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Lecture 6

SOC 2070 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Human Body Weight, Laser Hair Removal, Body Modification

Course Code
SOC 2070
Linda Hunter

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Self Image, Popular Culture and Deviance: Advertising
Looking Deviant: Physical Appearance (Bereska Ch 6 pg. 175-
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

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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-
-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
-among youth, females are more likely to have tattoos and piercings
What Do Modified Bodies Tells Us?
Characteristics of Body Modifiers: Risk and Motivation

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-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-
-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
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