WHAT MAKES A WOMAN BEAUTIFUL IN VISUAL REPRESENTATION
WHAT MAKES A WOMAN BEAUTIFUL IN VISUAL REPRESENTATION IN TODAY’S CULTURE?
BEAUTY AND DESIRABILITY IN CONTEMPORARY CULTURE
DIFFERENCE AND THE WESTERN BEAUTY IDEAL
In ‘The Beauty Myth’ Naomi Wolf argued that the so modern-day ideal of beauty encouraged conformance to a virtually unachievable, unhealthy, an unnatural criterion of tenuity and beauty ( Carty, 2005 ) . The history of Western civilization is filled with images that reflect the place of adult females in society. Womans are frequently described in footings of aesthetics, connoting that their worth and importance is related to their ocular visual aspect. The beauty ideal of Western civilizations has changed over clip. Classical creative persons defined the impression of beauty as flawlessness. This anatomical flawlessness was closely related to the thought that beauty could be found in nature and recreated through art. The human anatomy was represented through a close scrutiny of proper proportions and measurings. This myth of ‘natural’ , perfect beauty still lives in modern-day civilization, where adult females aspire to some predetermined ideal through any agencies necessary. Between 1400 and 1700 a fat organic structure form was seen as sexually appealing and stylish due to its intensions of wealth. The art of this clip portrays plump, sexual, big-breasted and maternal adult females ( Wykes and Gunter, 2005 ) . However, the plump form was replaced by a dilutant, juicy organic structure form which persisted through the early portion of the 20th century, being replaced by a thin, boylike figure in the 1920’s. The modern engineerings of movie and picture taking brought to fore one time once more a bosomy organic structure typified by Marilyn Monroe. However, as Wykes and Gunter ( 2005:37 ) describe it, by the mid-1960’s manners shifted towards the idealization of slender organic structure forms. Skinny manner theoretical accounts became dominant cultural icons. ‘Discourses of beauty, such as proposed dietetic governments or the usage of cosmetics, bore small relation to the impressions of wellness, the aim during the 1960’s and 1970’s was merely to acquire thinner’ ( Arthurs and Grimshaw, 1999:4 ) . In the 1980’s utmost tenuity was replaced by healthy muscularity. The ideal female organic structures were no longer merely thin, but house, toned and muscular ( Arthurs and Grimshaw, 1999: 20 ) . During the last 20 old ages the fittingness industry has exploded and the organic structure that is today seen as sexually attractive is a ‘fit’ organic structure. Womans are encouraged from childhood to suit into the thought of beauty as something that can be constructed with the aid of the right diet and exercising government, the right apparels, the right cosmetics and at the extreme, through plastic surgery. Bodies are ‘exercised, starved, depilated, shaved, pierced, tattooed, cut, stapled and stitched. Skin is bleached with chemicals or darkened with radiation, fat is vacuumed out of chests, thighs, tummies and natess, castanetss are cracked, hair is shaved or removed and chests are stuffed with tons of plastic’ ( Wilton quoted in Arthurs and Grimshaw, 1999: 7 ) . All this is done in the name of beauty derived from ancient pictures and sculptures that first ‘found’ the beauty of the human organic structure and established an ideal through their jubilation of flawlessness. In the name of art, women’s organic structures have become aesthetic objects, scrutinised and surveyed through criterions of beauty established by Western patriarchal tradition. Symbolically disconnected organic structure parts are known to hold been of import since the dominant position of the organic structure in antiquity, in which all parts were perceived as in perfect harmoniousness with each other, reflecting the interior harmoniousness and wellness of the person. The individual’s wellness was perceived as a contemplation of the higher harmoniousness of nature, which in bend was a contemplation of Godhead harmoniousness ( Wegenstein, 2001 ) . However, in modern-day civilization, the deity and harmoniousness of nature have been lost in the flux of obsessional behaviors runing from dieting to decorative surgery. It is non plenty be beautiful, a adult female has to be perfect – like those smooth, white sculptures of ancient Greece.
This research paper examines the impression of beauty in today’s Western societies through the analysis of the work of creative persons Orlan and Marc Quinn, who both push the boundaries of what is considered beautiful and ugly. Both creative persons defy the conventions of representation, interrupt the regulations of assorted patriarchal systems of representation and as a consequence redefine representation of beauty and the organic structure. The analysis draws from both post-structuralism and psychoanalytic feminism. Orlan and Marc Quinn both criticise the antique beauty myth through their art. Orlan ridicules the importance of accomplishing the perfect beauty by raising a psychoanalytic reading of the tegument as a platform between the ocular image of the ego and the organic structure one is ( Wegestein, 2002 ) . She demonstrates the impossibleness of going one with ones’ proper image in the mirror or on the screen. Marc Quinn in bend celebrates difference through the portraiture of different organic structures and comparing them to the perfect ideals of ancient sculpture. His plants expose the stereotyping and stigmatization inherent in society based on the ideal of flawlessness.
