Why Wonder Woman’s armpits matter

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The new trailer for female-led blockbuster Wonder Woman launched this week, leading to a round of angry tweets from fans over the superhero’s personal grooming.

Despite spending her life on Themyscira, an all-woman warrior island isolated from the modern world – where, in the film’s First World War Setting, women shaving had yet to catch on anyway – Diana/ Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and her fellow Amazons have no visible body hair. In one shot, Diana flips over a van, showing apparently bleached armpits. At Forbes, Susannah Breslin accused the costuming decision of showing men’s “holy terror”  of women’s bodies, while at the National Review, Katherine Timpf argued that there’s “no debate” about Wonder Woman looking the way she was designed in 1941.

Here’s the thing, though – Wonder Woman having no armpit hair isn’t a problem on its own. It’s a problem because no women in modern Western film have armpit hair. We’ve been conditioned to accept a profoundly unnatural image as the natural way women’s bodies are, with anything else being seen as a subhuman deviance because it – crime of all crimes – doesn’t turn men on.

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The Salesman: Marriage and Masks

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The Salesman, the Iranian winner of this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, is a drama about what happens when the stress of a crisis makes a marriage weaker, not stronger.

Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti)’s marriage is under strain from the opening scene, when they are woken with news that their apartment building is collapsing. They and their neighbours manage to escape, but they are left homeless. The couple are also playing Willy and Linda Loman in an amateur theatre production of Death of a Salesman, where a fellow cast member offers them a flat to stay. The flat seems promising, apart from the fact that the previous tenant, a prostitute, left her things there. The Salesman is set in Tehran, but captures a universal kind of modern urban dislocation – the perennial struggle to build a home while moving from one overpriced and impersonal rented flat to another. Scenes of Emad at his job teaching literature in a local school show that he is an able and popular teacher, but faces constant minor rebellions from a classroom of lively teenage boys. He is already frustrated at their, to quote Theresa May, ‘just about managing’ station, when their lives are plunged into disaster.

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What Elle gets right about rape

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Our society talks around rape, but can’t talk about it honestly. From childhood, girls are taught a list of rules to avoid unspecified danger: don’t wear that dress, don’t go out after dark, and, as a judge in Manchester said last week, don’t drink. In recent years, an increasingly fierce feminist discourse, fuelled by social media, has tried to point out that sexual violence in some form is an incredibly common experience for women, caused not by the victims’ behaviour, but by a culture which abets and covers up these crimes. But despite people across the political spectrum agreeing that sexual violence is horrifying, high-profile accusations weren’t enough to stop a man from being voted President of the United States or winner of the Best Actor Oscar.

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