Archive for July, 2005

Body Beautiful

The Beauty Log

I don’t spend much time on my appearance. Take a look. Here’s what I did over the past week. I didn’t count things like applying sunscreen or bug repellant because I’d say those things are more for health than beauty. There’s a fuzzy line between those two things. Here’s the list:

  • Monday
  • 15 mins: Evening shower and shave

  • Tuesday
  • 1 min: Hair brushing
    45 In-class nail picking (gross, I know)
    15 mins: Evening shower and shave

  • Wednesday
  • 5 Hair brush
    15 mins: Evening shower and shave

  • Thursday
  • 15 mins: Morning shower and shave
    2mins: Blow dry

  • Friday
  • 15 mins: Morning shower and shave
    5mins: Blowdry

  • Saturday
  • 10mins: Shower

  • Sunday
  • 15mins: Shower and shave

    Total time spent: 158 minutes (2 hours 38 minutes).

It’s actually more time than I thought. I cannot imagine if I had some elaborate routine of plucking, preening, and painting. How do people find the time for it?

For me, at this time and place in my life, spending time on my appearance means basic hygiene ( showering). I quit shaving my legs when I was fifteen years old because I refused to conform to society’s beauty standards. I was already a misfit and this just added to my character. Eventually I learned to ignore the heckling. For fifteen years I let my body grow whatever hair it wanted, wherever it wanted.

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California girls

image of booth babes dressed in red

These women and many others were posing for photos with geeks galore at this year’s E3 in Los Angeles. The “booth babes” (as they are called) are as much of a draw for the Electronic Entertainment Expo as the new releases.

Body Scripts: Cultural Representations

August 2005’s Cosmopolitan features an ad for Tampax Fresh: “the only cardboard tampon that doesn’t smell like a cardboard tampon.” The image used in this advertisement perpetuates dualistic paradigms and characteristics about women’s bodies.

add for tampax fresh

Beguile your senses.
Succumb to the freshness.

The colour white is associated with purity. This advertisement uses the colour white to symbolize that this menstruating woman is clean. Even though blood is leaving her body this woman has no odour — in fact her menses is fresh-scented. Women’s bodies are associated with nature/the wild and in need of taming/conquering. This leads to viewing their natural body functions as needing to be managed.

The use of water in this image furthers the idea of purity because water is used (symbolically and literally) to cleanse and purify. With water this woman cleanses herself of blood so that she can maintain her purity.

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All dressed up . . .

image of girls dressed up

Isn’t she the cutest thing?

Not Born a Woman: Gender Socialization & The Female Body

I cannot remember much from when I was little. My earliest memories begin with school. When I was a little girl I was teased a lot. Children love to taunt when they receive a reaction and because I got upset easily (still do) I became a daily target. Mostly I was told that I was ugly. This was probably the worst name a young girl growing up in the late 70s could be called. Everyone around me, myself included, knew that it was important for women to be beautiful or else no one would marry them. Marriage was paramount and it was talked about constantly on the playground even if we all did have cooties.

Because I so desperately did not want to be ugly I tried to combat this by becoming hyperfeminine in the only ways I could understand. I tried to be a very good girl. I never got in trouble, I did all my schoolwork quickly, I helped the teacher, I helped other students, and I tried to be friendly and ‘nice’. A perfect young lady. Not only did this not help me in the schoolyard, it stuck me with the label Teacher’s Pet.

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Baby Abby

Theorizing the Body

There are four main/popular schools of thought in regards to feminist theory:

    social constructionist, and

The two that have the most relevance to me are social constructionist and post-structuralist theory although I know I am influenced by all four in understanding the female bodies around me.

I have been told that there are things I am not allowed to do because I am female. In childhood I was discouraged from some things while being encouraged in others because there were social mores in place about what boys and girls ‘should’ do. Thus I was encouraged to bake and dance and my brother was encouraged to help in the garage and to build things. I was anxious around power tools and behind the wheel of a car because I had been taught that these are things girls were not good at. It was never explained to me what part of my corporeality created this inferiority, it was simply presented to me as fact. As I have gotten older and read and observed more I realize there is nothing innate in me as a woman that predisposes me to baking and dancing just like there was nothing innate in my brother than led him to mechanics. But now I am a dance teacher and he is a mechanic. Even though I have power tools of my own (and have developed skill in using them) we both followed the teachings we received in our childhoods.

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Put ’em all together and what does it spell?

Exotic Erotic at the Electronic Entertainment Expo

image of exotic booth babe

This woman like the other booth babes stands ready to have her picture taken with anyone who requests it. Although I’ve captured her at a slow moment (closing time on the very last day of the convention) she was of particular interest. She represents the exotic and erotic appeal of a doubly subordinated group of women. Buy taking her photograph, dominant society can attempt to appropriate her culture further. There is no contemplation of whether this culture is real or fabricated only for the context of the game she is promoting. She is ‘different’ and that is all that matters. She is ripe for colonization, both as a representative of her culture, and as an individual. Her body is the gateway to this.

Racialized Bodies

Because I am white I have experienced the privilege of being part of my society’s dominant group. I have never worried that I would be the only person ‘like me’ wherever I have needed to go. I have not stood out as being visibly different and in the community where I live; whenever I have preferred to blend into a crowd I have been able to do so.

I live minutes from Detroit, Michigan where in many communities I am a visible minority. Because I am white I have been taught to be afraid of going across the border because my colour puts me in danger as if all Black people in Detroit are gun toting and blood-thirsty with a hatred of all white people. Even though I know this is a stereotype, years of brainwashing and minimal experience have left me feeling insecure in some parts of the city. I have been warned by customs officers not to go places. Police officers have escorted white women I know out of neighbourhoods where they “were not supposed to be”. It is hard to separate which reason justified the warning and escort: is it because we are women or because we are white? Or are the two so linked that they cannot (and should not) be separated?

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