Showing posts with label body hair. Show all posts
Showing posts with label body hair. Show all posts

Thursday, 13 September 2012

GUEST POST: Female Werewolves, Fur and Body Hair by Carys Crossen

This is the fourth and final post in my short series on female body hair. Links to previous posts in the series can be found at the end of this piece.

Today's guest writer is Carys Crossen, recent PhD graduate and my collaborator on the 2010 She-Wolf: Female Werewolves, Shapeshifters and Other Horrors conference.

Carys Crossen was recently awarded her doctorate, entitled '"There is God and the Devil in Them": Gender and Sexuality in Post-1800 Werewolf Fiction and Film' by the University of Manchester, and is currently working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the university’s Department of English and American Studies. Her main research interests include the Gothic, psychoanalytic criticism, Monster Theory, Victorian literature, Young Adult fantasy and horror fiction, feminist theory and anything with werewolves. Her publications to date include a book contribution on celibate male vampires, a review of a new collection of stories by Robert Louis Stevenson and a forthcoming contribution to Hannah Priest's forthcoming collection on female werewolves, on the little-known authors Clemence Housman and Rosamund Marriott Watson.

Imagine this: you’re a werewolf. More specifically, you are a female werewolf. Life as a werewolf isn’t bad, despite what the films tell you. The full moon lends a whole new meaning to ‘that time of the month’, admittedly, and you like your meat rare, but it’s by no means a curse. If you eat the neighbours, you can always get new ones and property prices will recover soon. And you can cope with the fangs, the claws, the hair...

And it is here that, if you are a werewolf devotee, you may notice something odd. Hair. Not that being hairy is at all peculiar for a werewolf: sprouting hair every full moon is traditional and looks fantastic in cinematic transformation scenes. However, in the vast majority of werewolf fiction and film, particular that featuring a female protagonist, body hair is scarcely ever mentioned, let alone discussed in any detail. As an academic whose PhD thesis was focused on the contemporary lycanthrope, I thought this absence a striking one. Body hair is mentioned briefly in Faith Hunter’s Skinwalker (2009) and Sparkle Hayter’s Naked Brunch (2003) but only mentioned. The one pulp fiction series that deals with it in any depth is Karen MacInerney’s Tales of an Urban Werewolf series, in which the heroine has a ‘bic razor habit.’ (1) Rather frustratingly however, the series does not discuss body hair as signifier or cultural taboo, and focuses primarily on the disappointingly conventional removal of hair from legs, arms and other areas. And the classic Ginger Snaps film trilogy does indeed have hairy anti-heroines, but once again focuses on the removal of body hair rather than the hair itself.

Considering how the popularity of the female werewolf has mushroomed in recent years, it seems astonishing that these were the only instances of lycanthropic, female body hair being mentioned that I discovered during four years of research, but it is so. Body hair simply is not looked at, talked about or made visible in relation to the female werewolf, that hairiest, fuzziest of monsters. Moreover, it is hair that seems to be unmentionable – fur is another matter entirely. Fur has different connotations than hair: it implies luxury, decadence, softness, beauty and is just a little bit illicit in this enlightened era. Loving descriptions of beautiful wolf pelts are not uncommon in lycanthropic fiction. But hair brings with it an entirely different set of associations, particularly in relation to the female body. As Karín Lesnik-Oberstein in the appropriately titled academic text The Last Taboo: Women and Body Hair (2007) comments, ‘women’s body hair is configured as a taboo: something not to be seen or mentioned; prohibited and circumscribed by rules of avoidance; surrounded by shame, disgust and censure’. (2) This taboo is so strong, it seems, that it extends to fictional female werewolves, for whom hairiness is an unavoidable fact of lycanthropic life.

The hairiness of the werewolf is an essential aspect of its monstrosity. As Marina Warner comments, ‘hairiness indicates animal nature: it is the distinctive sign of the wilderness and its inhabitants’. (3) The significance of the werewolf’s hairiness is obvious in this context – it is, if not quite an animal, the ‘beast within’, a representative of wildness, beastliness and ferocity. So, why exactly have female werewolf texts failed to examine the issue of body hair? Texts featuring female werewolves are seldom averse to embracing the lycanthrope’s potential beastliness – just look at Ginger Snaps or Clemence Housman’s story 'The Werewolf' (1896). So why have they resisted using the signifier of beastliness and animalism? Well, one thing I’ve noticed about a great many female werewolf heroines – often gutsy, independent and clever – is their overwhelming desire to be ‘normal’ or at least mimic normality. This usually means holding down a job, having a relationship, and most importantly conforming to society and its expectations. And society simply does not accommodate hairy women. As Lesnik-Oberstein comments, ‘"hairy" women, on the other hand, are monstrous in being like men, or masculine’. (4) In other words, you want to be normal, girl, that beard’s got to go. Never mind if your pack thinks it’s cute. Of course, not all female werewolves cling to their desire for normality, especially when they discover the perks of being a werewolf, but nor do they renounce it to the extent that they embrace their hairiness and all its negative cultural connotations. Ignoring hairiness, or removing hair, is a quick and easy way to integrate into human society, a discarding of an important indicator of wildness.

