Adrienne Evans

The 180 Second Project

  • Representing Our bodies
  • Do people like Miley Cyrus or Rihanna have control over who finds them sexy?
  • Is it just a white representation of sexy, if so how does that shape different racial families and children?


What is the body?

  • Just a bag of bones?
  • Bodies are constructed and …
  1. restricted by historical and cultural norms,
  2. restricted by social positions


How is it represented?

  • Sexualised females
  • Muscular males
  • Dominantly white


How does it represent itself?

  • Walking to a friend’s house. It’s cold, wet, and you have your head down. You reach the front door, ring the door and you … smile
  • Range of new technologies to re-represent ourselves in different ways.
  • Can have completely digital bodies.
  • Participatory culture= promise of ‘authentic’ accounts of our self
  • Trainspotting advert?
  1. Although we are given the illusion of freedom of choice we always choose very similar things.

What kind of bodies are being represented in the VO5 advert?

What bodies are being represented

  • Primarily white
  • No ginger hair?
  • Young
  • Slim females and muscular males

What’s the ideal body?

  • Slim and muscular

Who is excluded

  • Black people
  • All the people disciplined are black bodies, while all the people who are enabled are white bodies.

What’s the contradiction?

  • Break the mold and be different with a widely available and used product
  • Everybody in the advert looks the same


Today’s lecture

  • Theories of representation
  • Identify the social, cultural. Historical limits


Theories of representation

  • Bodies are social construct
  • White, young, similar, heterosexual
  • Still try to fit into the normative ideal despite it being very constricted.


The Gaze

  • What is it like to be looked at?
  1. What would it feel like to never have anybody look at you?
  2. Psychologically you wouldn’t be able to develop a self?
  3. Being looked at makes us realize we are a formed body
  4. But also makes us incredibly uncomfortable
  5. Makes us aware of our identity
  6. Can’t tell what people are tinking


  • Feminist theory
  • Turning people into an object, for our own gain
  • Women as instrument or object or pleasure – nothing more
  • No sense of women’s identity or self behind the object.
  • Camera is a tool for objectification
  • Cropping – women become a collection of pieces rather than a whole person


Abject and Disgust

Abject is somewhere between the subject/ object


Kristeva (1982)

Defines abject as things that pass in and out of the body (vomit, shit)

We have sex in private (mostly) and we go to the toilet in private

Yet we find these things fascinating even though we find them gross.


Limits of representation

  • Body is shped by what we are used to seeing
  • Bodies are shaped when someone looks at us
  • But we can become the object of the abject.


Venus Hottentot

  • Sarah ‘Saartjie’ Baartman (died 1815), born into slavery
  • Freak show act in England and experimented on it france – fascination with her body
  • Displayed until 2002 (her body)


Gender (In)equality

  • Long history of gender oppression – only recently that women been seen as ‘human’
  • Feminist movement – challenged sexism
  • Everyday and normalized sexism e.g. wolf whistle, clothing, ‘girlification’
  • Everyday Sexism Project – website



  • Bodies defined by range of binary differences;
  • Intersectionality; bodies are more than just a gender, race, class, sexuality,
    but all of these things;
  • White, straight, male= easiest difficulty setting


Alternative Bodies, Alternative Representation

  • Quite a miserable picture in terms of representation of bodies
  • Unless we have a certain type of body


Reshaping the Body

Body is malleable – can be changed in shape, appearance,, physicality

Body modification normalized


But not all types of modifications normalized

  • Female body builders, scarification and branding, tight-lacing, suspension, bloodletting, extensive tattoos and piercings
  • Modern primitives – urban subcultures that form tribal affiliations
  • Socially sanctioned self-mutilation middle-class entertainment.
  • What is the different between these kind of practices and foot-binding/ corsets?
  • Feminist problem, are these oppressive?


Orlan – Body Beautiful?


  • Underwent cosmetic surgery multiply times in the 90’s to look like different women who were considered beautiful throughout the ages.
  • Went on to transform body through digital media
  • Beauty is constructed


Deviant Bodies?

  • Ways of using abject/ disgust to challenge taken for assumptions about the body.
  • Grotesque bodies ‘protrudes, bulges, sprouts and branches off’ (bakhtin 1965 p320) create feelings of ambivalence
  • But usually subject to ridicule or concern or recuperation.


Today’s Lecture

  • Have explored the interaction between the social world and self-representation
  • Social cultural, historical limits of representation


Mary Roberts – transgender

Book: female masculinity