Posts

How breast size dissatisfaction affects breast self-examination

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Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the United Kingdom. In 2015, 45,764 cases of breast cancer in women were registered in England, accounting for nearly 1 in 3 new female cancer cases. Women with breast cancer in the United Kingdom also have poorer survival rates than women in other parts of Europe. One reason for this is that British women tend to be diagnosed at more advanced stages of disease, which reduces survival rates. Regular attendance at mammography screenings is an effective way of detecting breast cancer early. In England, women between the ages of 50 and 70 are invited for breast screening every three years as part of the NHS Breast Screening Programme. Screening is intended to detect breast cancer at an early stage, when there is a better chance of successful treatment. However, most breast cancers are detected by women through breast self-examination, which involves regular palpation of the breasts. However, done on its own and without proper training,…

If you want to lose weight, ask yourself: is this really self-improvement?

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Heather Widdows, University of Birmingham
After the feasting of Christmas, January is a time of detox and self-denial. It’s when people start new diets, begin new exercise regimes and make new year’s resolutions. We promise ourselves that we will do better – that we will better ourselves. But all too often – at least in the West – this means improving our bodies.
While losing weight or gaining fitness can be a good thing, these types of resolutions – “I will lose five kilograms”, “I will join a gym”, “I will stop eating sweets” – mark a significant change from previous generations.
Traditionally, new year’s resolutions were about improving one’s character – the inner self, not the outer self. For example, an extract of an adolescent’s diary, written in 1892, reads:
Resolved, not to talk about myself or feelings. To think before speaking. To work seriously. To be self-restrained in conversation and actions. Not to let my thoughts wander. To be dignified. Interest myself more in others.

Beauty's neglected harms

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In a just published paper I consider what beauty would look like if we changed the lens and looked at beauty not as a collection of individual choices, but as a public health concern. Would changing the lens transform how we regard the harms of beauty and the extent to which we think we should intervene to address such harms?
Changing the lens from individual choice to public health has been decisive in a number of debates. The classic example is attitudes to smoking. Whether or not to smoke was once regarded a matter of individual freedom and choice. The dominant view was that adults who know the risks should be left to make their own decisions. In an era where stop smoking campaigns are routinely promoted by States, health professionals and NGOs, and it is even regarded as acceptable to shame pregnant women for smoking, the notion that this is an individual choice which should not be intervened with is long gone. Sometimes intervention is justified on the grounds of 'harms-to-o…

Women, hair and anarchists

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How often do you think about your hair? Every morning looking at yourself in the mirror and thinking is this going to be a ‘good/bad hair’ day? How often do you change the colour of your hair? How often do you substantially change the length or style of your hair? When is the time right for such a change? I have personally been quite unadventurous with my hair for most of my life and never really worried until it started to grow grey… I have always had long or longish hair and never even considered having a really short ‘boy’ haircut; not that I don’t like short hair but it never even occurred to me to try and have a short haircut — so established is the custom for many women to have their hair long. One of John Tenniel’s illustrations of Alice in Wonderland (1865), which is part of the ‘visual’ of the GLAREproject I am working on, triggered a comment from a colleague: “love the Alice picture (very different from Disney princess — but still big eyes and long hair!”)so I set off for…

Opportunity or Threat?

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My morning read often includes posts from the Business of Fashion @BoF. Today I was fascinated and saddened to read their latest piece The Dawn of Designer Botox, which discusses the normalisation of #injectables (#Botox and #dermalfillers) for #millennials. It begins “As Botox and dermal fillers become a more normalised part of millennial beauty regimes, injectables could be become a multi-billion dollar opportunity for established luxury players”.

Over the past few years, demand for non-surgical cosmetic procedures, largely driven by celebrity culture and social media, has increased rapidly in the UK and the USA right across the lifespan. An in-house doctor @HarveyNichols explains how women in their 20s are having cosmetic procedures in their lunchbreaks as a preventative measure. Another doctor suggest they are an extension of other routine ‘beauty’ procedures.

Describing cosmetic interventions as ‘routine’ normalises a phenomenon which is not in the least bit normal.
 The article …

Vulvic Thinking

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The vulva is a fraught and evolving site that is calling out for dedicated study by feminists. We need to analyse, broaden, and deepen cultural representations and discussions around vulvas. The vulva is enjoying a zeitgeist. Fur cup, yoni, cunt, front bottom, hoo-ha, pussy, va-jay-jay, camel toe, muff, map of Tassie, vagina. After hearing the sound recording of the now President of the Unites States advising men to ‘grab em by the pussy’ women rose up in fury to march against gendered violence as well as against the President himself. Global newscasts showed crowds in cities across the world dotted with homemade signs featuring the word vulva and images of vulvas (most were pink, an omission of note: see https://amydame.ca/2017/05/09/not-all-pussies-are-pink-not-all-women-have-pussies/). Alongside my sisterly anger the nerd in me felt happy that, at last, people were using correct terminology: instead of ‘vagina’ we were hearing ‘vulva’: the proper general descriptor for labia minora…

A Full Woman: What a trans beauty queen can teach us about beauty standards and gender identity

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Beauty pageants, long a target of feminist critique, are sites where femininity is defined, packaged, evaluated, and standardized, along with Western “virtues” such as individualism, whiteness, and patriotism. They are regarded as culturally conservative and hegemonizing events from which non-white women, women with disabilities, and even non-Christians have historically been overtly or tacitly excluded (Gardner 2009). So when the first openly transgender person, a young trans woman named Jenna Talackova, was admitted as a contestant in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada pageant after a public appeal, a number of currents immediately collided. Trans people have suffered more violence and marginalization at the hands of Western society than just about any group that pageants excluded; today, trans rights are widely regarded as the vanguard of progressive causes, anticipated in some ways by gay and lesbian rights, albeit in uneasy alliance with feminism (e.g., Enke 2012). Transwomen in p…