The Body

Sorry I’ve not been around a lot in the past few days, apart from the internet connection troubles I am settling in at University again and have been spending more time watching rubbish TV with my housemates (being a proper student 😀 ). Anyway, I did find the time to write a little something.

Nowadays the body is viewed quite differently due to increased mobilisation with the mass use of cars and a change in the job market from labour intensive to office work/computerised systems.

Berber Women

Mostly we experience and theorise about our bodies in medical terms. Critical thinkers have rejected this biological reductionism and state we need to see the body in cultural, social, economic and political contexts. Feminists agree that the body should be recongnised as a part of the surrounding environment. For instance, male bodies are stronger because they are encouraged to take part in sports which develop muscles. However, Berber women are the ones who carry heavy loads over long distances and thus are viewed as stronger than men.

Phenomenology, briefly, is the idea that the ‘self’ (mind) and body are inextricably linked. When normal body functions become impaired or restricted it’s almost impossible to not reflect on the ‘self’. Medical illnesses can not only disrupt how the biological body works but can cause psychological issues resulting in a loss of self-confidence, hence, affecting social life, economic participation etc. Something I’m intimately aware of.

Phenomenology provides a bridge between the naturalist perspective which advocates the body as a biological entity and social constructionism which focuses on the body in a cultural context, being influenced by the society within which it resides.

To me, the body cannot be separated from the ‘self’ as Cartesian dualists claim, as the intentions of the ‘self’ have a direct effect on the body. If you decide to climb a vertical cliff your body takes the strain, similarly if you prefer to restrict exercise to the more conventional morning jog/walk it’s the body which ultimately becomes stronger and consequently causes your self-esteem to build.

In the modern age where beauty is defined in comparison with air-brushed magazine photos and tall, slim models inevitably generations of insecure people have learnt to assess and criticise their bodies in conjunction with their self-worth. This attitude has created the ‘beauty myth’ of socially constructed, unattainable beauty.

In desperation many turn towards the medical profession and cosmetic surgery. This technology could be utilised to create uniqueness but instead it’s exploited to form ‘normality’. The freckles which brought individual character to your face are deemed unsightly and the laughter lines by your eyes which show a life of experience and fulfillment also have to be cast away. It’s as though society wishes to stifle personality by subtly encouraging us that our appearance is somehow ‘wrong’ because we don’t confirm to the ‘norm’. The consumer culture is not only exploiting our pockets, influencing our opinions and lifestyles but causing the body to be objectified in a manner which disregards personality or talent. Just look at celebrities, what does Katie Price actually do? Who cares, with knockers like that she can force herself into the media all she likes. Who cares if the latest singer mimes during live concerts because they can’t really sing, as long as they look the part they’re allowed to strut about on stages across the globe.

Cosmetic surgery primarily targets women, some feminists see this as an extension of patriarchy as men seek to control and objectify women through the ‘beauty myth’. Other feminists argue medical professionals don’t advocate patriarchy but seek to increase their own influence and acquire power.

Whatever your view on the ‘beauty myth’ and cosmetic surgery it’s evident society is being oppressed and educated into a docile, false consciousness which is responsible for the lack of confidence and inferiority experienced by those who attempt to resist the ‘norm’.

(Obviously I’m talking about cosmetic surgery for beauty, not for reconstruction after burning, skin cancer or other accidents/illnesses).

Main References:

Katie Davis Reshaping the Female Body: the dilemma of cosmetic surgery

Susan Bordo Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body

B.S.Turner Medical power and Social Knowledge  and The Body and Society: explorations in social theory

N.Wolf The Beauty Myth: how images of beauty are used against women

Images from google


Just a little thought

Picture from Facebook perhaps? I can’t remember, I saved it a while ago. 😀

I’m as guilty as the next woman, I enjoy shopping for clothes and shoes and making an effort to look nice. But if there were less made-up girls in the world the rest of us would feel more comfortable in ourselves. When I dress up to go out I still do the bare minimum; a bit of makeup along with doing the best to make my curly, frizzy hair organise itself into ringlets (without the aid of curling tongues, and a lot of the time I let it dry naturally – I’m lazy). In front of my mirror I think I look quite pretty but sometimes you wonder if you should make more of an effort, just to keep up with the high maintenance women of the 21st century. Sure, dress up a bit and look nice but why should we feel the need to plaster on the foundation, wear fake eyelashes (something I’ve never done – I wouldn’t know where to start) and totter about in extremely high, lethal kitten heels? More girls should say “No thanks” and maybe more men would start to appreciate natural beauty rather than the fake version advertised my magazines, TV shows etc.

