This article examines the contradictions inherent in blind women's appearance management. Based on an anthropological analysis of interviews with 40 blind women in Israel, the article argues that while serving as a valuable tool within stigma management, appearance management operates simultaneously as a site of rigorous discipline of the body in an effort to comply with feminine visual norms, and as a vehicle for the expression and reception of sensory pleasure. It argues for the significant role of blind women's appearance in negotiating normalcy and rejecting the normative, stigmatizing script written for them as disabled-blind-women. By studying the role of appearance in the lives of women who do not rely on sight as a central mode of perception, the article addresses the complicated position of blind women in visual culture and challenges the traditional ocular focus of the study of feminine identity and gender performance.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This article was written during my studies as a visiting student researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, during the 2010-2011 academic year, where my research was funded by a Fulbright Doctoral Student Grant from the United States–Israel Educational Foundation, and by the Dean’s Fellowship for Excellence in the Faculty of Social Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. I especially wish to thank Georgina Kleege for her help and inspiration in the writing of this article, Tamar El-Or and Aziza Khazzoom for their support throughout this project, and the Gender & Society editors and anonymous reviewers for their insightful feedback. I am also thankful for the thoughtful comments on my project from Catherine Kudlick, Elizabeth Able, Katharine Young, Marsha Saxton, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Michael Schillmeier, Helen Deutsch, Minoo Moallem, and the participants in the UC Berkeley Dissertation Seminar in Women, Gender, and Sexuality, and for Janet Christensen’s profound editorial help. Finally, I am grateful for the women who participated in my research, for sharing their personal stories, and teaching me to see and experience my everyday life differently.
- deviance/social control