Moreover, the very fact that the werewolf is nearly always a hairy monster may be the reason why its hairiness is so seldom mentioned; it is hidden in plain sight, so to speak. The female werewolf’s hairiness is revealed for all to see when she is transformed; ergo there is no need to mention the issue. Hair, often an emblem of deviant sexuality, beastliness, and masculinity, is displayed on the transformed body and hence there is no need to address the issue of hairiness, not when it is flaunted by the lycanthrope in her transformed state. Or else, as I suggested earlier, feminine hair is more taboo than being a werewolf, which, looking at Western notions of feminine beauty may not be as far-fetched as you might imagine.

So, onto my final question – will feminine lycanthropic hairiness ever be embraced, or at least discussed in werewolf texts? I haven’t got a clue, I can’t predict the future. But I certainly hope so. There are stories about female werewolves and body hair out there, academic discussions are slowly starting up, attention is being paid. I’ll leave you with a quote from a story by Helen Cross, entitled ‘Fur’ – guess what it’s about? ‘In fact wolf lies deep in female nature. They are all capable of this, all of them have it in them – once they choose to let themselves go.’ (5)


(1) Karen MacInerney, On the Prowl (New York: Ballantine Books, 2008), p. 9.

(2) Karín Lesnik-Oberstein, 'The Last Taboo: Women, Body Hair and Feminism, in Karín Lesnik-Oberstein (ed.), The Last Taboo: Women and Body Hair (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), pp. 1-17, p. 2.

(3) Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers (London: Vintage, 1995), p. 359.

(4) Lesnik-Oberstein, p. 3.

(5) Helen Cross, ‘Fur’ in Hannah Kate (ed.), Wolf Girls: Dark Tales of Teeth, Claws and Lycogyny (Manchester: Hic Dragones, 2012), pp. 219-226, p. 226.

Read the other posts in the Body Hair blog series:

On Making and Publishing The Last Taboo: Women and Body Hair, by Karín Lesnik-Oberstein

Damned if you do and damned if you don't, by Rosie Garland

On Body Hair, by LJ Maher

GUEST POST: On Body Hair by LJ Maher

This is the third post in my short series on female body hair. I'm pleased to welcome LJ Maher as today's guest blogger.

LJ Maher is a PhD student at the School for English Communications and Performance Studies at Monash University in Australia and is an affiliate of the Literature Research Unit and the Sídhe Literary Collective. She completed a combined Bachelor’s degree in Law and Performing Arts before redirecting her research toward literary studies. Her thesis interrogates representations of autobiography and identity in transmedial literacy, with a focus on the potential jurisprudential implications in intellectual property law.

It's cold and dark. I stand outside, wrapped up in my heavy blue gown while I pull the brush through my hair. It's longer now than it has been in years and every few weeks I see that glint of silver that reminds me to pour colour through it again. Once it was a familiar brown, red in the sun, short against my olive skin. Now I keep it black, and long and my skin is pale. There's a hole in the ozone layer and I worry about melanomas.

There are knots and gnarls that I pull my fingers through, and I leave a trail of curls and split ends on the paving. Eventually the magpies will line their nests with it and this is easier than vacuuming it from the carpet every morning.

My hair is still wet and I pull it back tucking it over itself and tie it up with a black elastic. When it dries, it will have an awkward curl to it. It takes so long to wash that I can't justify the time to blow-dry it. I try to keep my showers short, to preserve water, even though the dams are now at seventy percent. The dry has ended, but my habits have not. Wet my hair, shampoo once, rinse. Shampoo again, rinse. Condition and tie up. Do I have time to shave? Do I want to? I consider the down that covers my body. My skin is pale, my hair is dark. It is obvious. I don't usually bother, not unless I think I'm going to get laid. Even then, it depends on who I'm welcoming into my bed.

