SOC344 2018 Tut6 – Mon 16.30pm

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 #Mon1630

Posted in SOC327 - Emotions Bodies and Society, UOW.

6 Comments on SOC344 2018 Tut6 – Mon 16.30pm

Adriana Temelkova said : Guest Report 9 months ago

What is beauty…? Who defines it…? Who decides it…? Who changes it…? Who applies it…? The answer is simple, it is the influence by society that reinforces the categories of what people should and should not look like and in doing so, creating the 'ideal' and 'norm' body image. We as individuals, unavoidably apply and are affected directly by this to some degree in our everyday lives, effecting both our emotions and behaviours consciously and subconsciously. Within today's modern society, our 'craze' for online social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so on has never been so popular and publicly accessible. It has become near impossible for one to escape the constant bombardment of 'perfect' images that are being exposed to us nearly every minute of the day… we wake up and check Instagram, flooded with 'perfect' images, we are walking down a busy road we look up to find ourselves staring at the 'perfect model' posing on a giant poster. We are taught by our parents and teachers that "it's what's on the inside that counts' but then find ourselves at school questioning, 'why am I being laughed at because of my nose when I'm a nice person?' or on social media, 'why is my photo on Instagram not getting 'likes' when I'm a great person'? Sad isn't it? We unfortunately live in a society where the concept of 'beauty' IS, like-it-or-not important. We want to be accepted, desired and to fit in, which creates the consequences of individuals perceiving themselves as 'not good enough', generating the push to have body modifications made. This cycle unfortunately I believe well be embedded for generations to come and will progressively get worse as social media platforms continue to grow and gains popularity for younger girls and boys. #S344UOW18 #Tut6 #Mon1630

Lauren Hilton said : Guest Report 11 months ago

We grow up being told by our parent’s, family, teachers and friends that your outside look’s don’t matter, it’s your personality that makes you a ‘beautiful’ person. We are now living within a time where if you have an insecurity or imperfection, there is a chance that you can physically change yourself to improve what you once didn’t like. We are also living in a society where looks and body image are hugely scrutinized, where people are consistently striving for the perfect body and looks. As Heyes (2007) states, the ability to transform your body is a way of self-transformation and the process of cosmetic surgery is not only about a person increasing their looks. I believe from society’s current trends on cosmetic surgery, it is viewed as ‘normal’, and that it isn’t strange to physically change ones appearance through surgeries or enhancements. Take for example how many women get lip enhancements, or Botox to remove fine lines. As Jarrod mentioned, having today’s most popular and well-known women and celebrities whom have body shapes and sizes they are well-known for, can have negative effects on one’s mental state.

Orion Leppan Taylor said : Guest Report 11 months ago

The question "do we alter our bodies for social approval or personal self satisfaction" is a false dichotomy. There are of course extremes, ”people who alter their bodies for self satisfaction to near universal condemnation” and

Kareem Choubassi said : Guest Report 11 months ago

Society and social judgements are the key drivers in which a person is to perceive their self, their body or their looks. In a world being built around identity and people's presentation of themselves whether in person, or more prominently, online, many judge each other through physical looks and thus compare ourselves to others constantly. These forms of envy and admiration are born out of social platforms like Instagram where individuals are not only able to 'show off' their social status and level of wealth, but their bodies/looks (sometimes using filters to hide any perceived 'flaws') to create envy within the audience of their post. This is a prime example of a context in which certain groups are able to compare and compete with others of socially 'higher' status (due to a large online following).

Michaela Matthews said : Guest Report 11 months ago

In today’s society there is such an enormous expectation on body image, and it is often unrealistic, “we try to make ourselves over to match impossible standards” (Heyes, 2006). The perfect body image has always existed but continues to change along with ongoing social norms. The only difference now is these images are at our fingertips, whether its advertisements for surgery or products for your image, they are likely to appear even when we aren’t looking for it. These images appear all over the media and often stir up the feeling of envy. But it’s no longer just a case of thick and thin bodies, there are all sorts of body modifications that are expected in today's society. Whether it’s perfectly shaped eyebrows, a tanned body, a boob job or large lips. We chase after this perfect look, we want this look, we are hostile and negative towards those who have it because we think that they are better off (Louis Appleby 1996). I think social media is the biggest to blame here, there are nearly 2.5 billion social media users around the world, Facebook having the highest user rate with about half of the population logging on everyday. These sites influence how we view our bodies and how we can change them to be ‘better.’ Those who achieve this look of the ‘perfect body’ receive more followers, popularity and attention, therefore they are gaining a higher status. We modify our bodies, not to be authentic, but to chase after this high social status. However this is like running on a treadmill, we will keep chasing after this body, as we will almost always find flaws and envy someone who has what we don’t.

Jarrod Wilson said : Guest Report 11 months ago

This week’s readings were quite informative on the subjects of body image and transformations. It became apparent to me that there is quite an extensive history on this topic that I was previously unaware of. I had always thought body modifications such as cosmetic surgery were a reasonably new trend to society however, as certain scholars and activists have identified and argued upon such as Suzanne Noèl (1926) that these surgeries are viewed as a social necessity in certain circumstances, particularly those where older women were trying to maintain a position in the workforce . Coming from an indigenous perspective body alterations such as scarring are part of a traditional process of transforming into adulthood. This draws an interesting comparison between cultures and certainly sustains the concept that this in some cases is part of a necessary human development. Of course this can be radicalised as demonstrated by the case study of Lolo Ferrari and many other contemporary popular female figures such as the Kardashians, Nicki Minaj and so forth. This can then have damaging repercussions on the mental state of those who these figures appeal too through a pressurised ideal of body image. In fact, it was mentioned in the reading that Ferrari herself was assumed to have suffered from body dysmorphia.

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