Dreaded "otherness": Heteronormative patrolling in women's body hair rebellions

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49 Scopus citations


Research on bodies and sexualities has long debated ideas about choice, agency, and power, particularly as women conform to, or rebel against, traditional social scripts about femininity and heterosexuality. In this study, I have used responses from 34 college women who completed an extra credit assignment in a women's studies class that asked them to reject social norms and grow out their leg and underarm hair for a period of 10 weeks. Responses reveal that women confronted direct and anticipated homophobia and heterosexism from others as well as hostility for rejecting traditional norms of femininity. Heterosexual women regularly encountered demands that they acquire permission to grow body hair from their male partners, while queer and bisexual women expressed reluctance about further "outing" themselves via their body hair. I consider implications for linking sexual identity discrimination and body hair practices, and for imagining bodies as sites of resistance inside and outside of pedagogical settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-472
Number of pages22
JournalGender and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • class
  • deviance/social control
  • gender
  • race
  • sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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