He's pretty, but not a thinker. He learnt about what women's bodies should look like from his father's magazines and he learnt how women will make them look that way from his mother's magazines. These are bodies pressed flat on smooth, shiny paper. These are bodies with the scars and shadows blurred out. He is not surprised to find my body smooth and hairless. He expects it. When we come together again, it is winter and he is surprised by my fur coat. He is not invited back.

She is political. She talks in clipped sentences. She keeps her hair short and doesn't wax or shave. She is surprised to find that although my hair is long, I do not look like a magazine woman beneath my clothes. She applauds me for my forward thinking, for challenging what it is to be a woman. I tell her to leave her internalised misogyny at the pub with the other girls who think that masculinity is androgynous.

I like the feel of my shins when I have shaved them. I rub oil into them. I rub them against each other. It is a delight. I am generally not phased by my legs, my cunt or my armpits. They are hairy or not, as I decide. I do not have to shape my eyebrows too often, they have a nice shape on their own. Every now and then I might pluck a stray hair.

But some of my hair is illicit. It shames me and I do nothing about it. The hair that shames me is the hair I angst the most about removing. I should leave it and show that this is my body and that I perform as a woman.

My toes. Like a man, I have coarse dark hair on my toes. I look at my feet and fancy myself a hobbit: short, stout, furry feet. More often than not I leave that hair as it is. No one is looking at my feet and I don't wear sandals or thongs.

My stomach. Trailing up from my mons is that path that I find so alluring on men. But mine is sparse and harsh, not thick and dark. I carry my weight on my stomach. I fancy that if I do situps, if I somehow lost that weight, I would also lose that awkward expanse. Every now and then it distracts me too much and I wax it. Then I feel that I have betrayed my sisters who refuse to shave their legs.

My breasts. I have one hair on my right breast. Just one. I pluck it out when I see it. It will be gone for months and then out of nowhere, hi! There it is. I pull it out.

My throat. I attack my whiskers each and every day with a small pair of black tweezers. They are rough, they interrupt the skin that covers my voice. They keep coming back. One day, when I am older and braver, I will be a bearded lady. I will relish my beautiful dresses and grow a black beard, it will match my hair dye. I will travel in a circus. I don't fool myself that I will be invited to nice parties once I grow my beard.

My lips. I have always joked that I grow a better moustache than my brothers. It is not quite true but it is not far from true. Every few weeks I tear these hairs from my lips. I hope that if I do it often enough, the hair will give up. It is definitely less thick that it used to be.

I take off my heavy blue gown and hang it behind my bedroom door. He calls to me from our bed. A question. Meow? I walk over to him and bury my face in his cotton fresh fur before I decide to face the day.

Read the other posts in the Body Hair blog series:

On Making and Publishing The Last Taboo: Women and Body Hair, by Karín Lesnik-Oberstein

Damned if you do and damned if you don't, by Rosie Garland

Female Werewolves, Fur and Body Hair, by Carys Crossen

GUEST POST: Damned if you do and damned if you don't by Rosie Garland

This is the second in my short series of guest posts exploring the somewhat controversial subject of women and body hair. Links to the other posts in the series can be found at the end of this post.

I am very pleased to welcome today's guest writer, Rosie Garland.

Born in London to a runaway teenager, Rosie Garland has always been a cuckoo in the nest. She has an eclectic writing and performance history, from singing in Goth band The March Violets, to twisted cabaret and electrifying poetry as Rosie Lugosi the Vampire Queen, to conference presentations in the UK and overseas. As well as four solo collections of poems, her short stories and articles have been widely anthologised. She has won the DaDa Award for Performance Artist of the Year, the Diva Award for Solo Performer, and a Poetry Award from the People’s Café, New York. She is also the winner of the 2011 inaugural Mslexia Novel Competition with The Palace of Curiosities, a picaresque literary novel inspired by the life of Victorian Hairy Woman Julia Pastrana.

I’ve had an interest in the fraught female relationship with body hair since I started growing it anywhere but on my head. Years before I discovered feminism or any broader questioning of why women should present hairlessness to be acceptable.

I was the class geek. There was always one, sitting at the edge of school photos sporting a done-at-home haircut and a bewildered expression at just how unpopular a girl could be. Surrounded by pretty classmates wearing the right length skirt, the right size knot in the school tie (small one term, huge the next). Along with my mother, they gave out messages about hair. Basically, if it wasn’t on my head, it was gross and should be removed. Especially leg and underarm sproutings.

