SOC344 2018 Tut6 – Shoalhaven

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 #Shoal

Posted in SOC327 - Emotions Bodies and Society, UOW.

3 Comments on SOC344 2018 Tut6 – Shoalhaven

Leanne Watson said : Guest Report 4 months ago

Society’s envy towards outward appearance varies greatly with social situations. A casually dressed individual, in a city, where it is the general norm for workers and commuters to dress formerly due to their professional lifestyle, is quite likely to be snubbed, or avoided, whereas a formerly dressed individual in a country town where ‘working’ clothes are practical, is likely to receive similar treatment. Focault’s concept of normalization suggests ‘populations’ judge people and expect a certain level of conformity, whist striving for their own individuality (Heyes, 2007). It seems to show a paradox of human nature. As we fear oddness, we embrace difference. I know a girl who was born with a birthmark on her face, and decided that it was easier to cover it, than to have it be the focus of attention whenever she met someone new. She was then often unfairly judged by people who considered that she always wore too much makeup. She had been bullied as a child, because of her ‘imperfect’ face, and ‘envied?’ as an adult, because of her ‘unflawed’ appearance. Many years ago, I read a personal account by a cosmetic surgeon, who found that the procedures he performed rarely made a difference to the self-esteem of his patients. He eventually chose to expand his expertise to include psychological counselling for his clients, as he had found that changing their outward appearance had very little effect on their fragile, internal paradigm. Whilst cosmetic surgery can address some obvious flaws, which cause individuals public embarrassment, it might only serve to lead a person toward more of the same, rather than helping them to achieve a sense of fulfilment (Askegaard Gertsen Langer 2002, p. 804). #S344UOW18 #Tut6 #Shoal

Amy Angeloska said : Guest Report 4 months ago

The Body- industry, envy, society, social status and the media are contributing factors to the way in which people portray themselves. I think that social media targets and sells to us on how we should look. ‘Looking better’ can come just as easy as getting surgery to modify any particular part on your body. On social media there are particular influences that promote body image just through the way they post photos of themselves selling that particular body type to any audience following. Which then sets envy for people that want to achieve it. I think that people judge you on the way you look\dress as well, for example my friend went to a court case as apart of her Tafe assignment and after the court proceedings were over she approached a solicitor who proceeded to be rude and say she is not open to represent anyone right now and to basically not bother her. When my friend explained she was a social work student and she was asking for her name for the assessment. The attitude changed really quickly and she was happy to give details. Just goes to show that people will belittle you and judge you on the way you look in a matter of ten seconds. If my friend were dressed formally rather then casually the response would have been different. I think that a lot of people work out not only to look a certain way but it is also helps you mentally, however the changes to your body would become addictive. Looking a certain way is pushed by social status in my opinion, to look slimmer, bigger, or just to adjust certain features of face or body – so you can feel ‘more like the person they were always meant to be’. I also think that as a society we are becoming progressively competitive over status, and the management of emotions will play a large roll in this.

Tiana Brown said : Guest Report 4 months ago

Genetic modification and negative body image is the driving force of capitalism that empowers envy and targets an unrealistic and unhealthy obsession within society. The need for a higher status at all cost has divided a community that is searching for unattainable beauty, which ultimately leads to a loss of our individuality. The portrayal of gender bias illustrates that by having surgery and makeovers, women are conforming to the market place within the hegemonic principles in what Foucault calls “normalization.” This theoretical concept, according to Cressida J. Heyes (2007, p. 20), ‘“normalization” is an historical ontological process often concealed (perhaps especially with regard to its functions on the body) by essentializing identity talk.’ The profitable industry that encourages and drives body image uses individuality to divide to increase profits by manipulating the need for status. Conforming to this ideal does nothing to encourage healthy and happy lives and only leads to an unrealistic obsession that will inadvertently lead to disappointment and failure. Our elevation in society does not necessarily have to be in the shape of a modified body, we can achieve a higher status by rejecting envy and embracing compassion, tolerance and equality. #S344UOW18 #Tut6 #Shoal

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