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The toilet paper: Femininity, class and mis-recognition

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/05/2001
<mark>Journal</mark>Women's Studies International Forum
Issue number3-4
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)295-307
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article unpacks the paradoxical and ambivalent meaning and value of femininity; both its theorization and its practice. To do this it draws on specific empirical sites in the UK-women's toilets-to think through the significance of the contemporary politics of recognition, a politics that Nancy Fraser (1995) argues is displacing the politics of redistribution. The first part of the article explores how the appearance of femininity as a form of cultural capital is utilized and theorized. It also shows how femininity is known and judged and frequently mis-recognised through historical classed positions that are premised on appearance being read as a value of personhood. This analysis is then applied to the empirical research, drawing on two different research projects to make its arguments. Using examples of the tension in women's toilets, it shows how the feminine-appearing body is judged on the basis of excess and devalued but also, paradoxically, given authority to shame and judge. The different processes of mis-recognition invoked in the toilets expose the way class underpins any reading of bodies on the basis of appearance.