I resisted the pronouncements. I didn’t want to do it. It was just one item on the long list of things that made me an outsider, part of the same mindset that made my classmates obsessed with perfume, body spray and ‘feminine’ deodorant (you know, the stuff that brings on toxic shock). From where I stood, it seemed to be about spending a fortune on products that promised to hide the fact you were female.

No, I didn’t see myself as a rebel, but it struck me as overwhelmingly illogical (yes, I identified with Mr. Spock in Star Trek). For a start, it was such a mess: applying smelly cream, waiting for it to melt the hair away (never as successful as the adverts with their hysterically cheerful actors). If you didn’t use cream, there were cuts from shaving. Ouch. It was also a waste of time – the damn stuff grew back immediately, stubbly and far more noticeable than the soft fronds that covered my legs if I left them alone.

Being of an enquiring mind, I asked my mum why I needed to get rid of something that was occurring quite naturally, like my second set of teeth or the beginnings of breasts (I wasn’t being asked to get rid of them). She replied that body hair wasn’t ‘ladylike’. This confused me further. I was a ‘lady’, or at least one in miniature. Therefore if I was growing hair, then it was of or pertaining to the state of being a lady. I asked if I needed to shave the new growth on my vulva and was told to stop being rude. I didn’t get why it was supposed to be such a no-no.

Sure, hair or no hair can be personal taste. If you live in a culture where there is a modicum of choice then yes, you can choose to wax yourself to a standstill and ‘still be a feminist’ (whatever ‘still’ means). I don’t have a direct association of feminist = unshaved woman, which is the stereotype. If I choose to be unshaved, which I do, it goes back far earlier. I’m not of the Reductio ad absurdum opinion that intelligence evaporates with the removal of hair, in a female version of Samson being stripped of his strength when Delilah shaved him.

However. What does that ‘choice’ really mean when faced with a familial / societal / media barrage of ‘eeew’? Day in, day out, from the onset of the first spindly hair till we die – the message that it (and by extension we) = unhygienic / unladylike / unfeminine / dirty / messy / taboo and god damn it, ugly.

And don’t get me started on patriarchal / male reaction to women’s body hair. I’d need a dozen blogs for that. Feminism or not, I can still not get past this simple bottom line: the only females who are naturally free of hair under their arms, on their legs and on their pubis are children. The only acceptable females in porn are hairless. I do not need to say a word about how fundamentally this creeps me out. Let alone how mentally and socially infantilising it is. Sexual fixation on hairlessness in adult females is creepy. Go bloody figure.

Deep breath. I watched with interest as I grew into a world where nice girls depilate. Except the stuff on our heads which is our ‘crowning glory’. Just how integral these tresses are to being seen / read as female came home to me with a body blow when I got throat cancer, underwent intensive chemotherapy and my hair fell out.

I assumed that it would loosen its moorings overnight, in one go. But it left my body in a slow, piecemeal moulting which I found sufficiently distressing that I got a set of clippers and shaved my head. I chose to ‘go bald’ rather than wear the prescription wig. The wig felt all wrong, like I was trying to pass for human and ‘well’ when that was the last thing I felt like. I was not ashamed of having cancer. My hairlessness was part of the reality. Sod this, I thought. I shall not pretend, nor hide my cancer from the world, just to spare the healthy world’s collective delusion that no-one gets ill and no-one dies. As a signifier of our shared mortality, baldness is terrifying. People crossed the road so that I wouldn’t talk to them about ‘it’.

At this point I want to stress that this was my individual response to cancer. I am not suggesting it as a template. Others choose to engage with the illness differently, and each person’s response is as valid as the next.

To bolster a sense of self, I searched for positive images of bald women with shaved or bald heads. I repeat, positive. I was not interested in images of punishment, dehumanisation, imprisonment or torture. It was bloody hard work finding anything. I scraped together a meagre handful, and the first hits were from science fiction. Alice Krige as the Borg Queen in Star Trek First Contact, Persis Khambatta as Lieutenant Ilia in Star Trek The Motion Picture, Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Alien 3. All of them created as attractive, intelligent, ass-kicking or all three.

