Opportunity or Threat?

My morning read often includes posts from the Business of Fashion @BoF. Today I was fascinated and saddened to read their latest piece The Dawn of Designer Botox, which discusses the normalisation of #injectables (#Botox and #dermalfillers) for #millennials. It begins “As Botox and dermal fillers become a more normalised part of millennial beauty regimes, injectables could be become a multi-billion dollar opportunity for established luxury players”.

Over the past few years, demand for non-surgical cosmetic procedures, largely driven by celebrity culture and social media, has increased rapidly in the UK and the USA right across the lifespan. An in-house doctor @HarveyNichols explains how women in their 20s are having cosmetic procedures in their lunchbreaks as a preventative measure. Another doctor suggest they are an extension of other routine ‘beauty’ procedures.

Describing cosmetic interventions as ‘routine’ normalises a phenomenon which is not in the least bit normal.
 The article g…

Vulvic Thinking

The vulva is a fraught and evolving site that is calling out for dedicated study by feminists. We need to analyse, broaden, and deepen cultural representations and discussions around vulvas. The vulva is enjoying a zeitgeist. Fur cup, yoni, cunt, front bottom, hoo-ha, pussy, va-jay-jay, camel toe, muff, map of Tassie, vagina. After hearing the sound recording of the now President of the Unites States advising men to ‘grab em by the pussy’ women rose up in fury to march against gendered violence as well as against the President himself. Global newscasts showed crowds in cities across the world dotted with homemade signs featuring the word vulva and images of vulvas (most were pink, an omission of note: see Alongside my sisterly anger the nerd in me felt happy that, at last, people were using correct terminology: instead of ‘vagina’ we were hearing ‘vulva’: the proper general descriptor for labia minora…

A Full Woman: What a trans beauty queen can teach us about beauty standards and gender identity

Beauty pageants, long a target of feminist critique, are sites where femininity is defined, packaged, evaluated, and standardized, along with Western “virtues” such as individualism, whiteness, and patriotism. They are regarded as culturally conservative and hegemonizing events from which non-white women, women with disabilities, and even non-Christians have historically been overtly or tacitly excluded (Gardner 2009). So when the first openly transgender person, a young trans woman named Jenna Talackova, was admitted as a contestant in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada pageant after a public appeal, a number of currents immediately collided. Trans people have suffered more violence and marginalization at the hands of Western society than just about any group that pageants excluded; today, trans rights are widely regarded as the vanguard of progressive causes, anticipated in some ways by gay and lesbian rights, albeit in uneasy alliance with feminism (e.g., Enke 2012). Transwomen in p…

#Fitspiration: Harmful or Helpful?

A new health and fitness trend has recently swept social media. Images, text and videos labelled #Fitspiration - a literal amalgamation of the words fitness and inspiration – are ostensibly designed to inspire fitness among those who create, share and view them. As of 9th October 2017, over 13 million images labelled as #fitspiration had been posted to popular image-focused social media site Instagram. This figure has risen dramatically from the 1.8 million images that had been posted in January 2014, when my colleague Nova Deighton-Smith and I first became interested in it. Though the promotion of physical fitness is universally acknowledged as a positive and worthwhile pursuit, as a means of enhancing our physical and psychological health, concerns have been raised about the potentially problematic nature of #fitspiration content, especially in relation to body image. The question is posed: Is #fitspiration more harmful than helpful?

At the heart of #Fitspiration criticism, lie conc…

Born This Way

Against a backdrop that increasingly seems to demand bodily perfection, my scars have the potential to speak of how far I am from meeting social ideals. Yet, they remind me daily of the fragility and preciousness of a life I have fought to live, and of that I am proud.

For every 1000 babies that are born, eight will have a heart condition. This is the most common birth anomaly. 90% of these babies will now survive into adulthood compared with just 20% in the 1940s. There is now an estimated 250,000 adults born with a heart condition living in the UK. We can thank advances in modern medicine for the growing population of adults living with a heart condition from birth. This is a heterogeneous group including people with a wide variety of different cardiac conditions of varying complexity. Currently there is no cure for more complex congenital heart disease (CHD), with treatment and lifelong monitoring required. Survivors can live with uncertainty about how long they will live alongs…

Beauty in Iran: Paradoxical and Comic

I am an anthropologist and have studied cosmetic surgery practices in Tehran, Iran, named as the “nose job capital of the world” (CBS, 2005). Hardly surprisingly, there are intriguing contradictions and paradoxes in regard to perceptions towards and practices on the body, beauty, and cosmetic surgery among people including Islamic jurists, plastic surgeons and also official authorities. The recent news about the ban on “ugly” teachers from teaching – as worded by Western media (e.g. Euronews, 2017) convinced me to write this post:
The increasing demand for cosmetic surgery in Iran is peculiar in terms of its contextual dynamics, which have been reflected in the Western media with a tone of surprise; how could this be happening in an Islamic state whose leaders are anti-West? Seeing Iran listed among the countries with the highest number of cosmetic surgeries together with other “Western” or “Latin-American” countries wherein public bodily display is allowed, and/or is seen as “right” (…

Dating apps: A platform for appearance pressures and racism

First published at The Conversation here.
As the dating app Tinder turns five, new research shows men who regularly use the app have more body image concerns and lower self-esteem.
The research found Tinder users reported lower levels of satisfaction with their faces and higher levels of shame about their bodies. And users were also more likely to view their bodies as sexual objects.
This is hardly surprising given that Tinder’s “evaluative factors” have the potential to intensify preexisting cultural beauty ideals. The app’s “swipe right to dismiss” facility, along with the limited number of words a user can write on their profile means appearance take centre stage. In other words, the more conventionally attractive your photos are, the more likely you are to be clicked, swiped or hit upon by other users.
But whether men use Tinder or not, most will report dissatisfaction with some aspect of their appearance. This could be anything from height, body hair, muscularity, skin tautness, shoe…