Saying this, men are targeted by the media more and more. In fact, I’m sure most guys in my classes make more of an effort and spend longer on their hair than I do. Commercialism and the consumer society has made us all victims of desire and appearance, how long will this go on before realisation hits the western world?

The Naked Prince

Prince Harry was photographed (naked) in a Las Vegas hotel room playing strip billiards. If you live in Britain you would’ve heard this story several times over and are frankly sick of it but I wanted to know what the big fuss was all about.

Now, who honestly thought the 27 year old was a virgin? Why can’t he join in the Las Vegas spirit and relax? Why are you so angry at the poor bloke?

Not only is everyone mad at the Prince for allowing himself to be exposed in such a manner but I’ve heard very few reports addressing the security.

Personally, I believe the poor guy should be allowed his privacy. And as for embarrassing the royal family I think in some areas of the UK and probably around the world he’s increased his ‘street cred’ and gained more respect. This behaviour surely shows he’s no different to anybody else. Using this logic, his privacy should be the same as everybody else’s, if semi-naked pictures were printed of a regular citizen they could sue and everyone would be in an outrage over the issue.

Saying this, the Sun found that after they printed the pictures with the excuse ‘everyone’s seen them anyway’ 3600 complaints were filed to the Press Complaints Commission from the public who thought the Prince had a right to a private life.

I read today that a few soldiers in the Army and their wives/girlfriends have photographed themselves naked or semi-naked in support for Prince Harry and posted pictures to a facebook group site. The group ‘Support Prince Harry With A Naked Salute’ has over 13,000 members and rising – a great idea though I don’t think I’ve got the confidence J

Prince Harry’s first public appearance after the scandal is tonight at the Paralympic opening ceremony and I don’t think he’s got anything to be ashamed of and can go out there with his head held high knowing he’s not the one in the wrong. Do you agree?


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Socialisation: Part One

I split this post on socialisation into two parts to make it easier to read as the second half is rather long.

Socialisation: A lifelong process through which people learn appropriate attitudes, values and behaviours in a particular society or culture. Socialisation helps people learn skills and abilities used to interact with others as well aiding them in understanding what kind of person they are. Individuals acquire their culture and become aware of their individuality i.e. as conscious, reflective entities. They develop a self-identity.

Forms of socialisation

  • Primary socialisation – the foundation for all later learning, beginning in infancy and childhood (typically within a family or household of carers).
  • Secondary socialisation – takes place in later childhood and continues in later life when the individual acquires a broader range of social skills and a more detailed knowledge of roles outside the family.
  • Re-socialisation – a specific form of secondary socialisation. It involves discarding former behaviour patterns and accepting new ones as a part of a life transition. Typically involves considerable stress for the individual, much more so than socialisation in general. E.g. prisons, religious conversion, therapy groups, dramatic changes in people’s lives.

Agents of socialisation
Each agent can be analysed deeply, these are just a quick overviews.

  • Family – the lifelong learning process begins shortly after birth, since newborns can hear, see, smell, taste and feel heat, cold, pleasure and pain; they are constantly orientating themselves to the surrounding world. Human beings, especially family members, constitute an important part of their social environment.
  • School – like family, schools have a responsibility to socialise people in the UK to the norms and values of British culture.
  • Peer group – as children grow older, the family becomes less important in social development and peer groups increasingly assume a more significant role – that of ‘significant others’ (individuals who are most important in the development of self). Within peer groups, young people associate with others who are roughly their own age and who often enjoy a similar social status. Peer groups ease the transition to adult responsibilities, although they can be the source of harassment as well as support.
  • Media and technology – in the last 80 years media innovations – radio, cinema, music, TV and internet – have become important agents of socialisation. TV in particular is critical in western societies. Also, the internet leads to globalised socialisation with the same resources available world-wide.
  • Workplace – learning to behave appropriately within an occupation is a fundamental aspect of human socialisation. Socialisation in the workplace changes when it involves a more permanent shift from an after-school job to full employment. Occupational socialisation is most intense during the transition from school to job, but it continues throughout a persons’ work history. Technological advancements may alter the requirements of the position and instigate a degree of re-socialisation. Today people change occupations, employers and places of work many times during their life so occupational socialisation continues throughout a person’s years in the labour market.
  • The state, institutions, politics – the state has a noteworthy impact on the life course by reinstituting rites of passage that had disappeared from agricultural societies and during periods of early industrialisation. E.g. government regulations stipulate the age at which a person can drive a care, drink alcohol, have sex, vote in elections, marry without parental consent, work overtime and retire. These regulations shape the socialisation process by affecting the life course to some degree and by influencing our views of appropriate behaviours at particular ages.

