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Session Overview
RN05_07b_P: Gender and Consumption
Thursday, 31/Aug/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Cassi L. Pittman, Case Western Reserve University
Location: PA.1.2
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: A, Level: 1.

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The performative agency of fashion apps on gender construction

Lena Hansson

University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Fashion has a history of playing an important role in society and in shaping consumer culture and has with the emergence of web 2.0 technologies increasingly come to be mediated and consumed digitally. In this paper, the ‘performative agency’ (Mason et al., 2015) of fashion apps on gender construction will be explored. The performativity approach have been used within economic sociology and recently also in marketing to show how theories, practices, and technologies (Callon, 1998; Zwick & Cayla, 2011; Mason et al., 2015) affect the shaping and formatting of market and marketing practice. The fashion apps are conceptualized as new digital consumption devices and the analysis will show how they exercise ‘performative agency’ on the construction of gender in their specific settings and through the styling and consumption practices that are afforded by the apps. Gender is here not viewed as fixed or defined but as performed (Butler, 1990). However, the apps do not exercise performative agency as simple digital and technical tools but as socio-material networks of marketing and consumption ideas, discourses, social relations, practices, technical skills, materiality etc. The paper is part of an ongoing study of the digitalization of consumption and builds on an ‘object ethnography’ (Carrington, 2012) of a number of fashion apps and the derived social media posts along with unstructured interviews with app owners. The paper contributes to an understanding of the performativity of gender in the context of fashion consumption in mobile digital settings.

I eat what I’m up for – Young guys, masculinity and nutrition

Sabine Haertl, Susanne Ihsen

TU München, Germany

„I eat what I’m up for“ – that is what a young guy joining one of our group discussions told us. These group discussions are part of the interdisciplinary competence cluster of nutrition research enable which deals with healthy food choices in all stages of life in Germany. In our subproject we focus on gender and diversity dimensions.

This talk handles how masculinity is constructed in the sphere of nutrition. We enlighten how young men are positioning themselves in the ambivalence between the norm of optimizing oneself by work on the body and the practice of having junk food within the peer group. This practice can be understood in three ways: (1) as process of constructing youth, (2) as distinction from femininity and (3) as resistance against self-optimisation of health representing the hegemonial discourse. The current state of research tells us on the one hand that – over all - women are eating healthier than men. On the other hand, the example of nutrition displays the fragility of masculinities which turns out especially obviously in the youth. Young men are required a steady construction of masculinity which takes place in a mutual process of representing and attributing. Thereby, incorporated knowledge is built and this provides habitual security.

This talk deals with the relationship of norm and practice concerning the nutrition of young men. This is empirically highlighted by the outcomes of focus group discussion and biographical interviews. The results are positioned in the sociology of bodies, masculinity research, habitus theory and the sociology of nutrition.

Fashion and beauty blogging: post-feminist devices for marketing, intimacy and resistance?

Magdalena Petersson McIntyre

University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Since its early days, fashion blogging has evolved from amateur documents of mundane and everyday practices of beauty and dressing into multi-channel businesses with advanced marketing schemes. During this transformation many bloggers have been made aware that the road to success lies in creating a persona that reveals intimate details of everyday life as well as sharing and giving full disclosure regarding such practices. Consequently, bloggers constantly negotiate boundaries surrounding questions of intimacy, feminism and beauty. Drawing on the idea that bloggers may be understood as devices that help construct a market (McFall 2015, Cochoy 2016), the paper builds on in-depth interviews with fashion and beauty bloggers to discuss the different techniques bloggers use to make sense of their online activities. The paper relates to questions of whether outfit-of-the-day, selfies and other similar online cultures of self-presentation should be understood as post-feminist practices of resistance or whether digitalization merely deepens the links between surface, intimacy, femininity and consumption, employed by capitalism.

Physical appearance as an asset in a consumer society: differences in norms for men and women

Erica Åberg, Tero Pajunen, Outi Sarpila

University of Turku, Finland

Physical appearance plays a fundamental role in consumption driven societies. Consumers are not just encouraged, but expected to constantly evaluate, modify and control their body and looks, and by doing this, to express their innermost identity (Bauman, 2007; Featherstone, 2010; Shilling, 2012). In the ideal form, this logic of consumer culture applies to both genders equally. However, previous research points to a different direction by distinguishing gendered differences in the norms of taking advantage of one’s physical appearance (e.g. Martin & George, 2006). Using appearance for economic purposes is morally unacceptable for women, in particular (Sarpila, Pajunen & Åberg, 2017). In this article, we conceptualize physical appearance as an exploitable asset, and analyze whether the norms of taking advantage of one’s appearance differ between men and women in different areas of life. More specifically, we examine the acceptance of using appearance as an asset in working life and in other spheres of social life. We use a unique data with a split-ballot design to study the possible double standards in accumulation and exploitation of one’s physical appearance. Our data is drawn from a Finnish nationwide survey collected in 2016 (N=1600).

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