ALL PANELS ON TUESDAY, APRIL 19 at 2:50 pm
Unhealthy Social Pressures: Maculinity, Fashion and the “Healthy” Look
Jordan Fraser, Will Donovan and Alex Sauciuc
Appearances are everything. Society is bombarded with the message that one must look good to be happy, and many are influenced into pursuing drastic measures in order to attain the ever-elusive characteristics of idealized beauty. This panel examines society’s fixation on the body and outward appearances, both in terms of how they wish to appear and the lengths to which they will go to achieve their ideals. These topics will be discussed through a historical analysis of male perspectives on masculinity, the hypermasculinizing pressures within the LGBT community and the health issues involved with looking good. Together, these papers outline the prevalence of what can often be unhealthy social pressures and raise questions about modern attitudes towards beauty.
Hard Bodied Hunks: Masculinity in the LGBT Community
by Jordan Fraser
There is a common misperception, guided by traditional stereotypes, that all homosexual males lack masculinity. This paper pulls together empirical and theoretical evidence for the opposing phenomenon of the hypermasculinization of gay men within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) community in order to examine the internal and external pressures that cause such a trend. The paper found that the objectification of the male body by the media is aggravated by advertisements that are specifically targeted towards gay males. Furthermore, the phenomenon of ‘sissyphobia’ within the LGBT community causes many to disapprove of effeminacy in men. These findings suggest that homosexual men chase more extreme ideals of masculinity due to pressures that they themselves help to propagate.
Masculinity: Rise in Attention to Fashion and Figure
by Will Donovan
The standards of masculinity held by American men and the pressures to conform to these standards have been changing for hundreds of years. It is only in the last 20-30 years that they have risen drastically. This study uses data and statistics from several outside sources to emphasize the change in American attitudes to the male body. Through this study, it became clear that in the past 20-30 years, men have become much more concerned with their physical appearance and all that body maintenance entails. Men have been pressured into doing whatever to attain this perfect body/perfect image. Through stats such as, money spent on gym memberships and exercise equipment to cosmetic surgeries, we see the rise in these pressures that once seemingly only haunted the female population.
by Alex Sauciuc
Once the media began highlighting the importance of healthy eating habits and a healthy lifestyle for the generation growing up with fast food, teenagers and students maximized their efforts to beat the obesity rise in America. This article argues that the adolescent view of “healthy” in America has gone from a focus on being and feeling healthy to simply looking healthy – disregarding what goes into our mouths and merely focusing on the image seen in a mirror. This study uses data from fast food documentaries (Supersize Me, Fast Food Nation) to underline how fast food has become such an enormous part of our culture and literally shaped our nation. In comparison to this data, the study observes Duke University freshman who, rather than eating healthy foods and exercising, continue with poor eating habits but turn to over-exercising and sometimes eating disorders to look as if they were healthy. Overall, the study found that the majority of Duke University freshman would rather stick to the fast food lifestyle they are accustomed to and look healthy by extreme means than to stick to a healthy diet to attain their desired look.
Disjointed Selves: Advents in Technology and the Changing Embodiment of Identity
Ryan Kim, Alex Merrill and Minshu Deng
Our panel explores how advancements in technology, many of them medically-oriented, manipulate the body and its parts and how these physical manipulations change how we perceive identity as embodied. From cloning and cyborgs to the trade in human organs, there seems to be a trend towards disassociating identity from the physical body. How much of our social identity is fixed in our physical being, given that we can increasingly extend the reach of not only our identity via technological means such as the internet, but also our bodies via physical exchanges in body parts let alone cloning? While there is clearly growing room for this disassociation between the body and identity in the areas these three papers explore, each scenario acknowledges respective criticisms for cloning, cyborgs, and the trade in human organs. Altogether, while these three issues may facilitate a distinction between the physical body and identity, criticisms demonstrate that there is still an ideal of identity and body as being a holistic, inseparable entity.
The Impact of Technological Development; The Effect of Human Cloning on Social Identity
By Ryan Kim
The advent of technological and scientific innovation specifically on the body has challenged the conventional notions of identity; the possibility of human cloning has garnered enough attention to spawn multiple viewpoints on how cloning affects the way individuals view themselves and their place in society. This study collects accounts and statements from various religious and scientific communities in order to examine the impact of cloning on the way identity is viewed within each community; these communities include the Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, and the scientific communities. It also examines the opinions of the Duke University campus to uncover contrasting, informal views of how identity has changed with the development of human cloning. Each community has responded to cloning in differing ways, elucidating the manner by which each community defines identity while demonstrating how this definition of identity has changed. The results were paradoxical; religious institutions who generally believe that the body is simply a “shell” for the soul have generally agreed that the body is of paramount importance to identity while the scientific community generally agrees that the body is only a small fraction of what defines human identity. Nevertheless, the definition of identity can be seen as highly dynamic, though it is changing within all communities, as seen by the various viewpoints of several groups in society.