BEAUTY AND DESIRABILITY IN CONTEMPORARY CULTURE
‘As kids we learn what misss and male childs should be, and subsequently, work forces and adult females. These capable places and the values inherent in them may non all be compatible and we will larn that we can take between them. Whatever else we do we should be attractive and desirable to men’ ( Weedon quoted in Wykes and Gunter, 2005:31 ) . The ideal feminine visual aspect is no longer seen as an outward look of an interior individuality. Alternatively, today’s civilization encourages ‘self-conscious use of possibilities, a use in which surplus, stylization and sarcasm are brought to the fore’ ( Arthurs and Grimshaw, 1999:4 ) . From early childhood adult females are taught how to retrace themselves. They become accustomed to masking themselves and adorning themselves for the regard of work forces. Over the past 30 old ages they have gone further than of all time before in this procedure. They can re-arrange some of the organic stuff of their organic structure – sometimes without any injury to wellness, sometimes with annihilating effects ( Wykes and Gunter, 2005: 48 ) . Today there are more ways to accomplish what remains an unreal ideal. Womans are being sold young person but at the same clip aging becomes unacceptable. Harmonizing to Wykes and Gunter ( 2005:48 ) two different significances are enabled by the beauty is youth myth – the represented one and the connoted difference – ‘age is ugly.’ The job is that so many of the images offered to adult females are the same – thin, carnival, immature, fit, sexual – and the goods sold to adult females are sold to assist them accomplish that image whilst, at the same clip, adult females are expected progressively to busy a big assortment of functions – sex symbol, calling adult female, female parent, married woman, homemaker, jock ( Wykes and Gunter, 2005:52 ) . The confusion of images and the assortment of representations must look chilling for immature misss come ining maturity. All adult females modify their visual aspect in some manner in order to specify themselves harmonizing to society’s outlooks. As a consequence, all adult females are capable to the same force per unit areas and so to some extent all adult females suffer as topics of societal building.
It is this agony that Orlan attempts to pull our attending to in her public presentations. Harmonizing to Potkin ( 2000:76 ) public presentation is a radical medium which sets itself apart from the gallery system and art constitution. Implicit in this place is a rejection of modernist signifiers of pattern and systems of power perceived as masculine and a opposition to set up hierarchies and the impression of art as a trade good. Performance art by adult females can besides be understood as a response to art political relations, which marginalized adult females as creative persons and manipulated women’s organic structures in representation. Performance foregrounds the function of the creative person as adult female and as such, Potkin ( 2000:76 ) claims, operates as a review of traditional impressions of subject/object within art. Since the beginning of the 1990’s Orlan has undergone fictile surgery several times, which has turned her face into a combination of Botticelli’s Venus, the Mona Lisa, Boucher’s Europa and other female figures of art history ( Zimmermann, 2002 ) . Her usage of the engineering of plastic surgery as a medium for artistic look exemplifies the societal force per unit areas on adult females to conform to criterions of ideal beauty. The impossibleness of patriarchal beauty criterions is revealed in her public presentations which point to the fact that there is a tradition of utilizing the female organic structure to stand for certain significances and values that are really different from those that can be articulated by the male organic structure ( Zimmerman, 2002, Faber, 2002 ) . Blum ( 2005 ) refers to the ideal beauty as the ‘Other Woman’ , the adult female that we aspire to go. She explains that when you buy a organic structure portion for aesthetic grounds, you automatically compare yours to others who have better or worse ( Blum, 2005 ) . In today’s civilization, famous persons are frequently seen as the representations of the ideal ego. The famous person civilization encourages designation and imitation, transforming plastic surgery into a mainstream activity non unlike ordinary shopping. The difference is that more than anything ; plastic surgery relies upon women’s dissatisfaction with their organic structures.
