Workshop 1: Body Image

Take a peek at what kinds of discussions will be taking place at the first Beauty Demands workshop!

Rikke Amundsen, ‘On revenge porn, speech acts and the sexual objectification of women’

This project addresses the question ‘can a feminist reading of the sexual objectification of women as speech, ground a normative case for making ‘revenge porn’ a criminal offence?’ Revenge porn refers to the act of disseminating sexually explicit images of a previous partner, without the consent of the pictured person (Guillemin, 2014). Objectification is referred to as the act of treating or perceiving another human being as an object or a thing (Papadaki, 2014). Drawing on J. L. Austin’s (1962) work on speech acts, the project uses as its starting point the idea that the sexually explicit images of individuals, disseminated as an act of ‘revenge’ by a previous partner, can be analyzed as speech acts.

This thesis will focus on revenge porn as a site of analysis of the sexual objectification of women, scrutinizing the sexual objectification of women in the context of revenge porn, in order to highlight the inherent nuances and complexities involved in the sexual objectification of women. The research aims to contribute to (1) the debate regarding the sexual objectification of women in the UK social media, and (2) the debate on revenge porn and whether it ought to be made a criminal offence.

Clare Chambers, ‘Beauty, Normality, and Choice’

Beauty practices are sometimes understood as the free choice of the woman who engages in them, perhaps part of her creativity or bodily autonomy. At the same time, a woman may undertake beauty practices so as to feel normal: to fit in to standards that, supposedly, all women should be able to meet. In this talk I use the work of theorists such as Michel Foucault, Germaine Greer, Sandra Bartky and Naomi Wolf, as well as examples from advertising and the media, to examine the way that beauty practices are both normatively required and yet interpreted as chosen.

Joyce Heckman, ‘This is What a Feminist Looks Like:  Analysis of Feminist Appearance Negotiations’

Drawing from analysis of in-depth interviews conducted with self-identified feminists, this paper explores the following research question: “How do feminist beliefs impact the way self-identified feminists negotiate their appearance on a daily basis?”  First, there is an examination of how the respondents define “feminism,” and second, by looking at how feminist beliefs impact one’s appearance.  Both parts of the question will be considered separately, and then examined together to determine what conclusions can be drawn regarding feminist appearance.

The project starts with definitions of feminism, both broad and personal, provided by the participants, participants’ own perceptions of the interaction of apparel and the human body as they discuss ways in which they alter their appearance depending on the contexts, environments, and roles in which they find themselves. Furthermore, the work will investigate how modern definitions of the term feminism affect how these women have developed their personal appearance and what types of dress and appearance they associate with the feminist movement.

The purpose of this paper is to provide an analysis of feminist appearance and to explore appearance negotiations feminists use in their everyday lives. A secondary goal is to discover if feminists feel their appearance choices conflict with their feminist beliefs.


Melanie Latham, ‘‘If it aint broke don’t fix it?’: Scandals, ‘risk’, and cosmetic surgery regulation in the UK and France’

The recent PIP scandal that affected patients worldwide, and received extensive media coverage, led to concerns being felt by patients about the ‘risks’ of cosmetic surgery. Theories about regulation and risk refer to societies such as those in the West becoming more risk averse. Regulation, in turn, has come to be seen as an instrument to solve a problem for a community seen to be or which perceives itself to be at risk. The political and electoral risk acknowledged by government if it ignores that concern, or at least media coverage of it, can lead to regulation, or the tightening up of regulation, as a response. This article looks at current proposals for legislation in the UK following the PIP silicone implant scandal as an example of the risk-regulation premise. Are cosmetic surgery patients in the UK now going to see stricter regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry? The article argues that the UK and France have both reacted to healthcare scandals and the ensuing societal conception of risk by drawing up more thorough legislation on cosmetic surgery than previously existed. France enacted the Kouchner law in 2002 and the UK government published the Keogh Report in April 2013. A comparison is made of these to establish whether the UK can learn from the French legislation when it comes to drafting actual regulation in the future, perhaps in 2014. Finally, some arguments are made about whether risk aversion may make better law.

Herjeet Marway, ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Race and beauty’

This paper explores norms of beauty from the perspective of race, in particular whether such norms (covertly or overtly) are merely racially insensitive or more seriously racist. The discussion will draw on four arguments about racial insensitivity and racism, which have been used in debates about race in general (such as in discussions about intellectual abilities, racial profiling, and integration) and consider them in relation to beauty ideals. Beauty has not been explored in quite the same way as these other areas in philosophy, perhaps because it is deemed trivial.

First, drawing on Lawrence Blum’s (2002) strong definition of racism, this paper will argue that prevalent beauty norms are potentially racist because they might lead to inferiorisation of nonwhite races and, for nonwhite women, may lead to antipathy directed towards the self as a member of a racial group. Second, drawing on Joshua Glasgow’s (2009) less stringent definition of racism that relies on disrespect, argue that even if we cannot support the view that there is inferiorisation and antipathy, the norms are racist because they are humiliating for women that do not fit the fair-skin, narrow nose, fine hair, hairless archetype. Third, following debates about whether profiling is expressively or intrinsically racist (Risse and Zeckhauser 2004; Lever 2005), that beauty norms like the ones being discussed are only made possible in light of background conditions of racism (as well as sexism whereby women, so often, are judged primarily according to their looks) but that they are constitutively racist too. The beauty norm is itself a manifestation of racist tendencies and does a great deal of harm to nonwhite women. Fourth and finally, following debates about integration (Anderson 2010, 2013; James, Taylor 2013), the paper will argue that beauty norms are racist because they (subtly) demand assimilation to a dominant white ideal.


Jean McHale, ‘Children, cosmetic procedures and perfectionism: A case for legal regulation?’

