SOC344 2018 Tut6 – Mon 12.30pm

Have you ever wanted to change how you look? Perhaps you’ve admired the way someone else looks – or the way certain types of people in general can look – and it’s something you want to try, or experiment with? Not just in terms of how you dress, but how you might alter your body? For example, a lot of people exercise and work out to make their bodies look and feel healthier, and some argue that tattoos and piercings help people express difficult individual feelings in a uniquely public way. Some people undertake cosmetic surgery in order look different – younger, slimmer, tighter, bigger, or just to adjust certain features of face or body – so they can feel ‘more like the person they were always meant to be’. For them, body modification is an expression of individuality and authenticity.

However, an important question is just how unique are these looks and feelings to us as individuals? Do we work out, tattoo, pierce, or undergo surgery to look more like our real, genuine selves? Or to look more like how we think others want us to look – and will admire us for looking – which often makes us look like everyone else?

Admiration is not the only emotional motive for changing our bodies. Many of us worry about the way our bodies look. Sometimes we feel pressure and anxiety to fit in and look ‘good enough’, and sometimes we might even be driven to copy or look better than someone else through a sense of low status or envy. Gordon Clanton argues that if you find yourself “thinking the other does not deserve the good fortune or wishing that the other would lose his or her advantage or otherwise suffer, that is a measure of your envy”. Have you ever thought that someone you know has it too easy because they are just lucky enough to be good-looking? If you told someone else about your feeling of envy, what would be the most likely response – would they agree, would they tell you off for being ‘too envious,’ or would they encourage to ‘embrace your envy,’ and work harder to look better? Cas Wouters argues that as a society we are becoming increasingly competitive over status, and the management of emotions is a key part of this. Do we modify our bodies to manage our envy?

These ideas raise important sociological questions. Is envy a useful driver towards seeking the higher status that comes with ‘looking better’? Do modified bodies bring us the joy of authenticity, or the thrill of elevated social status (and the relief of reduced envy?) Is there a body-industry out there helping us to conflate authenticity and status? How much is society, the media, and the body-industry telling us – and selling us on – how to look? And how to treat others based on how they look?

#S344UOW18 #Tut6 #Mon1230

Posted in SOC327 - Emotions Bodies and Society, UOW.

13 Comments on SOC344 2018 Tut6 – Mon 12.30pm

Sam Walker said : Guest Report 8 months ago

In today’s day and age, and with the mediascapes that are present in today’s society it is very easy to see the imperfections and issues we have with our physical selves. The easy accessibility of body modification tools and devices makes the physical modification and easy choice. Body modifications are a way to make each person different and are a way to express individuality and themselves as a person. For many, the idea of tattoo’s and piercings are a way of one expressing their inner selves through their physical bodies, and a way to show the public sphere a piece of themselves. The idea of envy and body image is definitely a common one in today’s society. The common phrase “blessed with good genes” and or “he/she definitely got the looks in the family” is used in terms of people with a good physical image or body. Social media is a large component in terms of projecting envy and body image as many women and men place photos of themselves on these sites and the reactions are almost always “I wish….”. Envy is such a drive for changing one’s physical self through body modification, such as tattoos, piercings and or cosmetic surgery. We are so absorbed by the concept of our physical selves that we follow the latest body modification trends and damage others as well with our comments and envious nature.

Angus Wren said : Guest Report 8 months ago

Body alteration has become increasingly prevalent in modern society, becoming a popular trend. Such popularity, has developed through clothing and beauty advertisements portraying the perfect figure. In contemporary Society, particularly youth, are exposed to this concept of beauty or ‘the perfect figure’ shown through TV and more recently social media. With constant advertisements for enhancing or altering bodily appearance and fashion, has moulded how we see beauty today. Through this moulded concept of beauty, people may develop low self-esteem, and may turn to modifying their body to fit into the modern concept of beauty. Such modifications may include cosmetic surgery, piercings and tattoos, but also weight gain or loss. However, with such demand to fit in with the modern concept of beauty, people could become frustrated and envious towards particular people who fit into the unattainable concept of beauty, as Gordon Clanton describes. This creates competition, as people are constantly spending up to tens of thousands of dollars to achieve a level of body modification or beauty seen on social media. Social media being the primary outlet of information and social connection, Kaichi Saito, et al (2015), describes opinion leaders being the primary motivators and influence on social media. In the sense of beauty in relation to social media, opinion leaders are generally internet famous people, followed by thousands of people, and ordinarily are promotors for beauty companies. Opinion leaders play as primary motivators behind the concept of modern beauty and the perfect appearance. Commonly these opinion leaders live an unrealistic artificial lifestyle in which, set impossible goals for the wider community. - Kaichi Saito, et al, 2015, How opinion leaders are made by social media, the future of marketing, vol.52, pp.14-19. #S344UOW18 #Tut6 #Mon1230

