Showing posts from June, 2017

Light except Lupita: The representation of Black women in magazines

I’m a body image researcher and unlike Edith Piaf I have a lot of regrets about it. In my last post, I outlined my regret for my field’s minimization of injustices that are simply more urgent than having body image concerns. I also regret my field when it treats now near universal body dissatisfaction as something caused by individual level factors i.e., because a person compares themselves too much to others, has the wrong kind of thinking patterns or their hormones are imbalanced. And I regret my field when it pronounces Black women immune to developing body image issues because of our racist ideas about Black culture and booty sizes (as noted by Bordo, 2003) .  Previous research in the body image field has even eschewed the influence of media on body image. Specifically Christopher Ferguson concludes in the biggest meta-analysis of experimental research to date on the media’s impact on body dissatisfaction: “media effects are generally minimal and limited to those with pre-exi

Labiaplasty – Female genital mutilation Western style?

A young teenager, Amanda D (not her real name), aged 13, comes with her mother to see her family doctor (GP), Dr Frances C. She looks embarrassed and avoids eye contact with the doctor. Her mother speaks on her behalf: “ We think there is something wrong with her vulva – would you mind checking? ” Frances endeavours to set Amanda at ease, and asks if her if she is happy to be examined. Amanda agrees. On the examination couch, Frances sees that Amanda has mildly protuberant, but healthy, normal inner labia (labia minora). She is perplexed: “Amanda’s vulva is completely normal – why is she here?” she asks. “Well”, says the mother defensively, “she doesn’t look like me. ” Meanwhile, Amanda, looking relieved, is hastily getting dressed. Frances is appalled – imagine the damage one can do by suggesting to an adolescent that she has an ‘abnormality’ at the very time when bodily concerns and self-consciousness are at their height! Frances tells both of them in no uncertain terms that

Can you be a feminist and wear make-up?

There is scholarly and popular debate over whether one can be simultaneously consider oneself a feminist and engage in commercial beautifying rituals such as wearing make-up, high heels, or be interested in fashion. Although we may technically be in an era of fourth-wave feminism, the dispute between ‘third-wave’ feminists and ‘second-wave’ feminists on female consumerism remains largely unresolved. Second-wave’ feminism is often characterised by the critique of the portrayal of women in the media and advertising thanks to the iconic work of leading feminists of the day to include Betty Friedan’s “The Feminist Mystic”, Naomi Wolf’s “The Beauty Myth”, and Jean Kilbourne’s film “Killing Us Softly”. Crudely, the zeitgeist among second wave feminists was that that beauty, fashion, media and advertising were oppressive to the advancement of women and thus should be boycotted, protested and campaigned against. In contrast, ‘third-wave’ or ‘post’ feminists view the pursuit of beau

Selfie-conscious? Challenging normative understandings of social media and mental health

In May 2017, The Royal Society for Public Health released a study which contended that Instagram is the “worst” social media platform when it comes to impact on young people’s mental health. The poll focused on issues relating to anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and body image, concluding that “social media may be fuelling a mental health crisis among young people” (BBC, 2017). These negative perceptions of social media aren’t new. In recent years, social media has become a breeding ground for moral panic, with newspapers warning that everything from sexting to selfies is indicative of some kind of health epidemic or moral deterioration. Indeed, the Royal Society for Public Health report follows the recent trend in mainstream media to “blame” social media for various social ills and highlight social media use(s) as indicative of wider social “problems”. That “millennials” (usually understood to be a cohort of people born between 1980 and 2000) are uniquely narcissistic