Orlan’s ongoing transmutation of ego through plastic surgery confronts impressions of beauty, individuality, control and engineering. She directs the public presentation under local anesthetic, flooring her audience to the extent that it is they who seem to see hurting and horror. It has been claimed that Orlan reverses the relationship of the portrayal because she forces nature to copy art and so the scalpel becomes the tool of the creative person ( Zimmerman, 2002 ) . By exposing the violent domination of women’s organic structures by patriarchate, Orlan explores the dominant discourses about muliebrity circulating in Western societies. As Foucault ( 1977 ) explained it, organic structures are disciplined through changeless surveillance and scrutiny in Fieldss every bit diverse as medical specialty, art, anthropology and the media. ‘The human organic structure therefore enters a machinery of power that explores it, breaks it down and rearranges it’ ( Foucault, 1977:138-139 ) . Women, by being invariably under surveillance, internalize this surveillance. They attempt to transform themselves into the image of muliebrity presented in the media. The shallowness of this is exemplified by Orlan’s reading of philosophical, literary and psychoanalytic texts as she is operated on whilst at the same clip all the participants in her public presentations wear costumes designed by celebrated manner interior decorators. The first six surgeries transformed Orlan’s organic structure and face harmonizing to the criterions of ideal beauty. However, her latest surgeries are farther film overing the boundaries between ugliness and beauty. She has begun to transform herself into a ‘mutant body’ with implants inserted at each temple, making two balls on her caput and the largest chest implants possible for her anatomy ( Faber, 2002 ) .
Harmonizing to Faber ( 2002 ) , Orlan intentionally creates and embodies ocular lampoons of Christian martyrdom by presuming cruciform places on the operating tabular array. These images reinforce Orlan’s incarnation of the rites of feminine beauty that force per unit area adult females to seek unachievable physical flawlessness. In modern-day Western civilization, adult females learn the rites of beautification from an early age. The market place of trade goods offers the faces and organic structures of manner theoretical accounts, movie stars, and telecasting presenters for ingestion by the populace. Small girls learn muliebrity through playing with Barbie dolls, watching music picture by stars that are both sexual, childlike and feminine, playing videogames where the figures look like masculine sexual phantasies and more significantly, by placing with the ‘real’ adult females around them, invariably appraising themselves, worrying about this organic structure portion and that, and comparing themselves to others. The idealized image of a adult female, the Barbie doll, is an amalgam of assorted culturally prescribed perfect physical properties. Orlan, in a sense, concepts herself by utilizing the same physical properties that have been used in the creative activity of Barbie. More significantly tough, she destroys this creative activity through her farther public presentations that transform her into something all the more equivocal. She embodies the surpluss of Western society. Womans who take plastic surgery excessively far become modern monsters – their pursuit for perfect beauty has led them to hone ugliness. Think about Jackie Stallone’s scrunched up face or Lolo Ferrari’s larger than life chests. Is this what modern-day beauty has become? Orlan’s performances challenge the patriarchal imperative to command the organic structure, as she is both the topic and the object of the public presentation. In a sense, she reveals modern women’s complicity in their ain subjugation. If the feminine status is to be beautiful, it is noteworthy that single adult females are ever stranded on the other side of beauty ( Blum, 2005 ) . There is ever the Other Woman who we compare ourselves to. Repairing one ‘defect’ exposes many others. In a society where criterions of beauty are modelled through manner theoretical accounts and famous persons adult females can ne’er accomplish flawlessness for there will ever be a new beautiful face to copy. The fact that adult females invariably compare themselves to others bases in the manner of true satisfaction. As Blum ( 2005 ) puts it, no affair how near we come to copying the Other Woman – through the merchandises we buy or how we wear our hair, and most dramatically through surgery – once it is we who are in the place to be the Other Woman, she immediately jumps to another topographic point on the map for us to drag after. Orlan knows that beauty touches the grotesque – the boundary line between beauty and freak is the true beginning of imaginativeness ( Morgenstern, 2003 ) . Difference is therefore the true beginning of beauty. But is the patriarchal society ready to accept difference?