The Human Organ Trade: Bodily Commodification and the Metonymy of Identity
By Minshu Deng
Modern capitalism has resulted in the mass commodification of items into goods, with human organs becoming increasingly common as one of these commodities. The rising trade in human organs needed for organ transplantation operations raises many ethical and social concerns, but it is also seen as an altruistic activity. This paper uses sources that account for these varying attitudes toward the exchange in human organs to examine how the exchange corresponds to a changing perception of how the body embodies identity. In my research I found that given the general arguments for and against the ethics of the organ trade, individuals often have negative perceptions of the trade. This finding suggests that, despite acknowledging the altruistic merits the organ trade may have, individuals still maintained a strong ideal of the body and identity as being inseparable.
Cybernetic Society (temporary title)
By Alex Merrill
Cybernetic organisms have always been thought of as science fiction. However, people in our society do not realize how we are all, in essence, cyborgs. The basic meaning of the word is gaining super-human abilities through technological implementations. The study provides insight on revealing how cyborgs are becoming a part of everyday life in America physically and mentally. Resonating from our societies dependence on technology and need to expand on our means of the physical anatomy. The dependence on technology leads to spreading the mental state onto different levels of mediums (i.e. cell phones, social networking, and online gaming), which creates a divergence between mind and body. By extending our physical abilities, the line between what is considered “natural” fades. The research delved into three different fields of what manifests a cyborg, including organ transplanting, prosthetic appendage usage, and personal machine dependence. In order to uncover the rise of cybernetic life, the study focused on empirical data, of the different aspects of cybernetic life. These trends in the data are used to extrapolate the transformation of our society into one where the cybernetic organism is becoming a universal trait and how the consciousness of cyborgs along with its implications into culture.
Changing Attitudes Toward Body Modification
Joanna Kim, Johnathan Aguirre and Dayoung Ko
In the past several decades, shifts in attitudes toward different physical characteristics have occurred both in the United States and abroad. Our panel examines various dramatic changes in attitudes toward previously prized physical traits. Societal ideals and attitudes in perception are often much more easily altered than they are thought to be by the public, making cultures ever-changing and dynamic. These papers provide a look at different forces, whether foreign or domestic, that can cause modification of dominant ideals. By examining alterations of the body in various forms, these papers demonstrate that cultures around the world are constantly subject to change. For example, this panel includes the discussion of the desire to change dominant facial features in South Korea and Japan by Western cultural influences. In addition, the panel explores the changing attitude towards tattooing, a type of body modification previously looked upon with disapproval in the United States.
Roots of Changing Beauty Ideals in South Korea and Japan: Through the Lens of Advertising
By Joanna Kim
Currently, it is debated whether beauty ideals can be attributed to a natural, scientific idea, or an increase in foreign influences. In South Korea and Japan, the majority of people are born without an eyelid crease, but current popular media usually feature people with “double eyelids.” This paper analyzes a correlation between a shift in beauty ideals, particularly of eye features, and historical increases in Western influence on South Korea and Japan. Sources of general historical data concerning Western exposure in the late twentieth century was used; South Korean and Japanese magazine ads were examined in order to determine eye characteristics over the past decade. A clear increase in portrayal of double eyelids was found in later issues, in addition to increasing Western exposure. Additional data of the power of the media supports the idea that Western media has had impact on ideals in these countries. Changing beauty ideals in South Korea and Japan appear to have at least some relation to an increase in exposure to Western culture.
Getting Inked: Stigma or Art? (temporary title)
By Johnathan Aguirre
With the tattoo parlors being the 6th largest growing industry in America, its clear to see how “getting inked” is becoming a growing trend in today’s society. With negative social stigmas stemming from the past that include violence, crime and gangs; tattoos have evolved much more into an art form, a way of individual expression. With the older and younger generations holding different views on tattoos, the perception society has on this is constantly changing. Professional athletes such as Lebron James or Kobe Bryant to celebrities such as Angelina Jolie or Megan Fox who sport tattoos help change this culture with their influence on society who they are idolized by. While everyone has different opinions on tattoos and those with tattoos, it is interesting to see how what people think of them individually today. Today there seems to be more tolerance to those with tattoos with the percentage of people with tattoos nearly tripling in the last half century. This study attempts to gain insight on people on a college campus, both who do and do not have tattoos, to try and see what individuals think about tattooing and putting this information in conversation with the general historical trends and perceptions of tattoos in America.
