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Realism v. gender ideology: Women in apocalyptic fiction shaving their armpits.

By Lisa Wade, PhD

This is what gender ideology looks like. That’s The Walking Dead’s Rosita Espinosa and a total absence of armpit hair. 

This is also gender ideology at work: the privileging of an idea of gender over real life or, in this case, realism.

The Walking Dead’s producers go to great lengths to portray what a zombie apocalypse might be like. They are especially keen to show us the nasty bits: what it really looks like when dead people don’t die, what it looks like to kill the undead, and the evil it spawns in those left alive. It’s gruesome. The show is a gore orgy. But armpit hair on women? Apparently that’s just gross.

Gender ideology lost this battle with realism, we’d see armpit hair on the women in Gilligan’s IslandPlanet of the Apes,The Blue LagoonBeauty and the BeastWaterworld,  Lost and, yes, The Hunger Games – but we don’t. (Thanks to Ariane Lange at Buzzfeed for the whole collection and to @uheartdanny for the link.)

At least Rosita could conceivably have a razor. How do women supposedly shave their armpits on deserted islands? Did the Beast slip Belle a razor, you know, just as part of his controlling personality? And maybe some persnickety women would continue to shave even if they were lost in purgatory, but Riley in Alien? Come on.

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Our interest in realism only goes so far. Armpit hair on women is apparently one of its limits.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Has ALWAYS bugged me, esp when they go thru lengths to ensure the men look grizzled and unkempt as a point and women just have long hair and minimal makeup

itsawomansworld2 Source: socimages

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The world after the apocalypse is pretty easy to visualise. Vast deserts, people wearing gasmarks and mutant cannibals. It’s become such a staple in fiction that we’ve got it down pat. Everything from Mad Max to Fallout 3 looks roughly the same. On occasion things go a different way, and the world we end up in is…weird.

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