SOC344 2018 Tut6 – Bega

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 #Bega

Posted in SOC327 - Emotions Bodies and Society, UOW.

3 Comments on SOC344 2018 Tut6 – Bega

catherine clarke said : Guest Report 10 months ago

While status anxiety and envy can be driving forces behind a person’s perceived need for body modification, these are not characteristics we like to recognise in ourselves. As Foster states “few things are as reprehensible as envy of the good fortune of others” (Patulney, 2018). As Ryan stated in his blog post, shows such as ‘Extreme Makeovers’ prefer to concentrate on the ‘inner authenticity and bringing the true self to the surface’ angle, even though through the surgical procedures they are undertaking, they are attempting to comply with social norms and previously unattainable beauty standards. Heyes (2007, p. 21) points out that the ‘Extreme Makeovers’ shows a fairytale where the recipient is able to become their true identity, and achieve personal goals intrinsic to their individual authenticity. If this is the case, what should one make of the extremely homogenous look that so many women now sport thanks to cosmetic surgery? Or, worse, what should one make of reality television shows such as ‘Botched’? For those who have not seen this show, it is exactly what it sounds like, cases of body modification where the patient has ‘gone too far’, or performed in such a way that the patient is now grossly and painfully disfigured. Foucault’s normalisation theory can provide a framework for understanding the paradox of normalisation, conforming to beauty ideals in a generic sense while realising an inner identity (Heyes, 2007, p. 20), however, my question is, what impact does social media currently have on normalisation and homogenisation? Instagram is a perfect example of how status anxiety and envy can be instrumental in propelling an entire generation of young women (mostly) to alter their appearance, both physically, and also digitally through the use of filters, in order to stand out from the crowd and attract followers, while simultaneously conforming to generic beauty standards in order to fit in!

Liane Munro said : Guest Report 10 months ago

In this week reading, Wourters (2011 pp. 263-286) explores the connection between socialisation, consumerism, competition, wealth, status and etiquette. A good society in nineteenth-century England was characterised by a strict behavioural etiquette that created a clear delineation between the people that belonged within the centres of power and those that were excluded from it. The centres of power defined groups of people that had wealth and status, this being a way of life to admire and aspire too (Wourters 2011, pp. 263-286). Conspicuous consumption in the nineteenth-century was a way of displaying this wealth and status to society and to justify social standing. In late modernity, self-construction through body modification is a new form of status currency. A life time of socialisation into a consumerist society has seen the normalisation of the consumption of body modification processes that promises to provide an individual with increased levels of status, inclusion (because these modifications are socially prescribed (Paltulny 2018)) and a more authentic expression of self (Heyes 2007, pp. 17-25). This perceived status is manufactured by a disempowering body-industry, which compels us to compete against impossible body standards, that misleadingly sells a transformed and empowered self (Heyes 2007, pp. 17-25). #S344UOW18 #Tut6 #Bega

Ryan Lonesborough said : Guest Report 11 months ago

In normalisation people are constrained to comply with norms but in doing so also create modes of individuality. Heyes (2008) states that normalisation taken place through the body allows us to meet impossible standards as well as bringing an inner authenticity to the surface. In the TV show 'Extreme Makeover' this is evident. The patients believe they are motivated to choose cosmetic surgery to bring their true identity to the surface for the soul benefit to themselves. This could be due to a belief that the body is a reflection of the soul (Patulny, 2018). Although this is not the case. It is revealed that the patients are getting body modifications because they are being punished for deviating from the standard norms. Therefore, I feel like in this case, people do get body modifications to look more like their real genuine self but they might not realise they are influenced by societal pressures to look the way others want them to look. #S344UOW18 #Tut6 #Bega

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