All of the above informed the creation of Eve, the central character in my upcoming debut novel The Palace of Curiosities (HarperCollins, forthcoming March 2013). I took the concept of female hairiness to its logical (that word again) extreme. Eve has hypertrichosis, a condition where the entire body is covered in a thick mat of hair. The novel is set in 1850s London, and in it I explore how Eve makes her way in a world where she is the only one of her kind. Her ‘difference’ is overwhelmingly visible, yet she is determined to get by on her own terms. She does not shave herself to pass for human. She fends off exploitation, discovers fulfilment, self-expression and self-reliance.

I’ve been told that Eve’s hairiness can be seen as an interesting analogy for being queer in a heteronormative world. I’m happy if she makes one person think about what it means to be female and have body hair.

If you would like to whet your appetite for The Palace of Curiosities in anticipation of its release next year, you can find Rosie's story, 'Cut and Paste', in the Hic Dragones Wolf-Girls anthology.

Read the other posts in the Body Hair blog series:

On Making and Publishing The Last Taboo: Women and Body Hair, by Karín Lesnik-Oberstein

On Body Hair, by LJ Maher

Female Werewolves, Fur and Body Hair, by Carys Crossen

Monday, 10 September 2012

GUEST POST: On Making and Publishing The Last Taboo: Women and Body Hair by Karín Lesnik-Oberstein

This is the first post in a series, so here's a little intro from me...

Working on, and reading about, female werewolves as much as I do, you become used to dealing on a daily basis with subject matter that most people find a little odd. Hyper-sexual creatures, brutal violence, animal transformation and the supernatural/occult all seem quite normal to me. Even conversations about anthropophagy and cannibalism are fairly routine for me, though these subjects tend to raise more eyebrows when I start talking about them at parties, and the subject of maternal cannibalism (the central theme of perhaps the most controversial of the stories in Wolf-Girls, an anthology I recently edited) is still something of a taboo.

However, there is one aspect of the female werewolf that is far less openly discussed. Female werewolves are hairy. They have body hair and they don't, on the whole, seek to remove it (apart from in Mattel's Monster High series, but that's another story...) And yet, we don't talk about this. This facet of the female werewolf is discreetly side-stepped or euphemized in (most, though not all) fiction. The silence, distaste and disgust surrounding female werewolves' body hair is not surprising, given that there is a silence, distaste and disgust surrounding all female body hair. It is something to be removed, reviled and certainly not spoken of in polite company. The hairy girl is, at best, an oddity, at worst, an aberration.

So, given my predilection for talking about subjects that are normally surrounded by silence, distaste and disgust, it gives me great pleasure to host guest posts from four female writers on the subject of female body hair. For the first post in the series, I welcome Karín Lesnik-Oberstein, editor of the only academic collection on female body hair, The Last Taboo.

Karín Lesnik-Oberstein is Professor of Critical Theory and Director of the ‘Graduate Centre for International Research in Childhood: Literature, Culture, Media (CIRCL)’ in the Department of English Literature at the University of Reading, in Reading, UK. Karín’s research interest is in transdisciplinary critical theory, and she has published monographs on Children’s Literature: Criticism and the Fictional Child (1994) and On Having an Own Child: Reproductive Technologies and the Cultural Construction of Childhood (2008), as well as several edited volumes on critical theory and identity, focussing on gender primarily in The Last Taboo: Women and Body Hair (2007, republished in paperback 2011).

I thought of my (edited) book The Last Taboo: Women and Body Hair in the early 1990s, very early on in my academic career, both because of my personal experiences with body hair and through discussing this as an issue with one of the very first students I taught (an American exchange student), in my first academic post as a Junior Research Fellow. I was discussing a personal decision I made in my early twenties no longer to remove my body hair with this student, and she told me in turn that she, like me, also had very dark and long body hair growth, according to her because of her Albanian ancestry. This student also told me she was training to be a contemporary ballet dancer (and, in fact, she became a very successful dancer), and that although contemporary ballet prided itself on breaking all kinds of taboos, for instance having dances danced in the nude, she was required to remove all the hair from her body. That was not up for question!

It was during this discussion that I decided to write a book on this whole topic, especially when I then discovered during subsequent research that nobody had done so already. There were a very few articles on the topic, psychological in orientation, examining ideas of femininity, gender and the body, but I discovered even feminist writers and academics had very little to say about why women remove their body hair; primarily, they discuss women’s body shape and weight. They either did (and do) not mention body hair at all, or, if they did, they only briefly advocated not practicing hair removal in order to return to a ‘natural’ body, or they celebrated hair removal as part of an idea of an enjoyment of beautification. In my book I did not want either to advocate hair-removal or to defend it, but try to understand more why it was done: what it meant.

