“But Mom, I Have to Wear a Skirt to Look Pretty!”: Reflections on the Contradictions of Being a Feminist Mother

I had a down-to-earth feminist professor in college who was childless and when I asked her if she wanted children she replied, “not really, but it would be great to raise a girl the way girls should be raised.”
That line set a kind of ideal benchmark for me as a young woman who earnestly believed that my feminism and my motherhood would get along like peanut butter and jelly. Unlike my professor, I’d always wanted children – daughters, in fact – and years after I finished college, that’s exactly what I got.
At first, feminist mothering came naturally. I walked into children’s clothing stores and gasped self-righteously at the shamelessly polarized layout: on one side, frilly mini-skirts and sparkly t-shirts with suggestive slogans; on the other side, practical, comfortable clothing adorned with trucks and dinosaurs.I glared pointedly at anyone who sought to draw logical conclusions about the colour of the walls in the baby’s room from my answer to the “Boy or Girl?” question.I clucked …

Whole-body scanning: What are the impacts on body image?

Whole-body scanning has been used by those involved in fashion and clothing design for some time (Istook, 2000; Loker, Ashdown, & Carnrite, 2008), and many large-scale surveys have been conducted using whole-body scanning technology to acquire body measurement for clothing sizing systems (Fan et al., 2004). A recent Verdict report (Kokoszka, 2018) lists Selfridges, Bloomingdales, New Look and Levi as retailers that have used whole-body scanning to measure customers in store. The report also predicts that advancements in technology will soon enable mobile devices to scan the body accurately, which would enable people to access 3D images of their bodies through their phones. In addition to this, some UK supermarkets now offer whole-body scanning facilities, so customers can access whole-body scanning and associated 3D printing where they buy their groceries (Griffiths, 2014; McCrum, 2015).
Clothing specialists at Manchester Metropolitan University and University of Manchester have w…

Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Next week (25th February - 3rd March) is Eating Disorder Awareness Week in the UK and this year’s theme is Breaking Down Barriers […to treatment], of which there are many. Research indicates that only 20-30% of people with eating disorders receive professional help [1-2], despite the fact that eating disorders are frequently chronic and intractable illnesses associated with numerous medical complications, psychosocial impairment, and the highest mortality rates of all psychiatric illnesses [3].
As well as the stigma linked to mental illness, eating disorders are often also subject to an additional layer of stigma whereby eating disorders are widely trivialised, even among healthcare professionals [4]. Depending on the exact presentation, eating disorders can be viewed as the result of either an over-investment in societal standards to be thin – ‘a diet gone too far’ OR the absence of care and respect for one’s body and self. This is reflected in the research and I have personally hear…

On outrage and images of attractive men

Men’s appearance concerns have historically had less attention than women’s beauty. So, it’s a strange thing when representations of attractive men become a source of public outrage. In this blog we consider three recent examples, where the representation of ‘hottie’, ‘handsome’ or simply ‘good’’ masculinity has provoked responses of shock, anger or indignation that appear to underpin a desire to annihilate them. These are, TubeCrush, a website where users send in unsolicited photographs of attractive men on the London Underground; a Lumen dating advert for the over-50s company whose ‘Pull a cracker…’ campaign was banned on the London Underground, and; the notorious Gillette advert, ‘The best a man can be’, which received a raft of media attentionfor its clean-shaven, non-toxic image of masculinity (e.g reactions here, here and here). Below we discuss each of these examples and why we think this outrage is misplaced.

So, starting with TubeCrush. TubeCrush is a blog that posts gay men a…

Januhairy: Liberation within limits

Along with ‘Dry January’, ‘RED (run every day) January’ and ‘Veganuary’, ‘Januhairy’ is one of the challenges which comes with the ‘New Year, New You!’ onslaught of how to become a better person. In my last Beauty Demands blog  I commented on the dramatic change which has happened as we see ourselves not as ‘inner’ thinking and doing beings, but as ‘outer’, to-be-looked-at beings. Indeed we have gone so far on this trajectory that a better self now means a better body. In a visual and virtual culture, our bodies are ourselves. Januhairy is a month long challenge which aims to get women to ‘love and accept’ their body hair while raising money for charity. It was launched by students from Exeter University, and has received lots of press, taking off around the world.

In Perfect Me ,I write a lot about body hair. I call body hair ‘the canary in the mine’. It is a very clear example of the normalisation and naturalisation of the modified body. Something which can only happen if an ideal is…

My body, my self?

Last New Year, I wrote a short piece for The Conversationon how we believe – and often unreflectively – that we are, or will be, better if our bodies are better.
That our bodies have become our very selves in a visual and virtual culture is one of the main arguments of Perfect Me. This is so widely believed that we often don’t recognise either that it is true (until someone points it out) or how surprising and transformative this is. To think that our selves are our bodies is new. New Year’s Resolutions show us very clearly what we value and what matters to us. These are the goals we set for ourselves. We think these things are valuable and having them is important to us. The top New Year’s Resolutions for 2019 again show this focus, with the top three all being aimed at transforming the body:
1. Diet or eat healthier (71%) 2. Exercise more (65%) 3. Lose weight (54%)
The next two are not body related: 4. Save more and spend less (32%) 5. Learn a new skill or hobby (26%)

The fourth is pragmati…