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Showing posts from 2017

Labiaplasty – Female genital mutilation Western style?

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A young teenager, Amanda D (not her real name), aged 13, comes with her mother to see her family doctor (GP), Dr Frances C. She looks embarrassed and avoids eye contact with the doctor. Her mother speaks on her behalf: “We think there is something wrong with her vulva – would you mind checking?” Frances endeavours to set Amanda at ease, and asks if her if she is happy to be examined. Amanda agrees. On the examination couch, Frances sees that Amanda has mildly protuberant, but healthy, normal inner labia (labia minora). She is perplexed: “Amanda’s vulva is completely normal – why is she here?” she asks. “Well”, says the mother defensively, “she doesn’t look like me.” Meanwhile, Amanda, looking relieved, is hastily getting dressed. Frances is appalled – imagine the damage one can do by suggesting to an adolescent that she has an ‘abnormality’ at the very time when bodily concerns and self-consciousness are at their height! Frances tells both of them in no uncertain terms that there is no…

Can you be a feminist and wear make-up?

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There is scholarly and popular debate over whether one can be simultaneously consider oneself a feminist and engage in commercial beautifying rituals such as wearing make-up, high heels, or be interested in fashion.
Although we may technically be in an era of fourth-wave feminism, the dispute between ‘third-wave’ feminists and ‘second-wave’ feminists on female consumerism remains largely unresolved. Second-wave’ feminism is often characterised by the critique of the portrayal of women in the media and advertising thanks to the iconic work of leading feminists of the day to include Betty Friedan’s “The Feminist Mystic”, Naomi Wolf’s “The Beauty Myth”, and Jean Kilbourne’s film “Killing Us Softly”. Crudely, the zeitgeist among second wave feminists was that that beauty, fashion, media and advertising were oppressive to the advancement of women and thus should be boycotted, protested and campaigned against.
In contrast, ‘third-wave’ or ‘post’ feminists view the pursuit of beauty as a so…

Selfie-conscious? Challenging normative understandings of social media and mental health

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In May 2017, The Royal Society for Public Health released a study which contended that Instagram is the “worst” social media platform when it comes to impact on young people’s mental health. The poll focused on issues relating to anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and body image, concluding that “social media may be fuelling a mental health crisis among young people” (BBC, 2017).

These negative perceptions of social media aren’t new. In recent years, social media has become a breeding ground for moral panic, with newspapers warning that everything from sexting to selfies is indicative of some kind of health epidemic or moral deterioration. Indeed, the Royal Society for Public Health report follows the recent trend in mainstream media to “blame” social media for various social ills and highlight social media use(s) as indicative of wider social “problems”. That “millennials” (usually understood to be a cohort of people born between 1980 and 2000) are uniquely narcissistic and e…

Ten Reasons Why Skin Whitening Products Are Shady AF

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Skin whitening is a global phenomenon and according to market research, is one of the fastest growing segments of the global beauty industry, expected to be worth $23 billion by 2020. Notably, the practice of skin whitening is most prevalent across the Global South in places where slavery, colonialism, racism and colourism are deeply imbedded in societal values and beliefs. For example, in India, Japan, and Thailand, skin whitening products account for more than 60% of each country’s respective skin care market. According to the World Health Organisation, more than one-quarter (and up to 77%) of women in Japan, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, China, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and India report to regularly using skin whitening products.
Skin whitening products and their associated marketing communications are hugely problematic on so many levels. Yet, regulation and policy is patchy at best. Moreover, resources and research aimed at raising awareness and developing intervention and prev…

The pure erotics of Brazilian Waxing

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One of the questions I often get asked when I talk about my research is how much longer I think the trend for full pubic hair removal will last. I’m hesitant to give an exact expiry date if I’m honest. But I think this question opens up into broader discussions about what impact social, political and economic change has upon our bodily surfaces, and how embodied ideals of womanhood and femininity can both shift and remain constant over time. More revealing than any answer I might be able to give about the potential longevity of the Brazilian wax, is the asking of the question itself.  It demonstrates an understanding of pubic hairlessness as ‘current’, constructed, transitory, and it encourages conversation about where the norm has originated from, and why women in particular feel pressured to conform to it. 

My Google Alerts notified me recently of an online survey examining men and women’s pubic hair grooming preferences, undertaken by Cosmopolitan.com, and suggesting that pubic hair…

Consent, “cosmetic” procedures and crime: The case of Ian Paterson

By Melanie Latham and Jean McHale
On 28th April 2017   breast surgeon Ian Paterson was  charged and convicted of 17 counts of wounding with intent under Offences Against the Person Act 1861  in relation to 9 women and one man (Breast surgeon Ian Paterson found guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent after 'unnecessary operations'). He was in addition convicted in relation to three further wounding charges. Evidence given during his trial was to the effect that he had either exaggerated or invented cancer risks which led to patients deciding to consent to breast surgery. 
From 2003 Paterson’s colleagues had raised concerns regarding his practice. He undertook a practice of cleavage saving mastectomies which had involved leaving some breast tissue with consequent risks of reoccurrence of secondary cancer.  During the trial evidence was given by patients that they had been misled into believing that they were seriously ill and as a consequence were able to agree to surgery (ht…