Skip to main content

Body Insecurity and the Quest for Social Prestigue

I want to argue that body insecurity is related to social inequality, and the things people (men and women) are insecure about are related to their social class, gender, race, and age in ways that are unique to their sets of oppression. In all of these groups, the things they focus on and want to change are related to the privileges they seek to attain based on their current oppression. To make this point I will go through a variety of different races, genders, classes, ages, etc and analyze how their body insecurity is related to their oppression and their seek to change their body is related to trying to gain privilege. 
Black women. Insecurities: Hair texture, too thin, too fat, butt shape and size, skin color, eye color. (I am sure there are more but just to name a few) most of the insecurities of black women are related to their race and gender status. Some are related to being female, and trying to gain social acceptance by gaining acceptance by males. Another facet is trying to gain social acceptance by embracing whiteness, like straightening hair or wearing a wig.

Asian women. Insecurities: low nose bridge, too big of calves, eye lid crease, hair color. Again a lot of these insecurities are because of their oppression associated with being asian, so they might try to change to white ideals of beauty and may go as far as plastic surgery to change the bridge of their nose or get an artificial eye lid crease. 
Poor Women. Insecurities: clothing, weight, missing teeth, hygienic appearance. Many of the insecurities of poor women are related to them being poor. Many are self conscious of their clothing, or that they have missing teeth because they don’t have money for a dentist. As well as hygienic appearance. These are related to their class, and ways to improve it are ways to gain privilege by appearing to be a higher class than they are (i.e. wearing nicer clothing etc) 
Low class to working class men: without a way to gain power by money, or status, there develops an excessive amount of effort and body insecurity regarding physical size as a means to show power. Many body insecurities regard lack of muscle and lack of a tough look. I would argue that this seeking status through bodily power is why MMA fighting like UFC is predominantly men from lower class backgrounds. It is a way to seek status, power and recognition in alternate ways besides money and class. 
Old women: Insecurities: winkles, aging, etc. All of these are related to trying to gain privilege by trying to look physically young. In our culture those who are young are privileged (especially women since their bodies and physical appearance are much more related to status than men) 
Finally. Almost all literature on body insecurity covers one very stereotypical narrow type of person. A white, heterosexual, middle-class, teenage woman. It is harder to see how her insecurities are related to oppression. This women is for the most part the epitome of privilege, with the exception of female gender. There are many theories of thinness as a way to objectify and control women. I won’t go into it but the desire for thinness can be seen as a way to try to gain privilege by being accepted by more privileged males (since they control a majority of expenses, attractiveness and appeal to males to marry you would be a good way to gain capital)
I also want to note that our need for attractiveness is very related to our need to be socially accepted or our need to rise in social class. For instance, the start of adolescence marks a huge rise in body insecurity, and I don’t think this is coincidental. I would argue that in a time of such need for social acceptance, body consciousness goes through the roof. On the contrary, when one feels rather content, socially accepted, and has adequate access to money, their body consciousness seems to fall. (somewhat anecdotal evidence here) I would argue that dress and appearance is also very important when one is seeking a job promotion for the sake of gaining social status. 
So here I present body consciousness as a form of internalized oppression, and moreover the attempts to correct body shape, size and appearance is an active attempt to gain social standing and status in a group. 
While much of this is speculative, and theoretical, I did get my basic ideas from this source: (The Intersectional Approach: Transforming the academy through race, class & gender) (Authors, Michele Tracy Berger & Kathleen Guidroz) (p. 173-189) (terrible and lazy citation I know)


Popular posts from this blog

An Argument Against Sociology Being a Bullshit Study

So, as a Sociology major I have (perhaps inevitably) come across people who have voiced their opinions on why sociology is a crock, convoluted, an unacceptable method for conducting science, and not a valid (impractical) study. I hope to address these issues and give a thorough defense of my field, for (obviously) if I had no defense, I should not be a sociology major. I do completely welcome criticism and comments to what I write, and in fact I would love some. I thoroughly believe that the best analysis is derived from discussion and (logical) argumentation. I have put in  bold  the main points since I realize many of you probably do not want to read my god-knows-how-long argument.  SO on with it. I guess I will address the different arguments I have come across one by one Sociology is not credible because it borrows from so many other fields .  Indeed, Sociology is extremely interdisciplinary, but I think the complexity is what makes it so grand. We could limit Sociology b

My problems with the strong is the new skinny campaign

When the 'strong is the new skinny' campaign first started, I was pretty excited about it. The first article I saw was a woman who used to be what she considered anorexic. She said she was weak, and barely ate. She fell in love with weight lifting, and said it gave her confidence, strength and courage. She explained how before lifting she was taught to deprive herself, to lack confidence in her body, and be weak. After lifting she felt proud of her new strength, could eat (and was supposed to eat) more, and felt a sense of progress towards muscle, versus progress towards being smaller. She posted new photos of herself showing she didn't look much different (she didn't 'get huge'). Her photos though were fairly normal looking. She probably had a healthy 10-20% body fat, and you could tell she had some solid muscle. Her muscle, however, wasn't rippling out of her skin, and it isn't supposed to be. There are two main types of weight training I want to tal

A 15 minute exercise for anxiety or depression.

As your hands fumble across countless sites of self-help and coping, this post might have come up. I know the feeling. The feeling of your head being a electric sarcophagus. Of so many negative thoughts and feelings ripping through you like a tornado. You can't concentrate. You can't eat. Living is surviving. First, I want you to know that it gets better. It always gets better. Nothing can stay the same. Next I want you to know that everything takes time, but this method will change your relationship with your feelings instantly. The problem with anxiety and depression is often the pink elephant syndrome. Right now I want you to NOT think about pink elephants . Don't do it. If you do something terrible will happen. What are you thinking about? Pink Elephants? Really? Stop doing it. Just stop. Jesus get a hold of yourself. It's an easy task, just stop thinking about pink elephants! Not very effective huh? But this is the tactic us people