A video showing Professor King discussing Social Worlds is available to download and embed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYNFqrMcHys
Women’s breasts have long been the focus of visual attention. Whether interpreted as the ultimate symbol of femininity, or sexualised by the male gaze, breasts are an integral part of a woman’s body, which are increasingly becoming a commodity according to Dr Jacqueline Sanchez Taylor, Lecturer in the University of Leicester’s Department of Sociology.
The plastic surgery industry continues to grow and breast augmentations remain a popular procedure as women strive for the perfect body. In 2012, 11,135 procedures for breast augmentations were undertaken in the UK, a 13 per cent increase from the previous year. The ability to buy and sell breasts in such a way positions them as a marketable object similar to other fashion items for consumption, according to Dr Sanchez Taylor who will be discussing her ideas in a free public lecture on Tuesday 4 November.
Dr Sanchez Taylor explained: “The market for breast augmentation surgery has highlighted a number of interesting questions for sociologists. First about the demand for cosmetic surgery and medical consumption and second, about the morality of consuming breast augmentations as objects and what this tells us about how our society understands femininity.”
Cosmetic surgery bridges the gap of two areas of consumption which are traditionally very separate: medicine and beauty/fashion. This positioning enables the procedure to be trivialised and sold as a beauty treatment, rather than a medical intervention and a major surgery.
Dr Sanchez Taylor notes how the objectification of breasts allows the industry to talk about ‘sagging’ breasts, ‘mis-shapen’ breasts, and ‘small’ breasts, as problems which can be altered and repaired with medical treatment. She also points to the normalisation of cosmetic surgery which distances itself from other medical procedures.
She added: “The cosmetic surgery industry sells breast augmentations as aids to increase self-confidence, self-esteem and as fashion accessories. In this context, more women are thinking of their breasts as fashion/status/feminising objects which can be reshaped and changed at will.
“If this trend continues, then breasts will increasingly come to be viewed as objects, ‘things’, commodities that can be owned.”
Dr Sanchez Taylor will be discussing her ideas surrounding the objectification of breasts on Tuesday 4 November as part of the University of Leicester’s Sound Bites mini lecture series. Taking place at Leicester’s New Walk Museum from Monday 3 – Friday 7 November 2014, each day a series of 10 minute lectures will discuss household objects, such as breasts, mirrors and the rocking horse, bringing social science research to life in a simple, accessible way.
Each lecture will be based on a 500 word original article written by the researchers as part of the University’s innovative Social Worlds in 100 Objects project which showcases the broad range of research across all eight departments in the College of Social Science, offering unique insights into objects in and out of the home.
Head of the College of Social Science, Professor Steven King said: “The Sound Bites lectures provide a great opportunity for our academics to engage the public in their research and to invite people to start to think about objects in a different way.”
Sound Bites will take place at Leicester’s New Walk Museum from Monday 3 – Friday 7 November 2014, 1-2pm daily. They form part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, a week of activities celebrating the diversity of social science research to increase awareness of the contributions the social sciences make to society. The lectures are free to attend, but space is limited. For more information or to book a place, please visit www.le.ac.uk/socialworlds
Notes to Editors
For more information, please contact Dr Jacqueline Sanchez Taylor on [email protected]