Showing posts from April, 2017

Musings of an unlovable hairy gorilla-woman

The norm for women to remove visible body hair is perhaps one of the strongest norms of appearance in Western society. Although more and more men are starting to wax and shave, there is still a sense in many social contexts, I think, that this is optional. For women, however, it is viewed as essential in almost all social contexts. From a feminist perspective, this norm can be critiqued in two ways. Firstly, it can be assessed in terms of its effects: women spend time and money removing body hair, time and money they could be spending on other things instead. Moreover, I’m not sure it’s something many women particularly enjoy; from talking to friends about removing body hair, I get the impression that most of them experience it as a chore rather than a treat. Many describe the prospect of not removing body hair as unthinkable. Secondly, it can be assessed in terms of its social meaning. As Sandra Bartky (1990) points out, the hairless female body, which typically occurs naturally only…

Debra Gimlin: Academic Obituary

The body might be a location of domination, but it is also a tool for resistance and agency in the construction and reconstruction of contemporary selfhood (2002: 149). The benefits of aesthetic procedures are largely outweighed by their cultural meanings and, particularly, by their suggestion of vanity, selfishness and self-indulgence (2012: 2).

Shocks reverberated through sociological and feminist networks as people heard that our much admired and loved colleague Professor Debra Gimlin had unexpectedly died. I expect myself, still, to pick up the phone and hear her deep, slightly lispy Southern Belle accent (after many years in the UK her Texas drawl was still very much a part of her embodiment), to rush off for martinis with her after a long day of conferencing, or to receive one of her quirky and meaningful packages in the post (mine were a bottle of Moët, a pendant necklace in the shape of a vulva, and a pack of razors—I’m sure that other friends have equally diverse collections to…

“You might not notice it … but I do”: Shame and Cosmetic Surgery

Augmenting the Body: Disability, Care and the Posthuman is an interdisciplinary research project that explores practices of bodily augmentation, from caring robots to prosthetic limbs, across the fields of English, Engineering, Healthcare, Philosophy, and Robotics. The project, led by Professor Stuart Murray and funded by a Wellcome Trust Seed Award, involves collaborators from the University of Leeds, the University of Exeter, and Sheffield Robotics.
In this post, one of the collaborators working on the project—Dr Luna Dolezal (University of Exeter)—offers a snapshot of her work on the relationship between bodily augmentation through cosmetic surgery and beauty demands.

It is only very recently that elective cosmetic surgery has entered the mainstream as a routine and socially acceptable way to alter appearance. In the 1950s, for example, aesthetic plastic surgery was a largely marginal and unknown medical practice. Just a few decades later, it is a recognized medical speciality, not t…