Grey Mein said : Guest Report 8 months ago

I personally take a relatively pro-body modification stance, and while Heyes argues that body altercations can both normalise AND individualise a person’s appearance, I’d argue that they predominantly individualise, although often in normative ways. For example, piercings have been undertaken for centuries in some cultures, so while they are by no means a new technology, they can provide a large variety of results. Another method of modification similar to this is tattooing. Tattoos have also existed for hundreds of years, yet remains today as an artistic way to express oneself. I myself have both piercings and tattoos, although I have found the need to remain aware of the stigmas still attached to these things by others, particularly regarding tattoos. As I want to enter in to a professional field after university, I had to make a conscious decision about my tattoos (placement, design) in regards to my future aspirations. I think the stigma around body modifications is constantly evolving, and in our more modern era, body modifications are becoming less cultural and more individual (with some exceptions, of course), especially when modifications are seen as “extreme”. Unfortunately, I believe that social stereotypes as well as media portrayals of bodies and “beauty” warp our perceptions of how we should look, and these types of images often reinforce the “normalising” of physical appearances. I think it is a shame that with so many technologies and alterations available – from extreme “cyborg” like features through to almost invisible enhancements (contact lenses), people do tend to chose that which is socially perceived as desirable, rather than those that they personally desire.

samantha mackay said : Guest Report 8 months ago

Todays consumerist society is constantly influencing individuals to look a certain way, dress and even act certain ways in order to conform to society’s rules. However, I think its important to note that while ‘modified bodies’ are still being sold to society by what Heyes unveils as their the ability to increase ones ‘authentic self’ such modifications are in no ways new or modern forms of modification. It is important to note that body modifications have immense historic and cultural values and roles- such as tattooing being a rite of passage in many Polynesian cultures. Hence, I think the ways we view modifications within contemporary society is changing, as no longer can we does one merely ‘complete’ body modification for aesthetic gains, cultural values but also technological advancements. The introduction of technological cyborg body modifications has blurred the lines between body and technology. I think analyzing the definitions of cyborg and comparing such aspects to body commodification we can align that we can actively engage in processes that can “enhance human ability” in aspects that are every day and seem human but can also merge into the definitions of cyborg. This may be in the form of glasses helping individuals see, more extremes such as pacemakers, assisting individuals to live = essentially the barriers between man and machine are being broken down. #S344UOW18 #Tut6 #Mon1230

Kaitlyn Poole said : Guest Report 8 months ago

Our appearance is the first indication to society about ourselves as individuals. It can indicate race, culture, socioeconomic status, education and even our health. As it is so outwardly visible, more so than our behaviour, it is often a site of shame. We direct feelings of guilt and anger toward our bodies and our physical appearance, accumulating to feelings of disgust, low self esteem and ultimately culminating to shame. It is no wonder that the beauty and body industry easily links our sense of self with our appearance. It in a way grants permission for us to direct negative feelings outward in low levels of envy with the goal of selling products or encouraging investment in the body in order to obtain the traits we envy. If we cannot obtain these or cannot "fix" the parts of our bodies that don't conform we risk social exclusion and receiving disgust.

Liam Thomas said : Guest Report 8 months ago

I often find myself feeling envious of the appearance of others. I find myself agreeing with George Clanton’s ideas surrounding the anxiety to feel and look ‘good enough.’ However, I don’t find myself wishing that others would lose their advantages in these areas. If I were to tell others of my feelings of envy, I believe they would attempt to regulate my emotions by suggesting that some envy is fine so long as I did not dwell on it. I think that sociologically, these feelings I have are a product of the social world, providing me with an impetus to advance socially through a pleasing appearance. That being said however, I feel as though while the modification of my body, through diet and exercise, cosmetic surgery, etc. would bring me the appearance of elevated social status (young, fit and handsome), it would do little to temper the feelings I hold within. Sociologists such as Michael Carolan in their work: “The Conspicious Body: Capitalism, Consumerism, Class and Consumption” (as seen here: https://bit.ly/2EvXTw9) suggest that body image and capitalist consumerism go hand-in-hand, with our inner securities preyed upon in the interests of financial gain. As students of sociology, it is important that we consider the impact of the market on our social practices of body modification. #S344UOW18 #Tut6 #Mon1230

