Breaking body hair boundaries: Classroom exercises for challenging social constructions of the body and sexuality

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

Courses in women's studies and gender studies within US contexts have long prioritized content that critically examines the social construction of bodies and sexualities, consciousness-raising about how social identities interface with disciplinary and institutional practices, and the notion that 'the personal is political.' This article examines the social and pedagogical implications of an extra-credit assignment where I asked women to grow out their body hair and men to remove their body hair for 10 weeks in several upper-division women's studies courses. Students' response papers and weekly logs from 87 students over four semesters highlighted the social policing of gender and sexual identity, pervasive disgust and misinformation about body hair, raced and classed dimensions of students' experiences, configurations of masculinity as agentic and powerful, and postexperiential reflections on challenging social norms. This assignment showed how temporary excursions into rebelling against body norms can generate sociopolitical awareness, particularly for living as Other (e.g. queerness, fatness, disability). I also consider implications for 'ripple effect pedagogy' and 'peer generated pedagogy,' along with pedagogical reflections about using the assignment as a consciousness-raising tool in feminist classrooms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)482-506
Number of pages25
JournalFeminism and Psychology
Volume22
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2012

Keywords

  • body hair
  • consciousness-raising
  • depilation
  • feminist pedagogy
  • heterosexism
  • sexism
  • shaving
  • women's studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)

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