Posts

#Fitspiration: Harmful or Helpful?

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A new health and fitness trend has recently swept social media. Images, text and videos labelled #Fitspiration - a literal amalgamation of the words fitness and inspiration – are ostensibly designed to inspire fitness among those who create, share and view them. As of 9th October 2017, over 13 million images labelled as #fitspiration had been posted to popular image-focused social media site Instagram. This figure has risen dramatically from the 1.8 million images that had been posted in January 2014, when my colleague Nova Deighton-Smith and I first became interested in it. Though the promotion of physical fitness is universally acknowledged as a positive and worthwhile pursuit, as a means of enhancing our physical and psychological health, concerns have been raised about the potentially problematic nature of #fitspiration content, especially in relation to body image. The question is posed: Is #fitspiration more harmful than helpful?

At the heart of #Fitspiration criticism, lie conc…

Born This Way

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Against a backdrop that increasingly seems to demand bodily perfection, my scars have the potential to speak of how far I am from meeting social ideals. Yet, they remind me daily of the fragility and preciousness of a life I have fought to live, and of that I am proud.

For every 1000 babies that are born, eight will have a heart condition. This is the most common birth anomaly. 90% of these babies will now survive into adulthood compared with just 20% in the 1940s. There is now an estimated 250,000 adults born with a heart condition living in the UK. We can thank advances in modern medicine for the growing population of adults living with a heart condition from birth. This is a heterogeneous group including people with a wide variety of different cardiac conditions of varying complexity. Currently there is no cure for more complex congenital heart disease (CHD), with treatment and lifelong monitoring required. Survivors can live with uncertainty about how long they will live alongs…

Beauty in Iran: Paradoxical and Comic

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I am an anthropologist and have studied cosmetic surgery practices in Tehran, Iran, named as the “nose job capital of the world” (CBS, 2005). Hardly surprisingly, there are intriguing contradictions and paradoxes in regard to perceptions towards and practices on the body, beauty, and cosmetic surgery among people including Islamic jurists, plastic surgeons and also official authorities. The recent news about the ban on “ugly” teachers from teaching – as worded by Western media (e.g. Euronews, 2017) convinced me to write this post:
The increasing demand for cosmetic surgery in Iran is peculiar in terms of its contextual dynamics, which have been reflected in the Western media with a tone of surprise; how could this be happening in an Islamic state whose leaders are anti-West? Seeing Iran listed among the countries with the highest number of cosmetic surgeries together with other “Western” or “Latin-American” countries wherein public bodily display is allowed, and/or is seen as “right” (…

Dating apps: A platform for appearance pressures and racism

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First published at The Conversation here.
As the dating app Tinder turns five, new research shows men who regularly use the app have more body image concerns and lower self-esteem.
The research found Tinder users reported lower levels of satisfaction with their faces and higher levels of shame about their bodies. And users were also more likely to view their bodies as sexual objects.
This is hardly surprising given that Tinder’s “evaluative factors” have the potential to intensify preexisting cultural beauty ideals. The app’s “swipe right to dismiss” facility, along with the limited number of words a user can write on their profile means appearance take centre stage. In other words, the more conventionally attractive your photos are, the more likely you are to be clicked, swiped or hit upon by other users.
But whether men use Tinder or not, most will report dissatisfaction with some aspect of their appearance. This could be anything from height, body hair, muscularity, skin tautness, shoe…

Sunbeds: Are they simply an 'irrational' compulsion?

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It’s 2017, and according to health officials and the media (the main informers of the British public), Sunbeds are BAD - an ‘irrational’ form of consumption.

Nowadays, the ‘rational-thinking’ individual should associate sunbed consumption with their negative effects… Redness, burning, peeling and blistering of the skin – risking skin cancer (melanoma) in the long-runAn unsustainable dependence on shallow compliments for self-esteem.Costly maintenance, inconvenient/awkward secrecies, and time wasted travelling.An undesirable association with a ‘Tanorexic’ identity. The stigma attached to ‘obvious’ sunbed users is not favourable. Katie Price? Kat from EastEnders? Not to mention many politicians …. And in horror films a ‘Tanorexic’ habit may result in being cremated alive … With such stigma in mind, how has this industry, worth millions of pounds, both persisted and thrived for over thirty years? And why do over 3 million Britons continue using them every year? The popularity of the indu…

Shoe Stories

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In Footnotes on Shoes, an interdisciplinary group of writers reflects on the cultural meanings of shoes and, in particular, women’s fascination with shoes – something which it seems has existed through the ages and across the globe.  The editors Shari Benstock and Suzanne Ferris (2001) note in their introduction that there is an Imelda Marcos lurking in each and everyone of us, referring to the infamous wife of the Philippine dictator who amassed more than 3,000 pairs of shoes during her lifetime. Women seem to have an insatiable lust for shoes.
Feminist scholars have had plenty to say about this female obsession with shoes (Wilson, 1985; Wolf, 1990; O’Keefe, 1996; Bergstein, 2012).  Initially, they viewed women wearing high heels as the victims of male oppression. Stiletto heels were the ultimate symbol of female subjugation, reducing their wearer to the position of sex object, crippling and deforming them in the name of male-defined beauty norms, and preventing them from being able…