SOCB22H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Masculinity, Femininity, Sheila Jeffreys

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16 May 2011

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Sociology and Gender Readings 2
The Grip of Culture on The Body- Sheila Jeffreys
90s; disagreement between feminist scholars regarding the extent to which western
beauty practices represent womens subordinate status or can be seen as the
expression of womens choice or agency
The idea that women were coerced into beauty practices by the fashion/beauty
complex was challenged by a new breed of liberal feminists who talked about women
being empowered by the feminist movement to choose beauty practices that could no
longer be seen as oppressive
Women became transformed into knowledgeable consumers who could exercise their
power of choice in the market
Feminists who argued that womens choices were restricted and made within male
dominance were criticized as being victim feminists; making women into victims by
denying their agency
The Feminists Critique of Beauty
Feminist critics of beauty have pointed out that beauty is a cultural practice and one
that is damaging to women
Question is what harm beauty practices did to women
Dworkin analyses the idea of beauty as one aspect of the way women are hated in
male supremacist culture
-believes beauty practices have extensive harmful effects on womens bodies and
Also says beauty standards have psychological effects on women
Says every section of womens body is subject to modification and alteration
Dworkin says the other oppressive elements of beauty are that it is vital to the
economy,, and the major substances of male-female role differentiation and the
most immediate physical and psychological reality of being a women
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Beauty practices are necessary so that sexes can be told apart, so that the dominant
sex class can be differentiated from the subordinate one; create the difference
between sexes
Women are culturally dominated because they are sexually objectified
Women learn to treat their bodies as objects separate from themselves; thingified
fashion-beauty complex has taken over from the family and church as central
producers and regulators of feminitity
-claims it glorifies the female body but instead it depreciates her body so she will
buy more products
Wolfs analysis suggests that women are coerced into beauty practices by
expectations of women in the workplace
-in order not to threaten men, and be objects of sexual delight for male colleagues
they had to engage in these behaviours
-she believes they arent harmful as long as they are not forced on women and it is
freely chosen
Fire with Fire; suggests women can not only choose to wear makeup but also to be
-says women have chosen not to exert power that is our birthright
The Personal is Political
Distinction provides men with a private world of male dominance in which they can
garner womens emotional, housework, sexual, reproductive energies while hiding
the feudal power relations of this realm behind the shield of the protection of
-private is where women lay out their bodies at mens disposal despite violence and
-private nature of the world protected men from punishment because it is seen as
outside the law that only applies in the public world
Personal is behaviours of private world; indeed political
-allowed women to identify that what they took for personal failings were not just
individual experiences
-they were the common experiences of women, constructed out of the unequal power
relations of the so-called private world
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private world was recognized as the basis of the power men wielded in the public
world of work and government
Mens public power and achievement depended on servicing they received from
women in the home
Not only did women provide this vital backdrop to mens dominance but they lacked
a class of persons who would do the same for them; so they were doubly
disadvantaged in the public world
New Feminism
Radical feminism, which identified the workings of male dominance through
womens lives was always opposed by varieties of feminism that sought to privatize
and depoliticize sexuality and beauty practices
New feminism argued that women had achieved huge advances by the late 20th
century towards equal opportunities with men in the public world or work
-in the new feminism, womens private lives were now simply the result of choice
and should be off limits for feminist analysis or action
If women have power they can indulge in beauty practices without being made to
feel guilty about it by feminists
Lehrman argues lipstick is entirely compatible with feminism
-feminism needs to respect womens choices
-blames womens oppression on their failure to exercise personal power
-argues women and men desire beauty because it is necessary for reproduction
-women want to be chosen and men are programmed to choose
The Cultural Turn
cultural turn the move towards putting emphasis on womens capacity to choose
and express agency than on the forms of coercion that caused women to engage in
beauty practices
Postmodern thinking rejects the notion that there is such a thing as a ruling class
which can create dominant ideas
Ideologies of beauty and fashion such as those circulated through popular culture do
subordinate women however women adhere to them and cut up their bodies in
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