Traditional masculinity and femininity in fashion, autumn, spring cardigans, long sweaters. There are a number of key ways of fashioning the self in Western culture. Techniques of refashioning fashion and disciplining the body are central to becoming a gendered self and a consuming self, which are discussed in the next two sections. Acquiring these fundamental techniques of selfhood involves achieving the triple viewpoint referred to previously, namely, the conjunction of physiological, psychological, and sociological techniques.
Traditional gender Masculinity and Femininity, Autumn Long Sweater
While a person is sexed at birth, the acquisition of a sense of gender is a process that is learned from an early age. Both femininity and masculinity are performances that bodies internalize until they become second nature. Every person in Western culture engages with specific techniques of producing and performing a gendered body and defining her or his relationship with consumer culture.
Autumn, Spring Cardigans, Long Sweater
This process begins with pink clothes for girls adorned with the images of female stars (e.g., Britney, Bratz, or Barbie) and blue clothes with the logos of male heroes (e.g., Thomas the Tank Engine, Spiderman, the Hulk) and is reinforced by gender specific differences in furnishings, toys, DVDs, and gifts as well as very different interactions (including linguistic utterances) between female and male babies and family and friends. Nicknames and labels, too, reinforce gender stereotypes at an early age for example, “Princess” or “My best friend.”
In terms of fashion and dress, femininity is a much more elaborated and visible domain than masculinity just compare the floor space devoted to girls’ and boys’ clothes in any department or fashion store. There is a much greater range of garments and options within each range for girls than for boys. Moreover, girls’ clothes are modeled on adult clothes and are vestmental signs and symbols that introduce children to adult techniques of femininity at an early age, and public debates about whether a particular look is suitable for children reveal that there is a widespread belief that early introductions to the nuances of adult femininity are inappropriate for young children.
Nonetheless, clothes create a specific gendered habitus in that girls clothes are often restricting (e.g., skirts and frills) or prompt a performance (e.g., flounces, bare midriffs, heart logos), while boys clothes tend to be more suitable for roughhousing and physical activity (shirts, pants, and jackets).
The physical coding of children’s clothes in terms of gender also conveys psychological messages and symbols of what it means to be a girl or a boy as well as wider sociological conventions about gender that vary between cultures and subcultures.
Fashion magazines, fashion advertisements, fashion Web sites, advice columns, music videos and fashion writings are primarily directly targeted at girls and women there is a complex code of femininity inscribed in the symbolic messages, signifi ers carried by clothes.
But femininity also requires one to learn particular techniques of using the body (moving, facial expressions, ways of speaking, use of language and interacting with others. Many of the terms associated with femininity passive, dis ciplined, restrained, thoughtful, nurturing, coquettish, seductive—refer to specific body techniques.
Tie Dye producing an ideal model
The body work involved in producing an ideal model of femininity involves extensive manipulation and training, including body modifi cation, dieting, exercise, and cosmetic enhancement. The extent to which a female will go to achieve her ideal of femininity is positively rewarded as a sign of her commitment to her role model.
In some cases, radical denial and self modifi cation are regarded as a facet of a profession for example, modeling, airline stewarding, and professional sports are sometimes referred to as the anorexic professions due to the high incidence of body imbalances and eating disorders among practitioners. Denial of pleasure or relaxation, extreme body disciplines, and physical and psychological pain are sometimes regarded as normal ways of achieving gendered bodily perfection.
As former supermodel Janice Dickinson reflected in her biography, “Beauty is pain—you must agonize for your beauty” (quoted in Gambotto 2004: 18). In this quest, like countless other celebrities, she resorted to cosmetic, surgical procedures, including breast implants, a bunectomy a blepharoplasty (removal of fat, muscle, skin from the eyelids), the placement of porcelain veneers (ceramic coating of teeth), a brow lift, Botox.
In the world of modeling, the insouciant sashay down the catwalk disguises the degree of labor that may have been involved in producing a particular look dieting to extremes, cosmetic surgery, extensive physical workouts, makeup artists, hairdressers, stylists, photographers, skilled dressmakers, and so on. Although the images of top models and the garments in designer collections are promoted and marketed to women as the latest must-have fashion and look, in fact, these are contrived forms of artistic manipulation that are unachievable for the ordinary consumer.
Dickinson burst the bubble when she revealed that it is “technically impossible” to “make human flesh behave like an artist’s perfectly arranged pixels”.
As these examples show, the construction of a gendered identity is a deliberate, complex process irrespective of the fact that one’s sex is biologically determined. Gender is a body technique par excellence: both femininity and masculinity are highly contrived and arbitrary cultural constructs.
The cases of princesses made by marriage and fashion models exemplify the extremes of techniques of femininity, as they resort to excessive practices of self-denial, masochism, and deprivation, on the one hand, self-obsession, narcissism, excess, on the other. Central to this process is the desire to refashion the body and self into a physical form and psychological character decreed by the media and public as well as, respectively, court society and the modeling industry (Quick 1997).
Prestigious imitation, technical training and the acquisition of a “stylistic” register are important components of this process. The body is clothed in the desired attributes of femininity docility, passivity, calculated body performances as spectacle, subservience, nurturing.