Emily Draper said : Guest Report 8 months ago

I used to be really bothered about how I looked when I was in my early teens but as I've grown older it has stopped being a source of stress. Although, my body is slightly modified; my ears were pierced as a child and I've dyed my hair various colours and is now purple. I did not do this out of envy of higher social status but as to change myself to be more interesting. Perhaps this is envy of attention? However, I disagree with Mikaela as I think it would be rare that people are happy with how they look if they are driven by envy. As beauty is a social construct that is driven by capitalism so it is always changing, it must be continually achieved with people always being more beautiful than you. For instance, increasingly large boob jobs once women become used to them or dieting leading to eating disorders to become skinny enough. Envy really relies on one's own self confidence to become happy with the extent of your body modifications so they do not continue indefinitely without reaching satisfaction

Amy Calladine said : Guest Report 8 months ago

It is telling that I can say with absolute confidence that every single one of us has experienced some level of anxiety over our physical appearance. It has almost become a modern pastime to stand by the mirror and poke and prod at our bodies in the reflection before us; imagining the soft, squishy bits being cut away. Or pulling at the skin around your eyes to make those lines disappear, or desperately wishing that you might finally grow out of those red splotches dotting your face. But nowadays we don’t have to just imagine. For a price, cosmetic surgery can give us the look we want, and the social status to go with it. Or so we are told. Heyes suggests that shows like Extreme Makeover perpetuate pathologies that lead people to believe that their perceived external attractiveness directly correlates with their internal sense of self-worth. (pp.20-22) It’s hard to push back against this idea of external appearance as validation, when media advertising is constantly bombarding us with messages of how gross we are. That if we only looked how we wanted on the outside, we could be the authentic, best version of ourselves that we feel we are on the inside. And by extension be seen as the sexy, confident, worthwhile people we should be seen as by those around us. (p.24) The problem with these quick-fix transformation shows is that they under-play the dangers of going under the knife, while also promising to elevate social status through aesthetics alone. (p.22) When in reality, social hierarchy is influenced by a myriad of factors that looks alone cannot hope to negate, such as ageism, sexism and learned social coding, or “habitus.” (Wouters, p.226). It is not envy that motivates us to have these extremely invasive surgeries though. I believe that it is a sense of hope; a belief in the media narrative that you will be better; that you can move through the upper echelons by merely sucking some fat out of your gut. It’s this hope that keeps the economy thriving, after all. #S344UOW18 #Tut6 #Mon1230

Genevieve Sutton said : Guest Report 8 months ago

I believe body modification is becoming increasingly popular for several reasons. Not only is cosmetic surgery promising the opportunity to create the perfect body and therefore the perfect life, but it is also becoming more accessible. Not only can we get cosmetic surgery in our own country, but for half the price we can jet off to Bali, Brazil or Thailand for what has become a quick taste of cosmetic tourism. Now we don’t just face the pressure to build the perfect look but we are being given the opportunity to glamour up our surgical journeys by adding on an overseas holiday. I agree that admiration is a better fit in the feelings of wanting to gain the looks and lifestyles of others more so than envy. That feeling of the need to complete the action of getting something, like the perfect nose, is highly influenced by the media. The concept of a ‘boob job’ or going to get your hair lasered off or liposuctioning our bodies into the right shape, doesn’t only come from those around us but I believe has come from the hierarchy and wanting to not only look like the rich people we see on the media, but the hopes that in doing this we will have as amazing a lifestyle as them. #s344uow18 #tut6 #mon1230

Genevieve Sutton said : Guest Report 8 months ago

I believe body modification is becoming increasingly popular for several reasons. Not only is cosmetic surgery promising the opportunity to create the perfect body and therefore the perfect life, but it is also becoming more accessible. Not only can we get cosmetic surgery in our own country, but for half the price we can jet off to Bali, Brazil or Thailand for what has become a quick taste of cosmetic tourism. Now we don’t just face the pressure to build the perfect look but we are being given the opportunity to glamour up our surgical journeys by adding on an overseas holiday. I agree that admiration is a better fit in the feelings of wanting to gain the looks and lifestyles of others more so than envy. That feeling of the need to complete the action of getting something, like the perfect nose, is highly influenced by the media. The concept of a ‘boob job’ or going to get your hair lasered off or liposuctioning our bodies into the right shape, doesn’t only come from those around us but I believe has come from the hierarchy and wanting to not only look like the rich people we see on the media, but the hopes that in doing this we will have as amazing a lifestyle as them.

