The construction of hirsutism and its controlling and disabling manifestations

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterpeer-review


This chapter examines hirsutism and the idea that reading a woman as hairy is a form of social control, and as such, is a disabling force. First of all, I describe some of the ways in which hair has been read and written about in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Then I look at some recent work linking Crip and Queer Theory, highlighting the idea of the policing ‘stare’, which Inckle argues ‘constitutes disabled experience’, and radical embodiment in particular. I chose most of these texts because they critique Sally Munt’s appropriation of the disabled toilet facility as a queer space and because they talk of a ‘politics of hope’ describing the possibility for ‘queercrip alliances’: an embodied challenge to normative assumptions in the spaces of everyday life. I go on to describe the production of hirsutism in two typical medical texts and argue that there is no fixed definition of normative female hair distribution. I relate this to the idea of looking queer, which is also the title of one of the texts I examine, and the problematic normative assumptions that are used to police women’s bodies, particularly when facial hair is in evidence. In one of the examples I look at I find a reluctant lesbian hero, in the other a ‘heroic’ gender deviant who has found a way of at least partially defying the controlling ‘stare’. I finish by examining the ‘bathroom problem’ and the ways in which the texts I have chosen critique Munt’s work, the narrator of which is a self-proclaimed lesbian hero.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRethinking Disability Theory and Practice
Subtitle of host publicationChallenging Essentialism
EditorsKarín Lesnik Oberstein
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781137456977
ISBN (Print)9781137456960
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2015


  • Disability
  • hair
  • Cultural Theory


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