Cosmetic Surgery and the Grounds for the Changing Beauty Ideal in South Korea
By Dayoung Ko
Cosmetic surgery in East Asian countries, specifically South Korea, has popularized as a result of surprisingly quickly changing beauty perceptions in the culture. This study uses and analyzes women’s magazines from both South Korea and the United States over the past few decades, historical data, and also personal interviews from people who have undergone procedures in order to show changing beauty ideals in South Korean culture. The study found that South Korean beauty ideals have changed to become more Western due to American influences during the Korean War as well as from social pressures including spouse and job preferences. This shows that Korea is a society dependent on dominance, in this case, the United States, and a society in which the people conform and assimilate to trends within the dominant culture. Due to these Western influences on a once developing country, South Korea’s beauty ideals have rapidly merged to become increasingly similar to the Western perceptions.
Changing Ways of Seeing: Viewing Cultural Practices From Within
Brianna Welch, Andrew Karim, and Sonya Jooma
Proper understanding of cultural practices is relative to the lenses through which they are viewed. The practice of female circumcision in Africa, veiling among Muslim women, and the performance of specific musical genres in Japan and Portugal are ways in which cultures express their identities. The three authors each research a specific cultural practice and draw conclusions that take differing perceptions into account. Brianna Welch discusses the sociocultural debate regarding the practice of female circumcision while highlighting the negative influences of Western Imperialism in Africa. Additionally, she connects this back to the overarching theme of the treatment of women in patriarchal society. Andrew Karim critiques the Orientalist lens through which the practice of Islamic veiling is constantly viewed while putting it into dialogue with the perception of the veil among Muslim women. Sonya Jooma explores how the use of heightened emotion in the performance of both Portuguese fado and Japanese enka songs as well as the consistency of expression and content in the songs over time contribute to the identification of these genres with the cultures they emerge from. Collectively, these works serve to describe specific cultural practices while putting them into dialogue with the means through which they are perceived within their cultures, and at times how they are perceived by outsiders.
Viewing from another lens: Female Circumcison and shaping of the Patriarchal Society
By Brianna Welch
Female circumcision is widely seen by Westerners as a barbaric and inhumane ritual that is practiced by a number of different communities in Africa. By exploring the cultural, social and religious arguments that debate the legitimacy and continuation of this practice I was able to see female circumcision through different lenses and understand the cultural significance that it holds in many commuunities. I present evidence from scholars, doctors and anthropoligists who take on an outsiders point of view on this issue but I also provide the opinion of insiders such as women who have experienced and witnessed the process of female circumcision. Although the debate over this controversial practice sheds light on important cultural values, it overshadows the larger issue of Western imperialism and its effect on the discourse between different cultures. The apprehension and anger that African women have towards the west, more specifically, Western feminists greater complicates the issue of female circumcision and hinders progress towards understanding and change. The unification of women from both cultures to create an egalitarian coalition will combat female circumcision and simultaneously be able to address the issue of the patriarchal society and its treatment of women.
Cultural Identities Invoked by Heightened Expression in Song
By Sonya Jooma
The Portuguese fado and the Japanese enka are popular forms of song in their respective countries and are strikingly similar in the way that they invoke a cultural identity. I explored in this paper aspects of the performance of these songs that contribute to their cultural significance, focusing on the use of heightened expression. By analyzing videos of performances by popular divas of each genre, studying the history of the song forms, and using ethnographies to understand the importance of the music to the people of these nations, I was able to identify aspects of the performances and interaction with the audience to gain insight on how expression in the performance leads to cultural identification. I found that the consistency of performance in each genre, such as crying in the enka, gestures of longing in both genres, and culture-centered content allowed audiences to identify the song forms as unique to their culture. The better a performer incorporates these expressions and fulfills the audience’s expectations, the more the audience is able to place the music in a cultural context.
Unveiled: Self-Orientalism and the Deterioration of Islamic Covering
By Andrew Karim
Current Western perceptions of the Islamic veil hold connotations of oppression, backwardness, and vulnerability. Women of the Middle East are constantly situated to require the West’s assistance with and freedom from the social parameters that are superficially observed as limitations of personal liberty. This discourse is rooted in the Orientalist mentality that establishes an inherent air of condescendence within Occident-Orient relationships. Edward Said founded the groundwork that allows Orientalist critique and legitimizes its usage in explaining the decline of the veil. It serves as a valid substantiation for the veil’s decreased usage in the Middle East based upon personal and national desires for “advancement” in a strict Western direction. Different veil practices in Turkey and Lebanon reflect distinct implementations of advancement. As the Turkish government pushed for a mandated banning of the veil, the Lebanese women are often choosing to unveil out of their own free will. References to include interviews with Lebanese Muslim women and the case study of Merve Kavakçı. Veiling practices in the Middle East are revealing a growing desire for a misread notion of advancement that has the potential to either threaten or reinvent culture.