Hygiene and the city

German author Charlotte Roche stirs controversy with a raunchy, feminist novel about female grooming.

Published June 6, 2008 8:20PM (EDT)

Talk about sex in America, and you'll do more than turn heads: You'll beat "Indiana Jones" at the box office. In Germany, on the other hand, it's female grooming that stirs people up. "Wetlands," the salacious, bestselling novel from television personality and author Charlotte Roche, chronicles the sexually and hygienically transgressive behaviors of its 18-year-old narrator. According to the New York Times, the book is raising debates about women in a country that, despite its reputation for progressiveness, nonetheless "has an old-fashioned tendency to expect women to choose between careers and motherhood rather than trying to accommodate both."

It isn't the sex that's controversial, however, and Roche's novel isn't meant to titillate its readers; it repulses them with details like "a detailed topography of [the heroine's] hemorrhoids" and exhaustive descriptions of private grooming habits. According to Roche:

"It's not feminist in a political sense, but instead feminism of the body, that has to do with anxiety and repression and the fear that you stink, and this for me is clearly feminist, that one builds confidence with your own body."

"Wetlands" is to be published in the U.S. next year, and it will be interesting to see how Americans receive this kind of feminist fiction. It seems to be fiercely opposed to everything "Sex and the City" glamorizes, rejecting the conventional ways women like Carrie beautify themselves, instead opting for a more primeval beauty, a beauty with spiritual comforts, not material ones.

By Logan Scherer

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