DIFFERENCE AND THE WESTERN BEAUTY IDEAL
Nineteenth- century philosophic and medical discourses constructed beauty as an facet of a person’s ontological value, which became the index of moral worth. The fact that black adult females were considered ‘ugly’ and ‘degenerate’ so constituted them as a sexual menace stand foring the out ‘Other’ ( Arthurs and Grimshaw, 1999: 9 ) . This black ‘Other’ produced a history of captivation and fright where desire and repugnance intermingled. ‘Otherness’ did non deduce from some indispensable, natural qualities of inkiness but was a societal building. Similarly disablement in modern Western societies is constructed socially. Whereas work forces transgress in their actions, adult females and the handicapped transgress in their very being by disputing any impression of a organic structure with fixed boundaries ( Arthurs, 1999 ) . Women’s organic structures are ever in procedure. The maternal organic structure in peculiar is the grotesque organic structure par excellence. Marc Quinn’s much debated sculpture ‘Alison Lapper Pregnant’ demonstrates the hard inquiries sing accepted signifiers of beauty and ugliness. The sculpture of a pregnant, handicapped adult female represents patriarchal thoughts about who deserves to be included in our civilization, a inquiry in which the determining factor seems to be a boundary line between the healthy and the sick, the masculine and the feminine, and beauty and ugliness. Feminists talk about how the universe has been designed for the organic structures and activities of work forces. As Wendell ( 1996: 39 ) describes it, in Western states, life and work have been structured for tantrum, able and strong organic structures whereas art and civilization represent those who dominate the societal universe. The trust of cultural and aesthetic ideals on the healthy and able organic structure makes alternate signifiers of beauty seem monstrous and upseting. The history of sculpture celebrates the nation’s heroes, establishments and middle-class values. The topographic point of adult females in this tradition was as the object, as the personification of beauty or virtuousness ( Carson, 2000:57 ) . ‘Alison Lapper Pregnant’ is one of the most seeable portraitures of disablement today. Installed in Trafalgar Square with the masculine, phallic Nelson’s Column and other male sculptures, it seems to oppugn the ideals of aesthetic beauty. Historically, aesthetics tracks the emotions that some organic structures feel in the presence of other organic structures, but harmonizing to Siebers ( 2003 ) aesthetic feelings of pleasance and disgust are hard to divide from political feelings of credence and rejection. The subjugation of adult females and people with disablements takes the signifier of aesthetic opinion about their organic structures and the emotions they elicit. Their actions are called sick, their visual aspect judged obscene or disgusting, their heads depraved, their influence likened to malignant neoplastic disease assailing the healthy organic structure of society ( Siebers, 2003 ) . Both adult females and the handicapped are seen as devalued, their organic structures are seen in footings of a deficiency and they are subjected to a scrutinising regard. Womans are gazed at for their beauty and gender ; the handicapped organic structures are looked at for their ugliness and freak. Both become passive and laden organic structures, categorised, classified and controlled by others.
Like adult females, handicapped people are frequently portrayed through cultural stereotypes. The patterns of the civilization industries therefore contribute to the ‘Otherness’ of both adult females and people wit disablements ( Wendell, 1996 ) . The stereotypes of handicapped adult females as helpless, dependent and imperfect contribute to their marginalization from both society and cultural patterns. ‘Physical imperfectness is more likely to be thought to ‘spoil’ a adult female than a adult male by rendering her unattractive in a civilization where her physical visual aspect is a big constituent of a woman’s value’ ( Wendell, 1996:43-44 ) . Alison Lapper’s damaged limbs likely evoke metaphorical significances of being crippled, which include weakness and dependence. It could be said that the handicapped adult female is by and large seen as holding nil to offer. They are non seen as beautiful and hence could non perchance pull a adult male ; they are discouraged from going female parents and unable to take part in the modern-day beauty and wellness civilization through diet and fittingness governments. Wendell ( 1996:44 ) emphasises the power of the civilization entirely to build disablement through a consideration of bodily differences – divergences from a society’s construct of a normal or acceptable organic structure – that, although they cause small or no functional or physical trouble for the individual who has them, represent major societal disablements. She thinks that facial scarring and big organic structure size are of import illustrations as they are disablements in visual aspect merely and hence constructed wholly by stigma and cultural bias.
The modern society non merely represents the disableds as mentally and physically handicapped – and demand their exclusion from the populace sphere as a consequence – they reject plants of art that represent options to the beauty ideal ( Siebers, 2003 ) . Therefore, the plants of Marc Quinn summon an aesthetic repugnance equivalent to the disgust felt by many in face-to face brushs with people with disablements ( Siebers, 2003 ) . It is of import to observe that whereas sculptures stand foring handicapped people are frequently regarded with fright and repugnance, the perfect statues of antiquity that are besides losing limbs, are seen as the prototypes of beauty, wellness and virility. The arresting plants of Marc Quinn make a part to the history of art by assailing aesthetic dictates that ally beauty to harmonious signifier, balance, hygiene, fluidness of look and mastermind ( Siebers, 2005 ) . The Alison Lapper sculpture in peculiar, by being a nude, pregnant, handicapped adult female is precisely what modern society frights. By being pregnant she has lost control of her organic structure, by being handicapped she is deemed ugly and aberrant by society, and by being naked she challenges the traditions of art portraying adult females as inactive objects of the male regard, beautiful, perfect and sexual. Allison Lapper is different, therefore she can non be judged through the modern-day beauty criterions. The sculpture challenges people to rethink the image of beautiful organic structures. It likely upsets popular outlooks about beauty of art by showing society with new aesthetic criterions of beauty based on the ‘Otherness’ of both adult females and the handicapped. The difference and ‘ugliness’ of this sculpture somehow turns into an ‘unspoiled’ beauty that is difficult to happen in a society obsessed with tenuity, manufactured beauty and fittingness. Both Orlan’s public presentations and Marc Quinn’s sculptures make us cognizant of impossibleness of entire control and subject of our lives.