This is also why I ended up not writing the whole book myself, but having different chapters written by different experts, although they all follow the theoretical framework I worked out in relation to body hair in my own introductory chapter, which is to see body hair and the body more widely (any kind of body, not just ‘female’ or ‘human’) as culturally constructed, not as ‘biologically’ determined. In terms of this approach, I was following (as I continue to do in all my work) my interest in critical and cultural theory, inspired by specific interpretations of the implications of psychoanalysis based on the work of, for instance, Jacqueline Rose, Shoshana Felman and Judith Butler. Having a range of different expertise also allows the book to illuminate the meanings of hair-removal across a range of fields and practices: literature, film, art, psychology, advertising, anthropology, and so on.

In the end it took me twenty years to get the book published. I wrote to over forty publishers during those years, but most of them either said the subject was too trivial to write about at such length and in an academic book, or they said that society was no longer interested in what they called ‘extreme feminism’. Interestingly, these responses in and of themselves completely supported the argument of the book and were predictable from what my contributors and I examine in the book, which is that body hair is an instance of how issues can be defined as socially, culturally or historically too silly and trivial to be discussed, on the one hand, whilst on the other they are simultaneously seen as too dangerous, mad and monstrous to be considered, and we argue throughout the book that this is in fact how social and cultural power acts itself out. This can be compared, for instance, to what literary critics Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar classically called the ‘madwoman in the attic’ in terms of the marginalisation and vilification of women as writers in nineteenth-century English literature and culture.

It was remarkable to see the kinds of comments publishers (from the UK and USA, as this is where I contacted academic publishers) made, even in the case of initially enthusiastic and supportive commissioning editors: one editor from a self-defined ‘radical’ academic press told me her sales team would not accept the book as they saw it as ‘too feminist’ to be able to sell. On the other hand, self-defined feminist presses such as Virago and The Women’s Press had no interest in the book at all and rejected it out of hand. Another publisher who initially did want to publish the book finally rejected it when a review-reader said they thought it should primarily be about men and body hair, not women (although, in fact, the book argues these are not separate issues). In another case, a publisher wanted me to change the title because they said that The Last Taboo ‘made it sound like it was about sex’; apparently they thought body hair had nothing to do with sexuality! Yet another publisher told me the book should not be theoretical, as there was nothing important theoretically about women and body hair, but that it should be written as a ‘sociological’ study.

My contributors and I were thrilled when the book was finally published by Manchester University Press in 2007. I worked on this book longer than on any other in my academic career, and making it not only was part of my own stubborn belief that this issue mattered, whatever many of the other publishers thought, but also confirmed to me that much of academia (and academic publishing), no matter how much it claims to be about original thinking, is often just as much in thrall to ideas of the acceptable and the valuing of ‘fashion’.

For more information about The Last Taboo, visit the Manchester University Press website, or Amazon.

The Body Hair blog series continues:

Damned if you do and damned if you don't, by Rosie Garland

On Body Hair, by LJ Maher

Female Werewolves, Fur and Body Hair, by Carys Crossen

Saturday, 21 August 2010

If Barbie was a Werewolf...

Mattel's new range of Bratz-style dolls have hit the shops. Monster High is a new range of toys, apparently selling out quite rapidly. The range features a number of monster-girls, complete with accesories, fashionable outfits and cute pets. And, yes, there is a female werewolf available. Clawdeen Wolf is - according to the packaging - 'a wolf in chic clothing'. According to the official Monster High website, Clawdeen hates gym (because she can't wear her platform heels) and loves 'shopping and flirting with boys'.

What interests me, though, is the reference to Clawdeen's problems with body hair. The website states:

My hair is worthy of a shampoo commercial and that's just what grows on my legs. Plucking and shaving is definitely a full time job but that's a small price to pay for being scarily fabulous.

So a female werewolf can't make it to toyshop shelves until it has been shaved. It seems there is nothing 'scarily fabulous' about hairy legs - and certainly nothing we can market to children.

Clawdeen Wolf and the other Monster High dolls are certainly cute, but I can't help but feeling somewhat uncomfortable about this particular presentation of the female werewolf - or, indeed, this particular presentation of teen femininity. It seems that even the werewolf - so often used as a symbol or metaphor for all that is uncontainable, bestial and unknowable about human nature - can be incorporated into the capitalist commodification of beauty and sexuality.