Arfa Shah

“The body as a cultural object”: Exploring the online construction of the female body

This project explores the construction of the female body in today’s image saturated world, identifying how the body is constructed within a set of restrictive beauty ideals. Utilising McRobbie’s reading of Bourdieu  and the concept of symbolic violence, which explores how society encourages women to look a certain way, this project scrutinises the power of language to label images surrounding discourses of body shaming and body praising, particularly focussing on the Daily Mail Online and the powerful picture sharing application, Instagram. Furthermore, this project discusses how the Mail Online utilises new media formats of social media, such as comment sections and “likes”, to  encourage readers to partake in this symbolic violence against women, further reinforcing notions of beautifying oneself in accordance with the cultural expectations of the modern world.  This project also looks at the power of the image making technologies of applications such as Instagram and how its filters allow users to refashion and control images of the body to project a perfected external self. Instagram, like the Mail Online, encourages users to present a flawless image to the world. By identifying the particular techniques of language and image making that perpetuate notions of the ultimate feminine ideal, this project concludes that the body is indeed a constant site of construction that cannot escape from ongoing image mediation and suffocating beauty ideals.