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Gender and body image - Looking at women and men through the life course.

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Introduction

Gender and body image Looking at women and men through the life course. Throughout our lives we are governed by how we look and act according to society. One of the main leaders throughout history has been which sex a person belongs to. This governs our every aspect in life from a baby, through to adulthood. Opinion changes constantly to whether children should live a certain way and especially act certain ways at different ages and stages throughout life. We are socially constructed from the start of our lives, if a baby wears blue or pink determines societys view of how to treat the child and most importantly whether it is male of female. We are judged in our abilities and skills just by from which sex we belong to. It is one of the most influential factors in life, being male or female. I will be looking at the perceived differences between males and female body image and actions throughout the life cycle, from birth through to old age. One of the first things we notice about a person is which sex they belong to. Today due to changes in societies impressions and opinions on sex and sex orientation, it is generally possible to immediately determine the sex of a person that gives out first impressions and places stereotypes. Every culture distinguishes between male and females and this accompanied by beliefs and psychological and physical behaviours belonging to each sex. It is not a recent act to distinguish differences between the sexes. In pre-industrial Britain children were sent off to work at an early age between 6-7. They were kept apart and designated a job. At this age physicality's of gender differences would not be differentiated because of no puberty growth in the children causing no differences in physical ability and strength yet girls would be sent to become servants while boys would be trained to be apprentices. ...read more.

Middle

The behaviour of teenage women is partly the result of being treated differently from boys through their life. As was stated earlier women are seen as more in need of care and protection. Parents 'police' their daughters more strictly than their sons. This then is linked to the ideological definition of 'appropriate behaviour of women'. Sue Lees (1986) has shown how boys control young women in the public eye through threat of labelling them sexually promiscuous. It is expected of young men to copulate but for a young women to continue with the same behaviour would result in such labels as 'slag' or 'slut' and 'scrubber' or an 'easy lay'. This labelling is less to do with the actual sexual action rather than to the extent to which young women's behaviour deviates from the normal ideas of femininity. For example a female should not be seen using foul language or rough behaviour as they could be classed as a 'tom boy'. Sexuality is classed in very different ways. Both sexes are concerned with reputation; the basis on which it rests is very distinct. For boys sexual reputation is enhanced by varied experience boasting to their friends for all the girls they have 'made', for a girl reputation is to be guarded. It is to be under threat not merely if she is known to have sex with anyone other than with her steady boyfriend but also if she goes out with several different boys, or dresses in a certain way. To remain a 'nice' girl a young woman must suppress any sexual desire, and instead conform to the dream image of romantic love and complete monogamy. This double standard serves to constrain the public and private lives of young women to ensure conformity based on a model of sexuality, which ultimately takes its form from the ideology of the nuclear family. Feminist sociologists' arguments showed that post ideas that suggestions of femininity and masculinity classed as natural were actually of a social origin. ...read more.

Conclusion

For women physical attractiveness is the most important feature and loosing this is a major source of anxiety. Women spend thousands of pounds on creams, potions, dieting, exercise and even plastic surgery. Men today are also increasingly purchasing these types of items but it is generally women that advertising is focused on (Arber and Ginn 1991). It has been questioned what is persona purpose in life? One of the proposed reasons is to reproduce, to keep the population. Men are seen to do this throughout their lives, so women who have therefore passed the menopause could be seen as having no use anymore for their reproductive functions and therefore are uninterested in sex. Doctors are more likely to recommend hysterectomies to women than men. In medical textbooks women's ovaries are described as 'shrivelled' or 'senile' metaphors, which, imply they are 'useless', or 'past it'. Women are classified by their biological position in and throughout their lives. "Pre-menstrual' in their youth, 'pre-menopausal' in their thirties, 'menopausal' in their forties and 'post-menopausal' in their fifties, its as though their reproductive organs control women's lives. Women who have children find themselves defined in terms of their roles as mothers and carers. On the other hand childless women are seen as frustrated mothers and somehow incomplete. It is as if a woman's ultimate goal is to bare children. A childless woman is classed as having psychological inadequacies or a lack of feminine qualities. Today many more women are pursuing careers rather than starting a family, this is seen as selfish whereas men are not exposed to such punishments. It is seen as acceptable for a man to never be a part of a family. Women's lives are seen as shaped by their biological bodies and the changes these bodies undergo. Men's lives by contrast are seen as shaped by their achievements. Throughout our lives we are governed by our sex and opinions made by society which label us according to our sex. These labels are started through opinions made from birth, which stay with us until death. ...read more.

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