Tag Archives: Femininity

Breast augmentation and female sexuality

The Daily Star and Daily Mail recently ran articles speculating whether Coleen Rooney had had a ‘boob job’. According to the Daily Star, apparently ‘Wayne splashed out £10,000 for his wife to have a breast enlargement as a present in the wake of allegations about him sleeping with prostitutes’. Whether Mrs Rooney has had cosmetic surgery on her breasts or not, breast augmentation tells us something about contemporary gender relations and specifically notions of femininity and female sexuality.

According to Bordo (1999: 283) the pornographisation of culture and changing media representations of girls’ and women’s bodies, since the 1950s, has meant that both girls/boys and wo/men have become socialized to expect to see female breasts as ‘glorious globes standing at attention even when supine’. She goes on to point out that ‘real breasts are the anomaly in visual culture today; it’s rather a shock when a naked actress lies down and her breasts flop off to the side. It doesn’t look right anymore’. What Bordo is arguing, is that the contemporary ‘idealised’ and ‘sexualised’ female body is one that doesn’t have ‘natural’ breasts, and as such, results in many girls and women being dissatisfied with their bodies. For some women at least, such dissatisfaction leads to breast augmentation. Indeed, statistics on plastic surgery in the UK (see link below) show many more women than men undergoing the surgeon’s knife, especially for breast enlargement.

Coleen’s £10k Boob Job

Plastic surgery in the UK

Cosmetic surgery

Are we what we eat?

Having read the previous post ‘Dining with death’ I thought I’d offer a short gendered perspective on vegetarianism.

It is no accident that in Western cultures the vast majority of vegetarians are women – only about 30% are men. One of the key reasons for this is that there is a strong link between the eating of animal flesh and maleness (Potts and Parry, 2010). So entrenched is this connection that men’s consumption of meat is seen as an exemplar of normative masculinity (Sobal, 2005). Indeed it is widely considered to be an essential sustenance for the healthy male body. Red meat in particular is seen as important for men because it consists of muscle (much like the prototypical image of the male body), which provides for strength, energy and virility. Red meat is frequently eaten in a semi-cooked or near raw state with signs of blood thereby symbolising vitality and strength (Potts and Parry, 2010).

Eating red meat in a more or less raw state also enables a power relationship to be formed between the slaughtered animal and the consumer that links to masculine power and domination over nature (Fiddes, 1991). A refusal to consume meat thereby signals the opposite of red-blooded masculinity – femininity. Such gendered notions are often expressed in the media by ‘hunter-gatherer’ metaphors (Gough, 2007). Not surprisingly then, fewer men than women are vegetarian. Vegetarian men typically come under more scrutiny than women and often bear the brunt of ridicule for their choice of food.

Vegetarianism

Masculinity

Ageing, beauty and women’s bodies

696px-Anti-aging_creamThe recent article in the Daily Mail newspaper ‘No longer the bees’ knees: Should any woman show her legs after 40?’ tells us much about the social expectations of feminine identities. In Western societies femininity is presented, in various media discourses (e.g. film, newspapers), in opposition to hegemonic masculine identities. Although media discourses constitute ‘ideal’ femininities, many women act upon and determine their own individual identities in relation to them. ‘Ideal’ femininity typically encompasses aspects of beauty, slenderness and stylishness, which are commonly linked to the youthful body. The individual can attempt to gain or maintain those aspects of femininity by consuming a myriad of anti-ageing and grooming products, cosmetics and various diet and exercise programmes. As social psychologists, understanding the pressure to conform these discourses exert on the individual, helps us understand the growth of more extreme forms of body maintenance such as eating disorders and cosmetic surgery.

square-eye Daily Mail ‘No longer the bees’ knees: Should any woman show her legs after 40?

square-eye Body talk: Questioning the assumptions in cognitive age

square-eye Body weight preoccupation in middle-age and ageing women: A general population survey