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Lecture 6

SOC*2070 Readings Week 6.doc

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SOC 2070
Linda Hunter

Self Image, Popular Culture and Deviance: Advertising Analysis Looking Deviant: Physical Appearance (Bereska Ch 6 pg. 175- 206) Looking Deviant: Physical Appearance - we live in a culture where physical appearance is important - our appearance is important to use in part because we wish to express ourselves and paint a picture of who we are - our appearance is also important because we know people judge us by how we look - physical appearance is the stimulus for the social typing we do every day, and to which we are subject every day Voluntary and Involuntary Physical Appearance - which forms of voluntary physical appearance are considered deviant depends on the sociohistorical context - physical appearance may be one aspect of an overall lifestyle e.g. goths, punks - involuntary forms of physical appearance are things such as height, the size of one’s nose or shape of one’s eyes, or visible disabilities - the boundary between voluntary and involuntary forms of physical appearance is somewhat blurred - some forms of physical appearance combine voluntary and involuntary aspects e.g. body weight - people who choose how much to eat and how much physical activity to participate in as well as biological and physiological factors - what is considered “voluntary” or not varies across cultures and over time Body Projects - the ways that each of us adapts, changes, or controls characteristics of our bodies, and whether those characteristics are voluntary or involuntary - there are 4 different categories of body projects: 1. Camouflaging - normative techniques of body manipulation, learned in socialization processes e.g. makeup, clothes, hairstyle 2. Extending - attempt to overcome one’s physical limitations e.g. contact lenses, using a cane 3. Adapting - parts of the body are removed or repaired for a host of aesthetic or medi- cal reasons e.g. weight loss, muscle building, laser hair removal 4. Redesigning - reconstruct the body in lasting ways e.g. plastic surgery, tattoos, pierc- ings - various body projects may change the functioning of our bodies (contact lenses) or modify the appearance of our bodies (weight loss) - one the objective end, bodies tell use about the characteristics of individual involved in particular body projects e.g. age, sex SES, family structure, personality - on the subjective end, bodies tell us about the self, identity formation and how people come to understand themselves - bodies also tell us about the characteristics of the broader society and culture - 2 types of body projects that can affect physical appearance are noteworthy: 1. Redesigning projects known as body modification or body arts i.e. tattooing, piercing, scarification, branding - these have become more common and are an interesting illustration of how percep- tions of what is deviant and normal change over time 2. Adapting projects related to body size or body weight - the social typing of body size is so pervasive and affects so many lives so it is interesting to see how the social con- struction of deviance and normality is an ongoing part of all of our lives - it is not appearance itself that may generate a negative reaction, but rather the mean- ings, stereotypes and interpretations that are attached to that appearance - physical appearance constitutes a master status Body Modification - the history of piercing, tattooing, branding and scarification is perhaps as long as the history of humanity itself - by the 50s, tattoos had become an established means of symbolizing masculinity - in the 60s, criminal communities adopted tattooing - he 60s and 70s brought youth subcultures who used tattooing - since then, tattooing and piercing have increasingly entered female and middle-class communities - among youth, females are more likely to have tattoos and piercings What Do Modified Bodies Tells Us? Characteristics of Body Modifiers: Risk and Motivation - beginning at the objective end, the presence of tattoos and piercings in youth is asso- ciated with a broader range of risk in their lives - research that explores this relationships with people ages 16 to 30 is inconsistent - tattooed and pierced bodies tell us about the psychology and behaviours of individuals who have them but there is debate about these characteristics - the association between body modification and other risk sis linked to social control ef- forts - presence of potential psychological and behavioural problems - objective orientation also draws attention to the risks of body modification - for some people aesthetic motivations predominate - issues related to identity inspire others e.g. social identity (based on the groups to which the person belongs) or individual in nature (feel unique) - subjective researchers treat identity differently, bodies are not perceived as telling us about the characteristics of individuals but rather telling us about the development of un- derstanding and meaning, processes of social interaction and structures of power - doesn’t focus on the cause, focuses on understanding the self The Self and Society: Understanding Meaning, and Resistance - body projects are integral in constructing and representing identity over the life course - the physical body reflects the individual’s understandings of self and society - the self is note purely individual in nature, but emerges via processes of social interac- tion - as we interact with those whom we are close and with society in general we try to see society from their points of view - disapproval of family and friends makes body modification less likely - once the decision to obtain some form of body art has been made, individuals inten- tionally seek out more