In the past the debates concerning cosmetic surgery were largely focused upon adult choices, questions of autonomy, the boundaries of social acceptability and safety. But the rise in the use of cosmetic procedures in relation to those under the age of legal majority has started to become a question of concern for both clinicians and regulators, so much so that in Australia this has led to legal regulation. Has the time now come to consider these questions in the UK itself and whether we too need to go down the path of using the law to constrain clinical and related "beauty" practices in relation to minors?

This paper first examines the normalizing of perfectionism as evidenced through what appears to be increased social acceptability of bodily modification for cosmetic purposes in general and in the context of children and adolescents specifically. Secondly, it examines whether a case for the regulation or prohibition of cosmetic surgery concerning minors can be made and explores issues around societal harm. Thirdly, it examines if such procedures should be restricted wholly or in part then what possible regulatory models could be adopted.

Annabel Mednick, ‘Under the Skin: an examination into the process of portrait drawing to discover the person within...’

Red haired, middle aged mother of three Annabel Mednick has changed her body shape many times over the years, and at the moment is ageing. She has managed to remain married despite finding that nothing she does lengthens her legs and one ear always remains higher than the other which tends to make her glasses lopsided, but she compensates by buying bright red ones. Oh and she paints a bit....

In recent years Annabel has, alongside her painting, developed work that uses her performance skills in combination with her art practice, with solo and collaborative pieces that explore themes of how women are seen and represented in society.

Clare Murray, ‘Body image, sex and relationships across the lifecycle’

The role of body image in sex and relationships is a complex one, involving psychological, physiological and sociocultural elements. One's relationship to one's own body and internal representations of the body will be discussed in terms of the implications for heterosexual couple relationships and sexual functioning. Examples will be drawn from psychosexual case studies and discussion will focus on the key transitional stages couples are required to negotiate over the course of the lifecycle.


Breana Monique Musella, ‘Beautiful Cancer’

This research aims to explore to what extent non-profit, well intending organizations, perpetuate messages of normative able-bodiedness. These organizations exist to encourage and assist mostly women, in learning ways to beautify the appearance-altering effects of cancer and treatment. There seems to be a continued juxtaposition that expects women, and only women, to have beautiful cancer bodies. These clearly gendered pressures arguably demand women hide their “deformity” and “mutilations” from the world.

The project will explore the ways in which these largely gendered messages police the bodies of the “disabled” as well as the many ways that attending these workshops are largely liberating for women and beneficial to their well-being and contributory to a positive outlook in the face of chronic illness. Moreover, this research will aim to understand the ways in which current societal structures continue to perpetuate dominant western ideologies of racism, classism, sexism, etc., all of which go essentially unquestioned by a culture that compulsively demands conformity to strict social constructions of normativity and deems all else as deviant and problematic.


Anna Westin, ‘Dangerous Beauty: Power, Intelligence and the Role of Beauty’

Since the release of Gone Girl, viewers have articulated a strong range of responses to the female lead role.  This discussion attempts to articulate some of these responses in a philosophical analysis of the use of power, intelligence and beauty, as being exemplified in female lead roles such as Rosamund Pike’s Amy that promote a system of relatedness that is both individually isolating and communally destructive.  Here, the female is exemplified as a beautiful body: tall, slim, blonde, well-manicured.  Yet what marks her out is her sharp intelligence.  This intelligence that is frustrated, then expressed through a series of dark, twisted half-truths show a woman who inhabits both her body and intellect as a powerful self-willing agent, while trapped in a vicious cycle of broken relatedness that leads to death and human hatred. Comparisons will be drawn with Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, who dominates the events of her husband Macbeth’s destiny and shapes the outcome for an entire nation.

Though both female characters are fictitous and are dissimilar in placement in historical and geographical contexts, I would like to consider each of these two females in a phenomenological understanding of the female self.  Drawing on the existentialism of Soren Kierkegaard and the phenomenology of inter-relatedness in Emanuel Levinas, I will suggest that both Gone Girl and Macbeth use the female as a platform through which to explore the tension between self as body and mind.


Jennifer White, ‘Introducing the Case of Indoor Tanning into a Feminist Debate on Harmful Beauty Practices’

This paper investigates a carcinogenic regime which has been largely overlooked by feminist debates of harmful beauty practices: indoor tanning in the pursuit for bronzed ‘beauty’. Starting with a review of the medical literature, the paper then focuses in particular at the incidence of cutaneous malignant melanoma, which has steeply increased in the past 50 years. The medical community consider the main cause for this rise to be the fashion for intermittent sun exposure, specifically the use of sunbeds in cultures with a less sunny climate. With a UV intensity often 10-15 times higher than that of the midday sun, indoor tanning devices pose considerable risks to those in search of a ‘cosmetic tan’.

Nevertheless, allegedly ‘safe’, ‘controlled’ sunbed use is legal in the UK for those over the age of sixteen. Due to the unregulated nature of this industry, it is considered the responsibility of the individual to gauge what constitutes ‘safe’ sunbed usage. It is thus a concern that the term ‘tanorexia’ has now entered our cultural vocabulary, coined to describe a type of mental disease or disorder in which the ‘afflicted’ person is preoccupied in the pursuit of achieving a dark tan.  Whilst the label ‘tanorexia’ may seem trivial, and is yet to appear in the DSM, there is a new body of medical literature which proposes the addictive-like nature of sunbed use.

This paper critiques the alleged links between ‘obsessive’ sun-bed use and BDD, and argues against the medicalisation of this cultural beauty regime, drawing on Bordo’s critique of the medicalisation of anorexia. Tanning as a phenomenon which cannot be understood solely as ‘tanorexia’; there is a wide scope of tanning behaviours, and it is problematic to categorise excessive tanning as symptomatic of a perceptual defect, a compulsion, or an addiction.


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