I'm struggling through a chapter draft this week. It needs to go to my supervisor early next week if I want any chance of staying on target. In the hope of feeling vaguely productive I thought a blog post might be in order. An interesting comment from a sewing blog I read made me think about how well blogging, as opposed to thesis/book writing fits into makeover culture as a whole, her comment that a blog is always a work in progress, much like the body in makeover culture (see Jones 2008) made me realise that my blog will never be finished, never be perfect, and will always benefit more from progress (i.e. actually writing something) than from perfection.
A while back I was set the task of translating my research for a lay audience, a 500 word summary of what I am looking at. I thought I would drag it out to have a read through this morning and here it is.
500 Words Revised for Public Audience
Over the last three decades our bodies have become increasingly important to our concept of ‘self’, so much so that it has become difficult to separate ‘body’ and ‘self’ in our minds. We see our bodies as enabling or blocking our happiness, our achievements. “I’m too fat too make friends, or get that new job”.... our bodies become an explanation and an excuse for our failure to achieve our goals and even prevent us from setting goals altogether. The thought that if only I were thinner, prettier and younger I would be a better, smarter, more successful, happier person nags in the back of our minds.
Where once to be ‘oneself’ was to be an individual today the majority of us want nothing more than to be ‘normal’. The body, as our most visible expression of ‘self’ has become a key tool of social acceptance, so it is not surprising that work to normalise the body has become critical to our perception of happiness and personal wealth. The 21st century body is not a natural thing but a man-made one. Modern technology supports us all the way as we attempt to make our ‘always already’ technologised bodies/selves over into clones of the images that we are bombarded with everyday in magazines and on TV. Make up, cosmetic surgery, expensive gym and beauty equipment are all today considered normal technologies in the creation of the beautiful self.
If the ‘me’ we want to be, is to be found through experimenting with and ‘making over’ our bodies it is not surprising that we are avid readers of women’s magazines and follow cosmetic surgery and weight loss programs with great interest on the television. The media both drives and enables conformity by dictating a modern feminine ideal and presenting us with the inspiration and encouragement we are looking for. Femininity is no longer measured through a woman’s relationship with her husband and children. Now, perceptions of a woman’s femininity are based on her body.
The increasing importance of the body in our society suggests that our body obsession will continue to increase over the next decade. As technologies such as cosmetic surgery become increasingly affordable more of us will take drastic measures to conform. Western women today may claim to be in control of their lives and their bodies. But is the pressure to conform to the feminine ideal still a result of patriarchal control as argued by the second wave feminists in the 1970s? Or is the toned, tanned and trim body genuinely the result of a self-imposed discipline? Many women see the feminisation and sexualisation of their bodies as a tool which enables them to achieve their goals. Through physical discipline they maintain control of their bodies and use them to their own advantage. But all too it often seems that the perfect body is always just out of our reach.