The female body in Western culture is both traditionally and currently surrounded by controversy. There are many parts of the female body that are simply unacceptable, yet desirable in only a sexual manner. In contrast, the male body is completely acceptable and desirable, but in many ways other than sexual. Essentially women are regulated down to their sex organs, without being allowed to have any other state of personhood. How then can women claim bodily autonomy if their bodies are everything that they are judged upon? A woman with sexual power is still sexualized. Women who try to stay away from being sexualized by doing “unacceptable” things like refusing to shave or wearing baggy or male clothes are trivialized. And no matter what they wear, whether it be revealing or completely covering, women will always be sexualized. As a feminist I think it is very important to study how women, and Western women specifically in this particular instance, make meaning through their bodies when all of that has been taken from them. Being “feminine” and dressing “feminine” is seen as one of the most demeaning things in Western/American culture. This is why it is acceptable for women to dress “masculine” (i.e. pants, button down shirts, suits), but unacceptable for men to dress “feminine” (i.e. dresses, skirts, high heels, tights). Understanding how women make meaning through defiance or compliance or something in between these norms could be very beneficial and a practical use of anthropology, especially since we are now beginning to recognize women as human beings, and not as a mystifying sexual entity.
Reference: Amar El Pueblo: The Embodied Politics of Autonomy by Christopher Loperena