IIPC Debate 5 May

IIPC Debate 72
Tue 5 May, 12-2 pm, Mikro Auditorium (Kiinanmyllykatu 13, Turku)
Francien Broekhuizen (University of Coventry)
Becoming Beautiful, Becoming Perfect, Becoming Happy
& Dr Adrienne Evans (University of Coventry)
Getting Stuck in ‘Sexy’

Adrienne Evans:
Getting Stuck in ‘Sexy’

‘Sexiness’ has become an emotional and conflicted concept in debates about contemporary gender relations. In this paper, I consider these debates as a series of ‘double stagnations’ or stuck places that have become repetitive and circular, but which draw people in because of their emotive appeal; for example, in concerns about the sexualisation of children, social commentaries on the ‘problem’ of young women, and in worries over the future and direction of current feminist activism. In research we are left with a sense of methodological doubled stagnations; of analytical sideways debates that reproduce and rehearse tired – but still emotive – arguments that are unable to develop forward momentum. Rather than getting stuck in these doubled stagnations, a more productive way of doing research might be to analyze what produces these sticking points, as well as understanding our own emotional investments in thinking through sexiness. This would mean thinking about a methodological space from which to work more productively within these debates.

To explore these issues I draw on interview data with Gwen, were we discussed what sexiness meant to her. Gwen’s interview was significant because it was emotionally charged and painful. Her own sense making of sexiness was tied to discourses of fidelity, intimacy, and sexual insecurity. The interview was also marked by differences between Gwen and myself, in age, marital status, religion and attitudes towards sexuality. I map the way Gwen’s interview, and others like it, calls for a more sophisticated methodology that takes seriously our own emotional investment in debates on sexiness, and reveals a series of blind spots in how we think with ‘sexy’.

Adrienne Evans is a Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications, and Course Director for the MA in Communication, Culture and Media at Coventry University. Her research explores contemporary gender relations in the context of postfeminist sentiment. Her work has been published in the Journal of Gender Studies, Feminism and Psychology, European Journal of Women’s Studies, and Men and Masculinities, among others. She is co-author of Technologies of Sexiness: Sex, Identity and Consumer Culture (Oxford University Press, 2014).

Francien Broekhuizen:
Becoming Beautiful, Becoming Perfect, Becoming Happy: The promise of contemporary wedding cultures

Contemporary media representations of weddings depict the bridal performance as a moment of post-feminist perfection through a focus on the bride’s perfect body and beauty (Broekhuizen and Evans 2014). This is exemplified in the media and its intense coverage of royal and celebrity weddings (e.g. the weddings of Kim Kardishian) where the bride is represented as the central focus point of attention. The intensive focus on the bride is mirrored in the re-immergence of discourses that locate the wedding as one of the most important milestones in a woman’s life. However very little research has explored how wedding cultures in 21st century Western societies are rooted within a post-feminist sentiment that is characterized by a reliving of traditional values (e.g. weddings and baking culture), alongside modernization discourses that include new forms of femininity (e.g. in work and career).

This paper aims to bridge this gap, by exploring how the perfect bridal experience is represented, and how these representations resonate and become part of the lived experience of being a bride. Drawing from an ongoing ethnographic immersion that combines digital ethnographic practices with auto-ethnographic reflection on my own bridal experience, I aim to explore how the wedding promise of ‘becoming beautiful, becoming perfect, becoming happy’ is lived and retold. Combing different methodological approaches, my fieldwork enabled me to obtain a more holistic understanding of the wedding experience. In this paper, I draw specific influence from Barad’s (2007) notion of intra-action to show how discourses of beauty, perfection and happiness are complex entanglements where desire, doubt and pain form lived experience of contemporary bridal becomings.

Francien Broekhuizen is a PhD-student at Coventry University, her research aims to explore the way women negotiate their bridal becoming through ethnographic practice that crosses the boundaries between offline and online orientated research fields. In doing so she draws from contemporary research about gender and affect studies.

Warm welcome!

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