Plucked: A History of Hair Removal (Biopolitics)
Recall portraits viewed through the ages and the degree of hairiness associated with the faces and bodies. American Indians had braids but nary a beard, thanks to their clamshell razors. Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp were forcibly shaved, a practice considered a torture. Hair is a trait native to mammals, but over time and influenced by culture, its presence or absence has been determined by fashion. Covering hair removal practices over the past century, Rebecca Herzig, an interdisciplinary professor at Bates College in Maine, reviews the rituals practiced to eliminate unwanted body hair. Home-brewed depilatories containing lye and other caustics were employed until the lethal thallium entered the recipes. More recently, the hairless movement has focused on female vanity, calling for hair removal at the armpits, legs, face, pubic areas, and any other unwanted surface. To meet these depilatory demands, cosmeticians introduced waxing, threading, shaving, electrolysis and laser treatments into the marketplace. Dermatologists and cosmetic researchers are currently seeking genetic engineering techniques to remove nature’s hairs. The author laboriously researched the archives to reveal these unsightly hairs and the scars resulting from their removal, and unfortunately while the content is scholarly, the reading is tedious.
Rebecca M. Herzig