May 15th, 2015, Embodied Difference, Sexualities and Gender: Practices of Regulation, Resistance and Value (Newcastle)

Embodied Difference, Sexualities and Gender: Practices of Regulation, Resistance and Value. Friday 15th May 2015, 12.30 – 5.00pm: Great North Museum, Claremont Road, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Hosted by: Newcastle University: School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Gender Research Group and the Identities, Embodiments and Selves Research Cluster.

The seminar will think through how different types of body are read/mis read/not read through understandings/practices/norms of sexuality and gender. It will also examine dynamics of identity, citizenship, transgression, regulation and include considerations of body shape, disability, race/ethnicity, age and other factors.

The key note speakers are:

David Abbott, University of Bristol: Discussing Sex with Disabled Men I will report on two studies with different groups of Disabled men. The first focused on gay men with intellectual disabilities and the second on young men with life limiting conditions. Both studies produced rich data about the intersection of disability and sex and sexuality with key themes including: positive experiences of sex and love; barriers and discriminatory attitudes in the pursuit of sexual relationships; the reformulating of sexual possibilities; and the impact on sense of self of both positive and negative experiences. I will also touch on the ethical and methodological implications of the research interview as a place in which to explore these topics with men.

Mónica Moreno Figueroa, Cambridge University: Decentering Beauty in Latin AmericaIn this paper I rehearse a response to the challenge to decolonize beauty studies. Starting from a feminist approach to the study of beauty as a site from where to understand the lived experience of racism in Latin America, I am interested in developing a conversation between Black and what we could possibly term as Mestiza (mixed-race) feminism. The focus of this conversation are the approaches to beauty that are aiming to decentre the idea that white models of beauty are the goal of all women, that is, that white beauty is iconic. I develop a dialogue between these two parallel experiences of the construction of feminine beauty, Black and Mestiza, but also of racism and sexism. I draw on empirical material that explores the anxieties around appearance. This allows another entry point to understand the constraints placed on people to protect notions of whiteness and privilege in particular contexts marked by racial and cultural mixture. I will also explore elements of Latin American visual cultural history that places such mestizo/mixed body at the center of racialised national discourses. Some of the questions I pose are: what are the figures that emerge when discussing beauty parameters? What is the scope for multiplicity? What’s the specificity of mestizaje (racial and cultural mixture) to the experience of beauty? Are all experiences of non-white women the same as the ones who identify as Black? Is there a difference between white bodies/white beauty/white iconicity and whiteness? How can we link up the question of beauty with the issue of dealing with the hurt or hurting around the racialised body? Overall, this paper aims to juggle with the tensions generated around concerns with beauty that are, on the one hand, present in the everyday and in need of sociological attention, but, on the other, also revealing the oppressiveness of regimes of racialised femininity.

Emily Nicholls, Sheffield University and Newcastle University: The Sort of Things I’d call Tacky…: The Classed Regulation of Hyper-Feminine Bodies on the ‘Girls’ Night Out’ Drawing on my ESRC-funded PhD research, this paper will examine the ways in which dress and appearance are regulated by young women in the highly gendered and (hetero)sexualised spaces of the Night Time Economy (NTE), speaking to highly contemporary debates around the boundaries of femininity and its continued regulation in a supposed ‘post-feminist’ society. Drawing on key intersections of gender, class and identity, this paper will demonstrate the ways in which classed and localised processes of regulation and othering circulated within the post-industrial city of Newcastle, where the ‘Geordie’ was frequently imagined by other women to embody a particular type of excessive and tasteless hyper-femininity. Whilst some of the self-identified Geordies drew on notions of ‘glamour’ in the construction of their appearance, this paper will demonstrate that although such ways of managing appearance may have value locally, classed processes of ‘othering’ beyond these immediate contexts continued to position these ways of doing femininity as devalued.

Kath Woodward, Open University: Sporting Bodies: Disruptions and InsecuritiesSport is a field on which seems characterised by oversimplified binaries, not least separate competitions for women and men, underpinned by the apparent certainty of gender verification testing. Bodies can be mis-read in sport and although sport both generates and promotes seemingly traditional versions of heteronormativity and gender dualisms which are deeply embodied, they can also be disrupted. Sport, even a sport like boxing, which seems so enmeshed in traditional embodied divisions, can trouble certainties and speak to new ways of dealing with difference and engaging with ambivalence. Material bodies engage in routine practices which are distinctive but also offer ways of dealing with the norms of sexuality, sex and gender in challenging ways. Sport can be deeply misogynist and hostile to the transgression of normative boundaries but it also offers opportunities. I will base my talk on my work on boxing and the experience of working in art and sport, for example in curating the Olympic Museum exhibition, Chasing Time (2014-15)

To register for this conference please email Mark at: *Places are free