Disrupting the ‘ravages of lookism’: Observations of female model bodies
Dwyer, Angela E. (2004) Disrupting the ‘ravages of lookism’: Observations of female model bodies. In Richmond, Katy (Ed.) Revisioning Institutions: Change in the 21st Century, The Annual Conference of The Australian Sociological Association, December, Beechworth.
This paper seeks to disrupt one of the feminist orthodoxies about the riskiness of looking concertedly at women’s bodies. Drawing on observational research that intentionally and meticulously ‘looked at’ the female body, the paper considers how this observational work is disruptive in that it challenges the notion that to look scrupulously at female bodies feeds into and inflames an already burgeoning culture of ‘lookism’ (Katzman, 1997). As part of a doctoral study that reconceptualises the fashion model as a pedagogue to young girls, observations were conducted in a modelling ‘classroom’ in order to document how young girls are instructed by the female model body in a pedagogical manner. This research situates the bodies of the fashion model and the young girl as ‘objects’ of a punctilious ‘gaze’ that destabilises more conventional ideas about doing observational research ‘properly’. This paper will explore the implications of this work with particular emphasis on what it means to look intently at female bodies in general, and more specifically the female model body as a body of ‘danger’, and the young female body as a body of ‘innocence’.
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