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I was reading the following in Business Week the other day:
"Book Review: American Plastic: Boob Jobs, Credit Cards, and Our Quest for Perfection" by June Thomas (the book reviewed is by Laurie Essig)

I was struck by the following phrase in the review:
"Splurging on a tummy tuck might actually be a sensible survival instinct."

At first I was just annoyed by the sloppiness inherent in an economic decision being called an "instinct." Let's not mix our technical jargon, mmmkay? (Later on, the phrase "rational financial decision" is used instead, which I find less sloppy.)

The book being reviewed makes the argument that less wealthy people may be getting cosmetic surgery because they see it as a way of gaining access to wealth. ("30 percent of plastic surgery patients earned less than $30,000 a year.") The author puts it this way:
"Working-class bodies, which tend to be larger and have less access to things like braces for straight teeth or dermatologists for smooth skin, also elicit more disgust than the smooth, pampered bodies of the upper classes."
I was annoyed by two things in that statement:

(1) The notion of "working-class bodies" and "upper-class bodies." There might be trends for people who are working-class to look less conventionally attractive than people who are upper-class, but I would want to see evidence.

(2) The way an opinion is presented as a statement of fact. "Working-class bodies...elicit more disgust."

I believe that specific choices about language use can influence beliefs, and beliefs can influence social reality. I think statements like that create and/or strengthen an opinion about the inherent ugliness of certain bodies, rather than simply reflecting an existing opinion.

(I need a "nitpicking" icon.)

This entry was originally posted at http://firecat.dreamwidth.org/701104.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 4th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
Remember that "working class" includes a number of very physically-demanding trades, at least for men -- construction workers, police and firemen come immediately to mind. So there's some genderism in that statement as well.
Feb. 5th, 2011 12:04 am (UTC)
Yes, and I found it interesting that all the specific examples in the review are of women, but the general language is about "Americans," "people," "individuals."
Feb. 4th, 2011 11:41 pm (UTC)
I suspect the phrasing, throughout, says something about the writer's class. And, um, lack of class.
Feb. 5th, 2011 01:08 am (UTC)
There's some confusion between cause and effect. There's lots of evidence that the "desirable" body type is the one that is harder for people of limited means to attain. What type that is has, of course, changed through history.
Feb. 5th, 2011 01:31 am (UTC)
The upper class seems to be trying to speciate away from the rest of us.

A couple of years ago there was an article in one of the major news media in which the author (male) said that women who spend less than $600/month on beauty maintenance just aren't trying hard enough. I wonder if the existence of people who live on $600/month or less is something of which he is ignorant or which he considers irrelevant.
Feb. 5th, 2011 06:22 am (UTC)
You are welcome to use this icon if you wish.
Feb. 5th, 2011 06:25 am (UTC)
Feb. 6th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC)
"No, but 'obsessive-compulsive' does."
Feb. 5th, 2011 06:35 am (UTC)
What incredibly sloppy writing.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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