I passed my PhD last December and have finally got in the corrections this month. This was 4 years of work and I’ve had a lot of people to thank. Chiefly my supervisors, Dr Helen Fawkner and Professor Brendan Gough. The fully squirmy acknowledgments are in there too.
Ridiculously, I can sum up the whole 90,000 words in a sentence: Men don’t hate their appearance because of other people but capitalism.
This is the abstract:
Body dissatisfaction is now normative among men. Whilst the impact of this is recognized clinically (e.g., via depression and eating disorders), it also has more intimate, seemingly-mundane impacts and is therefore never benign. Body dissatisfaction research and advocacy then seeks to undo body dissatisfaction, recognizing it as a consequence of an injustice. Studies 1 and 2 of this thesis consisted of the implementation and mixed-methods evaluation of an intervention to reduce men’s body dissatisfaction. Results showed promise but also that the intervention was limited by its focus on individuals. This follows a general trend in body dissatisfaction research where people are pathologised as responsible for causing their own body dissatisfaction (e.g., gay men) and the role of culture is ignored or reduce to an epiphenomenon (i.e., mass media). Studies 3 and 4 attempted to redress this by comparing the ‘appearance potency’ not of gay and straight men themselves but of media that markets towards both groups (thereby also shifting the focus off the individual and onto culture). The results of these studies found a high level of appearance potency in both types of media, though media was not homogenous and had many positive aspects (e.g., LGBT political advocacy). This appearance potency was particularly prominent in the adverts reflecting how media content is dictated by their advertising revenue and their own profit imperative. This thesis concludes that neither individuals nor media per se drive body dissatisfaction. Instead it is the system that allows corporations to make profits when body dissatisfaction is engendered that does (i.e., capitalism). Advocacy must acknowledge this system; the intersectional harms it does including both misrecognition and maldistribution (e.g., through sweatshops; Fraser, 1995) if body dissatisfaction, among other forms of suffering, are to be undone.
And if you want the full, 90,000 words you can download it here:
Jankowski, G. S. (2016). Men’s body dissatisfaction: A critical analysis of neoliberal and representational approaches (Unpublished doctoral thesis). Leeds Beckett University, Leeds. doi: 10.13140/RG.2.1.2006.4401