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Young People’s Engagement with Social Media: The Case for Developing Adult Digital Literacy

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It is well established that young people make extensive use of social media. In the UK, 83% of 12-15 year olds have a smartphone, 99% go online for over 20 hours per week, and 69% have a social media profile. It is certainly apparent that social media is a key resource in the lives of contemporary young people and is a central space for the development of identities and relationships, as well as emotional regulation, self-expression, learning and much more. At the same time, many adults find young people’s uses of social media concerning. The dominant narratives that surround young people and social media tend to be associated with risk, and the potential for negative impacts, in areas including body image and body dissatisfaction.

The key challenge is that the contemporary digital world differs greatly to the childhood experiences of most adults, and this has inevitably created difficulties for the ways in which policy makers, schools, health and education professionals/practitioners,…

Here Come the Boys: Make-up and Masculinity

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I’ve become more and more interested in the advertisements that appear on my Facebook feed and what this seems to indicate about who Facebook think I am, what my interests and aspirations are. This has shifted recently from amusement at the back shavers, ear-hair clippers and baldness cures that it might be imagined would appeal to a bald middle aged man to (as the ads have become more specialized and targeted) a more critical thinking about the gendered and sexualized subject that the ad algorithm constructs and presents back to me, anchored very much around ideas of male beauty.

I’m discussing this in this blog because my targeted ads are currently overwhelmingly about male grooming and beauty products. This includes a number of advertisements for men’s cosmetics such as the brands Altr for Men and War Paint.  I find myself thinking about this after reading a BBC online article that asks us if men’s make-up is going ‘mainstream’. The picture that Bel Jacobs’ rather excitable article …

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

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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?

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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

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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

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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…