interactions with peers that already have body art, these interac- tions make individuals feel better about their decisions and provide a validation - attitudes of employers have much less of an effect on feelings about oneself but play a considerable role in decisions regarding body art display - tattoos and piercings can be negatively viewed in a professional role - doctors with facial piercings were perceived as less competent and less trustworthy Women and Tattoos - tattooing has a long-standing association with male communities and masculinity - there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of tattooing among females but females with tattoos remain stigmatized being perceived as more promiscuous, less at- tractive and heavier drinkers - genre plays a part in the social interactions surrounding body mortification as well - the gender of the observer interacts with whether he or she has a tattoo as well - men with tattoos reacted negatively to females with large tattoos but not small ones - women with tattoos were unlikely to react negatively to females with tattoos of any size - men without tattoos reacted negatively to females with tattoos of any size - women without tattoos reacted negatively to large tattoos - highly visible tattoos were perceived negatively by both men and women with and with- out tattoos - reactions were determined by gender of the observed, presence/absence of a tattoo in the observer, size of the target female’s tattoo, visibility of the target female’s tattoo, and gender role attitudes of the observer - the fact that gender role attitudes influence people’s perceptions of women with tattoos points to the importance of discourses of gender in the larger society - discourse of gender also plays a significant part in people’s own body projects and the relationship between those projects and the development of a gendered self - some women use tattooing in the development of an established femininity, while oth- ers use it in the development of a resistant femininity Established Femininity - embodies the dominant cultural constructions of what a fe- male body should look like - the thoughts about how men would perceive their bodies played a role - desire to enhance their femininity e.g. tattoos of flowers, insects (ladybugs), in sexual parts of the female body Resistant Femininity - opposes dominant gender ideals, serves as a form of resis- tance to existing structures of power in society - e.g. larger tattoos, more masculine images, more visible locations Straightedge Tattoos - core ideology is one of resistance to the perceived hedonism and self-indulgence of the modern world - no drinking or drugs, no casual sex, sometimes no caffeine - punk-style clothing and hairstyle - tattoos are commonly a design comprised of “symbols of lifestyle declaration” - signal- ing their group membership - the next most common are “symbols of pacification” signifying control of one’s body - next there are “symbols of indictment”, declarations of what is wrong with society Weight: “Too Fat,” “Too Thin,” and “Ideal” The Ideal Body According to Science - acceptable and deviant body weights are determined on the basis of “risks” for nega- tive health consequences - the most common measurement tool used by physicians and scientists today is the Body-Mass Index (BMI) - a comparison of height and weight - a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 are acceptable because it is associated with the lowest health risks - between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight, above 30 is obese, lower than 18.4 is considered underweight - obesity is considered an epidemic - international definitions refer to atypical anorexia, in which many but not all of the symptoms of anorexia are present - muscle dysmorphia/bigorexia is more common than anorexia among males - there are 4 general categories of causal theories of being underweight: 1. Ego-Psychological Theories - emphasize impaired psychological functioning emerg- ing from the child-mother relationships 2. Family System Theories - anorexia is facilitated by emotionally enmeshed, rigid, over- ly controlling families 3. Endocrinological - hormonal defects 4. Sociocultural - social norms emphasizing thinness, media images and social learning/modeling - research on causation and prevalence that emerges from scientific definitions of the ideal body is positioned on the more objective end - the subjective end shifts their attention to social definitions of the ideal body, the social control of body weight and the implications of those social messages The Ideal Body According to Social Standards - only a small range of bodies are considered ideal in our current cultural standards - ideal leans toward the thin side of the continuum - a body outside of this ideal range is judged as in need of fixing - in other cultures, ideal body weight can be substantially different than our own - the slender ideal for women is characteristic of industrialized countries where food is plentiful “Too Fat”: Commercialization, Societal Reaction, and Social Control Perceptions of People Who Are Overweight - 60% of Canadian and American adults are either overweight or obese - people who are overweight face considerable stigmatization - being too fat is perceived negatively in our society and in the media - the average female fashion model is 20% thinner than is healthy - the gap between the body size of women in the media versus the average woman in society has grown and is continuing to grow Social Control - negative perceptions of people who are overweight are accompanied by particular be- haviours or forms of social control - children and adolescents who are too fat most frequently experience direct and inten- tional teasing or name-calling by classmates
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