60 Hygiene is an Ideology I Can Get Down With

Shannon Haley

In the book, ideology is defined as “the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence” (Rivkin and Ryan 693). The book then goes on to talk about how we as humans operate in these ideologies that are created by society. Though we didn’t talk about ideologies as “things” in class, we did talk about how ideology as a concept works with other theories we have covered in class like the uncanny and performativity.

One of the biggest topics we talked about was gender performativity and how each gender has to perform certain tasks in order to blend with society and avoid ridicule. One of the main points we focused on was body hair and the different expectations placed on males and females about whether or not they shaved. Girls are expected to shave their legs and armpits because it supposedly makes us more attractive and “feminine” looking, whereas boys are not expected to do so. Leg and armpit hair is seen as masculine, so when it is seen on girls/women, people tend to recoil and judge females who don’t shave. Our “relationship” to our conditions of existence, specifically gender performativity, is very strong in the way that people are afraid to end that relationship, per se. Not only are girls nervous about not shaving their legs and boys nervous about not having enough leg hair (or whatever other things boys have to worry about concerning their roles in society), but people are, in multiple cases, afraid to be themselves. In a previous chapter, we read about gender fluidity and how gender is an act, a performance. And by performing different gender roles, the ideology of gender itself becomes broken and chaos ensues.

Another one of the topics that we talked about was hygiene. The thing that stood out to me the most in that conversation was when Becca started talking about an episode of Queer Eye when one of the people they were working with wouldn’t shower. At first, I was disgusted because who wouldn’t want to shower? Why wouldn’t you want to be clean? But then as the group talked about it more and Becca pointed out that, rather than get the man to shower, they were able to work with his lifestyle and make sure that he wasn’t doing anything that was detrimental to his health. I still disagree with the idea that people don’t “need” to shower because, personally, unwashed body is one of my least favorite smells. But I now understand that personal hygiene and the idea that we need to shower on a regular basis is an ideology that our society has a strong relationship with. It is not an absolute necessity (for the most part) but most people’s relationship with showering is so strong that they’re practically married to it.


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The Student Theorist: An Open Handbook of Collective College Theory Copyright © 2018 by Shannon Haley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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