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Showing posts from June, 2017

Light except Lupita: The representation of Black women in magazines

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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…

How the duty to be beautiful is making young girls feel like failures

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A booming beauty industry is changing the way we see our bodies. (Shutterstock)Heather Widdows, University of Birmingham
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

From the daily application of high-tech lotions and potions to non-surgical procedures such as botox, fillers and peels, the beauty industry is booming like never before.
With more products and treatments available there is also a growing pressure around how people feel they “should” or “shouldn’t” look. So whether it’s fake eyelashes, tattooed eyebrows, manicured nails, body waxing or lip fillers, the chances are we all know someone who has these – and often we view these types of treatments as “normal”.
The sociologist Dana Berkowitz, has pointed out the increasing normalisation of botox. In her book Botox Nation she says: "The fact that Botox injections are temporary, repetitive, addictive, and marketed as preventative has made it such that these injections are …

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…