Showing posts from 2017

Why banning skin-whitening products is not enough

Previously, I wrote about why skin-whitening products are trash and why the companies that produce them are shady AF. To recap, many skin-whitening products are highly toxic; they can cause permanent skin damage, they can be carcinogenic, and can even cost lives. Companies that produce these products can therefore be seen as culpable of harming the health of people of colour, particularly in the Global South, where the sale of these products is most prevalent. Crucially, even when less active products are deemed ‘safe’, the marketing used to promote them is both toxic and far-reaching, affecting not only consumers, but also all those in the communities in which the company is operating, including children and other vulnerable groups. The prevailing message in skin-whitening advertising equates lighter skin to improved life prospects, confidence, happiness, and wealth. This serves to reinforce and perpetuate systemic racism and colourism in the societies these products are being sold. …

What exactly IS Body Positivity?

We need to clear something up when it comes to body positivity. Body positive hashtags are all over the internet. On Instagram alone (at time of writing – July 2017) there are over three million posts tagged with #bodypositive, nearly a million with #bodypositivity, and almost exactly 350,000 posts with #bopo. Don’t get me wrong, it’s BEYOND exciting to think of so much self-love online against the backdrop of diet- and selfie-culture. And I’m totally here for the body positive movement and community, especially at a time where young people report to feeling under more pressure than ever before to look perfect. However, I feel like, occasionally, there is some confusion as to what the term ‘body positivity’ actually means - especially *eye-roll* when certain brands engage in the space for a heartbeat because it’s ‘on-trend’. 

Let’s start with what body positivity is not. As a holistic concept, body positivity is NOT thinking and feeling you are drop-dead gorgeous, 24/7. Absolutely no s…

Beauty standards, bodies, and virtual reality

Last April, I co-organised the workshop “The role of the body in virtual reality” at the University of Wollongong, Australia. Two of the talks given were, I think, of particular interest for raising philosophical questions on body and beauty in relation to technology. Stephen Gadsby (Macquarie University) spoke about “Disorders, body representations and virtual reality” and Robert Sparrow (Monash University) presented a talk on “Teledildonics and rape by deception.”
Stephen Gadsby has done research on how the distortion of body representations relate to body disorders, specifically anorexia nervosa. Gadsby presented how body representations can directly guide perception of affordances in the environment. For example, a person with anorexia nervosa might, when walking through an open door, move their shoulders at a steeper angle than would be expected based on their physical body size -- the suggestion is that overestimation of their own body image guides the person to make themself sma…

Taking “inner beauty” seriously

The term, ‘inner beauty’, typically elicits eye-rolling scorn. A beautiful character, it is implied, is a polite substitute for having an attractive body, a sort of aesthetic consolation prize. Indeed, applying aesthetic terms to ‘inner’ qualities, as when we talk of a person’s ‘lovely personality’, is often a kiss of death. Beauty proper, so goes the thought, is located in the body, ideally in a smooth, trimmed, tanned, toned body, cosmeticized and sexualised, obedient to the demands of the beauty industry. To talk of inner beauty, of a sort unavailable for adornment, commercialisation, or erotic gratification, falls out of the picture. Such attitudes to inner beauty, sceptical or sneering, would dismay, but not surprise, those familiar with venerable discourses of beauty that connect body, virtue, and soul or character. Plato, Confucius, and the Buddha all acknowledged the immediacy of bodily beauty, but also recognised and esteemed a further mode of beauty – the Platonic ‘beautifu…

Why ‘Body Image’ needs a makeover!

Discussion surrounding body image in Western societies, both within academic literature and indeed wider social discourses has vastly increased over the last 20 years. From its foundational roots investigating the disordered eating practices of young females, ‘body image’ is now widely understood as a multidimensional concept, incorporating attitudinal, perceptual, cognitive and affective elements (Roy & Payette, 2012). As a result, literature surrounding body image spans multiple disciplines, highlighting the complexity of gaining insight into this universal aspect of the embodied state – an image of the body you have. Even so, with evidence suggesting female body dissatisfaction has decreased over time (Karazsia, Murnen, & Tylka, 2017), it seems the multitude of research informing social understanding and interventions addressing alarming rates of body image dissatisfaction (BID), have been successful.

Foundation or concealer?  As a PhD student who is motivated by positive soc…

You’ll need balls to use it: Scrotox and men’s body image

Botox releases neuropeptides which help to reduce inflammation and chronic pain in the surrounding area. Doctors inject Botox into patients’ scrotums (Scrotox) when they fail to respond to surgery on the spermatic cord and chronic scrotal pain persists (Khambati, Gordon & Jarvi, 2014). Several tabloid newspapers reported the rise of the non-medical use of Scrotox at the end of 2016. Some men are reported to be paying up to £3000 for the injection to reduce scrotum wrinkles, to make the scrotum appear larger, reduce sweating, and increase the size of the scrotum to aid sexual pleasure (London, 2016).

Arguably, this is just another aspect of men’s increasing concern with their body image. Today’s men are less limited than previous generations and do things that their fathers would have baulked at, including spending lots of time and money on ‘grooming’ products and services. For example, shaving-related products (razors, gels, creams, oils, balms), to scalp-hair products (styling gel…

Ask a Psychologist

As I boarded a train last weekend I picked up a couple of discarded celebrity magazines left by previous passengers. As I don’t tend to buy these magazines, I was interested to see what the content could tell me.
The first magazine I picked up was Closer. Closer describes itself as “Combining the news, gossip and glamour of the celebrity world with extraordinary and compelling real-life content, Closer connects with its reader by getting to the very heart of every story.”The cover was a potpourri of images and headlines promising the reader insights into a brave 26 year old. “I look 50 but my saggy skin is beautiful”; a daughter describing her mother as “selfish and insane to have a child at 54”, Abi who loves her curves and Kristina who states “my shape’s changed forever”.
Inside the magazine, images of Daniella Westbrook, under the heading “Celeb nip/tuck”, show images of pre-and post-7 hour face lift operation which she claims was necessary because “trolls forced me to have surgery”…

Light except Lupita: The representation of Black women in magazines

I’m a body image researcher and unlike Edith Piaf I have a lot of regrets about it. In my last post, I outlined my regret for my field’s minimization of injustices that are simply more urgent than having body image concerns. I also regret my field when it treats now near universal body dissatisfaction as something caused by individual level factors i.e., because a person compares themselves too much to others, has the wrong kind of thinking patterns or their hormones are imbalanced. And I regret my field when it pronounces Black women immune to developing body image issues because of our racist ideas about Black culture and booty sizes (as noted by Bordo, 2003). 
Previous research in the body image field has even eschewed the influence of media on body image.Specifically Christopher Ferguson concludes in the biggest meta-analysis of experimental research to date on the media’s impact on body dissatisfaction: “media effects are generally minimal and limited to those with pre-existing b…