Samantha McAuley said : Guest Report 8 months ago

Body modification by people I believe can be due to many differing reasons. One possibility being that an individual is trying to discover more about their authentic self, and another possibility being because someone is wanting to look more like another person in which case, you might not be trying to be yourself and instead wanting elevated social status. If a person completes these transformations, the desire is admiration and probably envy from society because they want people to want what they have, possibly showing how the body modification wasn’t just for your own happiness but could have also been from societal pressure. I think peer pressure can be a major driver for someone to desire to change their bodies because of anxiety and longing to be like other people who they see as better than them. Further on from this, I believe with the increase of social media this has created more anxiety and social comparisons because some people might be putting things on their social media profile to represent themselves but it may not be a true representation however someone else seeing the profile doesn’t know that. From this, that person could then be aspiring to something which isn’t even achievable in real life, causing higher expectations than ever before. I think to display envy is not a norm within society and others would judge you for feeling that another person should not have something, but it is a common emotions people probably feel and often display this emotion through sarcasm when in social situations to hide the true raw emotion, and this might be a ‘new way’ of envy management. #S344UOW18 #Tut6 #Mon1230

Kelsea Latham said : Guest Report 8 months ago

We are constantly being shown and told how to 'better ourselves' whether it be through exercise, dieting, teeth whitening, daily-juice-cleanses, piercings, lip injections and so on. The dynamics of how we view ourselves and how others can view us is becoming more reliant on mainstream media and social influencers (as those on Instagram, Facebook, TV etc) as they have 'all the answers to a better self image'. I agree with Mikaela that this can look more like admiration from the general public, rather than strong feelings of envy, but the emotions can also be highly individualised depending on ones exposure and susceptibility to such influences on body image and self-worth. It can be argued that envy is a useful driver towards seeking the high status that comes with 'looking better' but how authentic will that experience be in terms of personal development? If an individual pursues such goals as 'looking better' for the gain of social status, are they in fact bettering themselves as individuals or just making it 'easier' for society to digest their appearance/self-image? Also, Hornes (1981) observation of admiration leading to men comparing their positions with imagined pleasures of the wealthy and this in turn affecting their current position as they feel envious, and then are spurred into economic activity is relative to todays society. We are told that if we want to achieve particular status we must look, behave or dress a specific way and this results in consumption and participation, but I don't believe this can always translate into economic activity or success. Just because someone wants an 'imagined pleasure of the wealthy' does not mean they will source the correct avenues and processes to achieve said wealth, they might only be successful in replicating particular experiences or perceptions from others e.g. stealing and wearing an expensive outfit and getting compliments from co-workers, but going home to your one bedroom apartment where you can barely afford rent. I believe the discussion of envy is incredibly significant to have in our current society, as we need to develop an understanding of its effects. #S344UOW18 #Tut6 #Mon1230

Mikaela Cleary said : Guest Report 8 months ago

I believe there is a very strong force that is influencing us to change our bodies, and desire certain appearances of others, due to our comparison to other people. However, this force is not necessarily the feeling of envy. Envy can be understood as a negative feeling toward someone else that is perceived as being better off (Clanton, p412). Admiration, on the other hand, is the desire of gain (Hirschman, p54), and does not necessarily view the feature of admiration as being undeserving to the person who has it. Envy may be felt towards people who are naturally beautiful, or naturally have a certain feature you wish you had, but this envy may not be the influencer behind your choice to change or enhance your appearance. Admiration results in the feeling of wanting to go and get something, which envy does not result in. I therefore tend to believe that the reasoning behind wanting to change our bodies or enhance our appearance in some way, is due to the feeling of admiration, not envy. Altering our bodies I do believe does tend to reduce our feelings of envy. If an individual is satisfied and happy with their appearance, and has changed it in accordance to their desires, being envious of other’s appearance would be less likely. The media, society and the body-industry, I believe, have a huge influence on how we feel we should be looking. As Heyes outlined in the article “Cosmetic Surgery and the Television Makeover”, there are a number of television shows that specialise in making “ugly” people “beautiful”. If people have some certain characteristics, their appearance is deemed as unsatisfactory, and needs to be changed in order for them to continue on to live a fulfilled life. Television shows such as “Extreme Makeover” (Heyes, 2007), not only suggests that we should be looking a certain way in order to be deemed acceptable to society, they also show that if someone doesn’t have these desired characteristics, they are treated as a problem that needs fixing, hugely influencing on how these people are then treated by others. #S344UOW18 #Tut6 #Mon1230

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