The Odor of Things: Deodorant, Gender and Olfaction in the United States
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
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My dissertation examines the history and technology of scented deodorants and antiperspirants and discusses how certain scents became tightly connected to ideas about gender. The history of deodorant illuminates the complex construction of an individual’s gendered identity by highlighting the significance of the scented self. Purchasing and consuming deodorant became more about projecting an image and a lifestyle than simply quelling body odor. My research underscores the significance of incorporating sensory history, specifically olfaction, into the narrative of gender and technology. Companies, scientists, and society remade deodorant from a product only suitable for women to one acceptable for male and female bodies alike, as long as it came in different guises, smells, and packaging. Deodorant and its bifurcated scents linked gender and body odor and in the process refashioned what it meant to be men and women in the United States.