Sociology 2259 Lecture Notes - World Health Organization, Nipple Piercing, Body Modification

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9 Feb 2013
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Deviant Physical Appearances
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
Physical Appearance 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
Physical Appearances 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
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 Projects
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 Projects
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 Projects
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 size AND body weight are important in regards to adapting projects
The social typing of body size/weight permeates many institutions in society, ex. Media, family,
education, etc.
Redesigning Projects
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
Aesthetic Appeal 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
What Are The 2 Most Common Things Women Worry About?
1. Weight
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