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A Rite of Passage - Bringing your Daughter to Dance Class

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As I drop my two daughters off at their dance classes, I look around the studio building and see all girls. Today, the overwhelming majority of the student population engaged in dance education and training is female (HEADS 2018). Why not bring sons to dance? What is Western society trying to encourage or develop in females by exposing them to dance? What does dance teach females about their bodies and their movement? I know what I hope to develop in my daughters by bringing them to dance class. As a professional dancer, choreographer, and educator, I want them to feel the power of their bodies, experience the connection between the body and mind, to know intimately the medium they experience life through, and to tap into the lineage of the strong women who created modern dance technique. Modern dance is one of the few art forms which women have dominated as creative forces. If I had boys, I would want them to dance for the same reasons. However, I am aware of other reasons to bring you…

Men’s body dissatisfaction is serious: But we shouldn’t blame women for it

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(A version of this blog was first published in The Conversation.com under a Creative Commons license.)

'Body dissatisfaction' is extensively reported among men and it’s harmful. The research base compellingly shows this. It is related to clinical disorders (e.g., depression) but also, and more commonly, punishing gym routines, overly strict dieting, and repetitive anxious thoughts. For example, as participants in mine and colleagues’ focus groupstold me, body dissatisfaction can mean a waste of money: “you buy it, [try it and think it’s not flattering] and then you just never wear it’ (Peter), a waste of a good time: or “I would like [not have sex] and like my girlfriend would be like ‘Why? There’s no [reason].It’s not even a big deal’ like and I’d go like ‘oh it’s just me, I feel shit about [my stomach size]”’ (Gabriel) or even a waste of a promising career: “I used to be on a swimming team and now I don’t dare go into the pool anymore” (Nathan).
Are women to blame?Effective su…

Promoting Positive Body Image in Women Who Engage in Sport and Exercise

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Women who take part in sport and exercise tend to have more positive body image than other women (e.g. Hausenblas & Fallon, 2006). Positive body image in women who exercise has been linked with a number of factors including relatively greater focus on body performance rather than aesthetics, the fact that exercised bodies tend to be closer to the mainstream cultural ideal in terms of body fat levels and muscle tone, and psychosocial benefits of sport, such as autonomy and competence, that have been linked to more positive body image (e.g. Petrie & Greenleaf, 2012).
Although women who take part in sport and exercise tend to be more positive about their bodies than other women, this does not mean that they do not have body image concerns, and body image concerns have been reported in elite athletes as well as in women who exercise for recreation and general fitness. High-profile elite sportswomen women such as Rebecca Adlington have opened up discussions around women’s body imag…

Body Negativity: What’s wrong with Body Positivity?

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Body positive campaigns have their hearts in the right place. Their messages are good and – you guessed it – positive:
Be resilient. Be confident. Love your body. You are beautiful. All bodies are beautiful.
These campaigns work for some. Some respond well and do feel more confident. If they work for you, go for it, fantastic and I’m all for it. I am not suggesting we shouldn’t teach resilience, we should. But we should not see it as the answer, we should recognise it is limited. Resilience can be counter-productive. If resilience is something you should do then you feel bad if you can’t quite manage it. What if you are not body confident, what if you don’t feel positive about your body?
It is hard to be resilient in the face of a dominant and powerful beauty ideal. In a visual and virtual culture, our bodies are ourselves. Feeling ashamed of our bodies really is being ashamed of our selves. If we are feeling shame, telling us we shouldn’t feel like we do can make it worse. It can make …

Culture and Context: A lifespan perspective on beauty

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This month’s blog is a provocation. It is an invitation to, perhaps, imagine a different narrative about appearance and beauty…….not one that emphasizes consumerism or declares that everyone is beautiful or that attention to, or a focus on, appearance is trivial and beauty work is oppressive – an aspect of a patriarchal society. Of course, beauty work exists within the norms of a patriarchal society that, along with a consumerist edict, negatively impact notions of appearance and beauty, but that is only a partial telling of the story of human appearance. I am certainly not the first person to put forth this narrative – there are notable exceptions – Ribeiro,Hollows, Brand, Cahill, Craig, Gibson, Peiss. What follows, this blog, is based on research, interviews conducted with a diverse group of women and men from both the UK and the US. Coordinated Management of Meaning or CMM informed the interview process and grounded theory was used to analyse the data. The focus of the interviews w…

Cosmetic Surgery Tourism: Self-Improvement in a Risky World

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Why risk cosmetic surgery? Why risk infection, pain, possibility of life-long complications, just to look prettier? All surgery is dangerous but facelifts aren’t the same as (say) knee replacements that enhance our lives in obvious ways; with knee replacements we weigh up the risks versus the benefits and decide the risks are worth it. And choosing to have cosmetic surgery abroad, adding a foreign country into the mix, that’s just madness!
Contrary to popular opinion, ‘unnecessary’ cosmetic surgery may improve life as much as a ‘necessary’ knee replacement. Of the 100+ recipients of cosmetic surgery tourism that Ruth Holliday, David Bell and I interviewed, observed, and travelled with for our forthcoming book Beautyscapes: mapping cosmetic surgery tourism (MUP, 2019),  all had carefully weighed risk against benefit. They told us that they hoped cosmetic surgery would give them better opportunities at work, in romance, in day to day living. Further, they sought cosmetic surgery abroad,…

Hair Product Marketing, Online Beauty Communities, and Curly Hair

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Shampoo labels are really, really frustrating. The label of a shampoo or conditioner tends to have the following structure: the label will list a desired effect for the product, or a problem with hair that the product aims to remedy, and then may also provide a special ingredient that causes the desired effect. Take a look at the below labels:


Each label follows the above structure. Respectively, each product claims to smooth hair, repair split ends, or protect hair colour, and then mentions an ingredient. The wording of the label is very interesting here. Each label presents the desired effect of the product, and presents the special ingredient right next to this. But what the label doesn’t do is use a construction such as ‘with argan oil FOR long-lasting colour’, or ‘with marula oil FOR smoother hair’.
This unusual wording persists across manufacturers. In each case, the product manufacturer is being very careful about making specific claims about the efficacy of these special ingre…