People often say that first impressions matter. But as many know, there is a constant pressure to look a certain way even after the first encounter. In our society, there is an emphasis placed on people’s appearances. With this pressure on our bodies it’s only a wonder why, Bodylore, a term coined by Katharine Young, hasn’t become a more popular subject. Bodylore is the study of the body itself from a cultural point of view and how it intersects with everyday life. Bodylore could play a vital role in feminism and its studies by researching how men and women feel about their bodies and focus on self-appreciation. These studies can help us better understand the society we live in and ourselves.
While people of every gender understand the “need” to look a certain way, women are more likely to experience this pressure than men (Grogan). Women feel pressure to look a certain way and if we don’t conform to those rules we are judged. Not only are we judged by others but women can be their own worst critics because we are more likely to be dissatisfied with our own bodies than males are (Grogan). With both internal and external forces constantly reminding women how to look, life can get overwhelming. Bodylore can be used to study how women feel about themselves and how that affects them on a daily basis.
Not only are women judged by their bodies but their overall appearances as well. Females are expected to look perfect while out in public space. If a person regularly wears makeup to work and is one day without this makeup she is immediately questioned about her health – as if wearing makeup to work was part of a uniform. There can also be consequences if you don’t follow these rules. Anchorwoman Lisa Wilkinson received harassing emails from viewers because of her wardrobe choices on screen (Karlin). In order to point out the double standards between men and women, her co-anchorman Karl Stefanovic decided to wear the same suit every day for a year to see what type of messages he would get (Karlin). To his surprise, no one ever commented on his outfit or lack of outfit change. With all this emphasis on the body, it’s a wonder why Bodylore hasn’t been explored as much. Since we know society is judging us we can use bodylore to investigate further into how women fight back against these pressures, such as allowing themselves to have tattoos or body hair.
Though Young first created the term bodylore in 1989, it has been slow to catch on. One of the reasons is that scholars may feel like the study is not needed or irrelevant. We do study the quantitative data of humans and body image but bodylore requires more qualitative information. This would explain why bodylore isn’t as well known within feminist methodologies. This is also the first time I have even heard of this approach and I’m about to graduate with a degree in Women’s Studies.
As a Women’s Studies major and feminist, I am always about equality. Bodylore falls within these principles because we can use the method to create a society that is more aware of its flaws. While there are many ways we can incorporate bodylore into feminism, one of the ways, is by studying how women’s bodies are controlled within a patriarchal society or how they shut down the pressure to conform to these standards.
Grogan, Sarah Body Image: Understanding Body Dissatisfaction in Men, Women and Children, London: Routledge
Paige Elizabeth is a senior at ODU and will be graduating in the spring with a B.A. in Women’s Studies and a Minor in Public Service. She is slowly learning how to be an adult.