What Does “Normal” Look Like?
• Physical appearances tell a story about a person—they demonstrate how this person is going to
be perceived by society
• Determines how we act and present ourselves in society—we put on a physical persona
• We associate certain meanings with certain physical appearances
• Our bodies are the “defining” feature of us
• Our bodies are the medium through which we perpetrate our identities
• When we encounter someone, we often make value judgements based on how they are
physically presenting themselves
• We actively negotiate who we are through our bodies (**agency**)
• We have all these different body regimens
PhysicalAppearance as Deviant
• We socially type certain types of physical appearances as deviant
• We have certain ways of fashioning or fixing our bodies so we don't look deviant
• Deviant physical appearances are often dependent on the sociohistorical context:
◦ Historical time-frame
▪ Ex. hundreds of years ago lighter skin was desired whereas now many people wish to be
▪ Ex. during Halloween it is acceptable to be dressed deviant and not seen as so
• These physical appearances can be:
◦ Voluntary—tattoos piercings
◦ Involuntary—birth defects, height, disabilities
◦ Combination of both—your body language, body weight
PhysicalAppearances as Master Status
• It's not necessarily the physical appearance itself that generates social reaction
• The social reaction in regards to physical appearance plays a big role in whether it is defined as
• Physical appearance becomes a master status because of the meanings, stereotypes,
interpretations, etc attached to it
• Auxiliary traits attached to master statuses make them significantly
• Why are certain forms of physical appearance socially typed as deviance?
• Body Projects: the ways that each of us adapts, changes, or controls characteristics of our
bodies, and whether those characteristics are involuntary, voluntary, or both
• What we do with the characteristics of our body
• Change the functioning of our bodies to an extent—ex. Shaving for swimming or biking,
glasses, wheelchair, braces
• Modify our appearance—ex. People with braces may try and hide their teeth while smiling
• We all engage in various types of body projects—What are some examples?
• Types of body projects: ◦ Camouflaging
• Camouflaging: normative techniques of body manipulation learned in socialization processes
• Ways that we learn to change our bodies and mold ourselves into what is expected of us
• Almost like rights of passages that we learn through socialization
• Examples: makeup, hairstyles, dress, etc.
• We learn how to camouflage—how to “fit in”
• We learn to mold ourselves into a positive societal image
• We learn to fashion our bodies in “normal”, seemingly “appropriate ways”
• What does this look like?
• Extending: overcoming one's physical limitations
• Examples: hair extensions, contact lenses, cane, wheelchair, etc.
• We learn how to overcome a physical limitation we have in order to appear normal to others
• People with physical disabilities often engage in “extending”
• Extending is about projecting a “fixed”, “better” image of ourselves
• Adapting: removing part(s) of the body for aesthetic and/or medical reasons
• Adapting to a certain social image of yourself to look normative
• Examples: mastectomy, muscle building, hair removal, weight loss, etc
• Particularly...body sizeAND body weight are important in regards to adapting projects
• The social typing of body size/weight permeates many institutions in society, ex. Media, family,
• Redesigning: reconstructing the body in lasting ways—ways that you can't really wash off
• AKA “body modification”, or “body art”
• The media feeds us an ideal body
• Examples: plastic surgery, tattoos, body piercings, etc.
• Become increasingly popular and “normalized” over past few decades
• Influences of the “supermarket era”—easy(ish) access to body modification techniques
• Tattoos and piercings are specifically more prevalent among youth—why?
Why “Adapt” or “Redesign”?
• Aesthetic appeal—beauty and attractiveness ideals
◦ Looks do matter to an extent
• Social identity—wanting to fit in
• Personal identity—unhappy with current physical appearances
• Medically-related AestheticAppeal and Attractiveness
• In our society, attractiveness is placed at such a high premium
• We have high expectations as to what “attractiveness” entails, yet so little people actually fit
into this ideal
• Cultural ideals f attractiveness differ for men and women—related to what we consider
feminine and masculine
• What does feminine attractiveness look like?
• What does masculine attractiveness look like?
Body Modification Techniques
• Genital bleaching
• Breast implants
• Penis enlargement
• Nipple piercing
• Hair removal
• Hair rejuvenation
• What is the appeal of such body modification techniques?
• What makes something physically attractive?
• Is body modification about yourself? Others? Society?
• There is a certain premium that is attractive and that being white is the ideal beauty
• Cosmetic industry bills in $180 billion a year
• We feel like we have these needs in society to change our bodies to look a certain way—
perpetrated by the media
• New ideas of what is considered physically attractive change fairly often throughout the years
WhatAre The 2 Most Common Things Women WorryAbout?
2. Breast size
◦ Arguably most visible parts of the female body --> symbolize femininity, sexuality, and
◦ When determining if someone if male or female you would generally look to see if the
person has breasts
• Goldie Locks Complex
◦ Relates to weight and breast size
◦ Doesn't want to be too big or too small, want to be just right
• Panoptic Male Gaze
◦ Ideas that women are constantly watching to make sure their bodies look a certain way
◦ Not necessarily for the attention of males, but about wanting people to see you in a certain
• Cultural ideals of the “perfect” weight have steadily decreased with modernization especially
within last 30-40 years
• Marilyn Monroe: size 12, models today: size 2 • This is particularly problematic for young women who are most at risk of developing unhealthy
eating habits due to this cult of thinness
• 1 of 5 females has an eating disorders
• 4 of 5 females has a distorted attitude towards food
• Most women don't have eating disorders...but will engage in routinized body regimens to
maintain or achieve a certain weight
• White middle-class girls in Western society = more likely to develop eating disorder
• This is ironic because in a society where we have an abundance of food...we are trying not to
• Men are also subject to judgements about their bodies
• Men are expected to be muscular, large, strong, etc.
• World Health Organization (WHO)
◦ Underweight BMI: 18.4
◦ Acceptable BMI: 18.5-24.9
◦ Overweight BMI: 25-29
◦ Obese BMI: +30
• Weight has become as issue in our society due to its association with “physical appearance”,
rather than the devastating health effects
• Objective ways of analyzing weight such as BMI are not accurate
• How do we determine if we're overweight? Via health-related concerns, or ideals of physical
◦ We look at the general physical appearance—ex. Body shape
• “Stigma of obesity” --> “blaming the victim”
• We assume that people who are overweight that they are lazy or eat too much
• Stigma of obesity—end up blaming the person who is overweight
• Physical stigma or character blemish? What do you think?
◦ Obesity can be a combination of both
◦ Look at someone who is overweight and see a physical stigma and then turn it into a
character blemish as we assume certain things about a person based on their weight
• Being overweight carries powerful symbolic identity for us
• Becomes a master status—overshadows other statuses
◦ Stigma that is very hard to overcome
• Double standard of being overweight
◦ Easier for men to be overweight than women
◦ Women will receive more criticism as t