair
  • depilation
  • femininity