Hairy Hall of Fame: Sigmund Freud

In order to gather pockets of insight into how other major thinkers, critics, philosophers, etc. have already engaged with hair/body hair I have decided to start a hairy ‘Hall of Fame’. First admittance goes to the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud. The following extract is taken from Freud’s 1933 lecture ‘Femininity’ (XXXIII):

It seems that women have made few contributions to the discoveries and inventions in the history of civilization; there is, however, one technique which they may have invented-that of plaiting and weaving. If that is so, we should be tempted to guess the unconscious motive for the achievement. Nature herself would seem to have given the model which this achievement imitates by causing the growth at maturity of the pubic hair that conceals the genitals. The step that remained to be taken lay in making the threads adhere to one another, while on the body they stick into the skin and are only matted together.

Freud here casts ‘plaiting and weaving’ as one of the ‘few contributions’ that women have succeeded in making to ‘civilization’ and Angela Rosenthal in her introduction to a special edition of Eighteenth-Century Studies (‘Raising Hair’, Vol. 38, No. 1, Hair (Fall, 2004), pp. 1-16) dedicated to hair summarises Freud’s position thus:

‘Women’s gift to civilization, according to Freud, is the transformation of the pubic into the public. That is, by imitating the natural covering of pubic hair, women wove the clothes that hid our naked, animal bodies.’ (9; emphasis added)

A key part of my inspiration for this project could also be articulated as transforming ‘the pubic into the public’. However, my intervention will expose and engage with what has been a very purposeful and conscious exclusion of women’s body hair which is not tied to essentialism and the unconscious but to the excessive policing of the contours of women’s bodies on film (and elsewhere).

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