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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

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Hair Removal Techniques from 1532: "Boil together a solution of one pint of arsenic & an eighth of a pint of quicklime..."

Want to be hairless? Want to feel alive?

Boil together a solution of one pint of arsenic and eighth of a pint of quicklime. Go to a baths or a hot room and smear medicine over the area to be depilated. When the skin feels hot, wash quickly with hot water so the flesh doesn’t come off.

Yes, keep that flesh on. Smithsonian Mag points us to a blog post by art history professor Jill Burke about female body hair throughout history. The above tip is from a 16th-century "book of secrets," which also includes other hair removal recipes: mixtures of "cat dung and vinegar," "pig lard, mustard and juniper, and another involving a distillation of swallows." She talks about hairless Renaissance nudes, John Ruskin's inability to consummate his marriage because he was terrified of pubic hair, and the persistent erasure of appearance labor:

Thus, as many feminists have pointed out, being a “normal” woman involves a great deal of work that men normally do not have to do. Sandra Bartky, in a much cited essay of 1988, considers Michel Foucault’s argument in Discipine and Punish that there was an “emergence of unprecedented discipline directed against the body” in the later eighteenth century. Bartky takes Foucault to task for ignoring gender – ““To have a body felt to be “feminine” – a body socially constructed through the appropriate practices – is in most cases crucial to a woman’s sense of herself as female”. This explains normative self-governimg practices such as the use of cosmetics, dieting and depilation. For both Bartky and Foucault this self-discipline is a by-product of modernity. Bartky argues that “In contemporary patriarchal culture, a panoptical male connoisseur resides within the consciousness of most women: They stand perpetually before his gaze and under his judgment.”

All the rest of Burke's post here, and a hairy-lady Tumblr here.



5 Comments / Post A Comment

up cubed

This reminds me of something amazing I saw on Rookie,
http://www.rookiemag.com/2014/01/aag-mndr/
Regarding patriarchal feminism (how to be a vulnerable bad-ass bitch) starting around 6:30 to 7.

tofuswalkman

the idea of a "panoptical male connoisseur" in your brain is always interesting to me. the sober sex essay brought it to mind as well: how much of straight women's sexuality revolves upon their own self-image. whether or not i look sexy is oftentimes more important to my arousal than how sexy my partner is currently looking. how twisted and weird, how brainwashed we are!
in other news, that pre-nair nair recipe gives me the heebie jeebies.

idrathernot

@tofuswalkman "whether or not i look sexy is oftentimes more important to my arousal than how sexy my partner is currently looking. how twisted and weird, how brainwashed we are!"

YES. Thank you for articulating this well. It's really sad, but this is how I feel a lot of the time.

cee
cee

A friend of mine pointed out, after one of multiple iterations of the 'ruskin freaked out by pubic hair' story, that it isn't as if we see body hair on male nudes either-- but women are expected to live to the image in a way that men are not.

Parkeramanda Parker@facebook

★-----★------★

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