There are many issues with socialisation, if a child is raised by neglectful or abusive parents this affects their socialisation. However, you cannot stereotype and say a child will grow up repeating their parents’ actions; they could take the complete opposite path. Similarly, just because a child grew up in a well-off background with loving parents does not mean they are unable to go spiralling down a dangerous road due to negative influences beyond the home. So which is more important, primary or secondary socialisation? Can secondary socialisation ever correct problems (or endanger positive events) which occurred in primary socialisation?

What have been your experiences with socialisation? Is it a positive or negative phenomenon? Or is it merely a necessary evil since you cannot help but be affected by your surroundings?

To end part one: a word of warning – influences such as the media, politics and institutions should be looked at from a distance since they all have their own agendas and so their truths should not be considered the only answer.

Are we really anti-social criminals?

Anti-social behaviour has become an increasing problem in recent years and sociologists have examined the reasons for this in order to determine whether it is a real issue or merely a moral panic created by media amplification. Anti-social behaviour is usually associated with young people, and it is normally males who gain a worse reputation with the police and society for being ‘hoodies’, also, football hooliganism is another aggressive, predominately masculine culture that is depicted in the media more and more and is already a severe problem for police, especially since some football fans are in bitter, violent rivalry with the opposing teams’ fans.

It is important to distinguish between what is actually anti-social behaviour and what is a social construct created by the media. Some recorded anti-social behaviour is not serious or indeed, really anti-social but has been created by a fear of groups of young people, especially around town. Paul Willis did a study on macho lads and found that since they were labelled as disobedient by teachers and the police they began to believe and live up to this label, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Although, statistics show that over the past few years a ‘ladette’ culture has appeared with female crime rising by around a quarter whereas male crime has remained at a steady level. All over the country men are telling their girlfriends, “leave it, it’s not worth it!” 🙂

Anti-social behaviour occurs due to boredom and the lack of places for young people in city areas to go in the evenings. For instance, over the past view years the amount of free youth clubs has declined meaning that young people find other places such as parks or even bus stations to meet and here they are seen as a threat by the neighbourhood and so become known as anti-social. The media has exaggerated this with help from the government and the introduction of ASBOs (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders) which were designed as a caution young people and were meant to put them off repeating deviant or criminal acts. The media reported where and when these ASBOs were being given out and so created a minor moral panic in certain neighbourhoods. Moreover, instead of being a deterrent to young people, having an ASBO was seen more as a badge of honour in some areas. In fact ASBOs were more affective for the middle classes, who are neither the main problem nor the main target group. (ASBOs have recently been replaced by CBOs – Criminal Behaviour Orders).

Marxists would argue that the media reports large amounts of anti-social behaviour in order to keep attention away from white-collar crime and the activities of the upper classes. Hence, media amplification serves to unite society against groups of young people who are most likely to be working class; an example of this was researched by Jock Young (1971) who used Becker’s ideas on the labelling theory in order to study marijuana users. He found that the police saw them as lazy, dirty drug addicts although at first they were not causing any trouble. Over time they became ostracized from mainstream society and so lived up to their negative label as deviant. The media coverage on the early hippies greatly emphasised the amount of drugs being taken and the amount of deviant or criminal acts being committed and as a result the hippies took to these labels and created a deviant subculture since they were excluded from the rest of society.

Of course, occasionally, a member of the middle to upper class will be singled out as deviant, and used as an example that white-collar crime isn’t ignored. Just think of Jimmy Carr’s tax avoidance, although it wasn’t illegal, it was a deviant act that led to criticism from both politicians and the media. For once, News International and David Cameron were seen as being able to take the moral high ground (not a regular opportunity for either).

Overall, over the years the media has had a profound influence on levels of anti-social behaviour due to its broad scope across society which ensures everyone in the country is aware of social issues that may or may not be exaggerated in a bid to attract readers, watchers or listeners. Is what we see in the media a true picture? Can we really trust our stereotypical images of ‘the criminal’?