Discourses construct our sense of ego and the media are the primary beginnings of discourses about beauty and the organic structure. Women, immature and old, must follow with the facets of the feminine promoted by dominant patriarchal discourses. They must continually retrace and supervise themselves harmonizing the ideal criterions of beauty, the beauty myth. Wolf ( quoted in Wykes and Gunter, 2005:61 ) explains, ‘the beauty myth tells a narrative: ‘the quality called beauty objectively and universally exists. Womans must desire to incarnate it and work forces must desire to possess adult females who embody it. This incarnation is an imperative for adult females but non for work forces, which state of affairs is necessary and natural because it is biological, sexual and evolutionary.’ However, the beauty myth is merely a myth, a fictional narrative held in topographic point by the patriarchal society. Wolf ( quoted in Wykes and Gunter 2005:61 ) continues, ‘In delegating value to adult females in a perpendicular hierarchy harmonizing to a culturally imposed criterion, [ the beauty myth ] is an look of power dealingss in which adult females must unnaturally vie for resources that work forces have appropriated for themselves.’ As a consequence, the female organic structure becomes a job, the Other that can merely be controlled through governments of beauty. Women become haunted with looking right – and the right expression derives from impossible and unachievable criterions set a long clip ago through the scrutiny of art and nature. The ideal organic structure form has changed but thought of flawlessness hasn’t. Womans are invariably pressured to look a certain manner and many adult females end up traveling excessively far by fall backing to extreme dieting and plastic surgery. It is this force per unit area to look perfect that is the topic of Orlan’s public presentations. She stretchers the boundaries of beauty and ugliness by continuously altering, going the envied ‘Other Woman’ and so going something else wholly – something that could be described as different. However, Orlan’s modified organic structure, represented as artistic stuff, is still subjected to an analyzing regard. This regard blurs the boundaries between art, engineering and medical specialty due to the fact that Orlan’s performances non merely question the boundaries of beauty in art and civilization, but besides draw from a tradition of extra-artistic utilizations of the organic structure. There is an facet of voyeurism in the scrutiny of this organic structure which is literally opened up to the regard of others. As Faber ( 2002 ) puts it, Orlan’s powerlessness and her self-assertion during her surgeries embody in an utmost manner how cultural messages are imprinted on our flesh – with perchance violent reverberations.
The desire to stand for perfect, single organic structures denigrates or excludes the experience of disablement. The accent on beauty and the aesthetic representation of organic structures non merely discriminates but besides leads to the subjugation of people with disablements. Bodies that do non suit the established beauty ideal are feared because they represent deficiency of control. The classs of normal and unnatural are projected both onto the female and the handicapped organic structure and used symbolically as a agency of exerting control over adult females and the handicapped people. Marc Quinn’s sculptures deny this patriarchal control since the handicapped organic structures, rendered monstrous by the societal order, are publically displayed as plants of art. The ‘ugliness’ of his sculptures is displayed alongside the flawlessness of other graphicss, rendering their flawlessness laughably unachievable. It becomes clear that beauty can ne’er be achieved: it must ever be sought. What is upseting is that the media tell people what to look for to do ourselves beautiful, where to purchase it and how purchasing it will better our lives ( Wykes and Gunter, 2005 ) . These discourses are so strong that it is questionable whether the artistic plants that promote the beauty of difference will hold any impact on our lives. They may floor us momently, they may even do us more unfastened to new criterions of acceptableness, but in the age where we are invariably surrounded by discourses where muliebrity metamorphoses from one mark to another, wining generation’s fluctuations on the antediluvian subject ( Wykes and Gunter, 2005 ) , the beauty myth seems to be accepted as the truth of the feminine status. It is of import to observe that feminist histories of muliebrity tend to be instead fatalist, non allowing adult females any power at all. The women’s rightist review sees the cultural building of beauty as in the exclusive involvement of patriarchate and capital. What is mostly ignored is women’s ain, willing engagement in and enjoyment of the beauty civilization. Can manner, make-up, fittingness, diets and even fictile surgery be authorising? The passiveness of adult females in traditional histories of muliebrity seems to overlook the fact that instead than being aimed at work forces, beauty patterns are preponderantly aimed at the ego every bit good as at other adult females. Feminine competition is a portion of modern female heterosexualism, whereby women’s relationships with each other are reshaped around an fanciful masculine desire ( Blum, 2005 ) .
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