Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies

Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies
School of Sociology and Social Policy
Social Sciences Building
Leeds, LS2 9JT
UK

Tel: +44 (0) 113 343 3770
Fax: +44 (0) 113 343 4415
gender-studies@leeds.ac.uk

News

Sugar Rush: Science, Obesity and the Social Life of Sugar

by Karen Throsby

@thelongswim

After decades of warnings about the perils of dietary fat, in recent years, sugar has stepped into the limelight as the public health bête noir. You can barely open a magazine, newspaper or social media feed these days without encountering dire warnings about the threat to health posed by sugar, or the proffering of programmes to help you quit the white stuff. It’s a concern that resonates at the global level. In 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended that we limit free (or added) sugars to 10% of our daily intake – less that the amount contained in a single can of Coke. And in 2016, the WHO called for the global taxation of sugary drinks to tackle obesity and type II diabetes, particularly in relation to children. Health entrepreneurs have hopped on board, and there is a proliferation of anti-sugar popular science texts, low carbohydrate dietary plans and first person and how-to guides to giving up sugar, available for purchase or via subscription access. Giving up sugar has also become a site of charitable fund-raising. For example, in February 2017, the Cancer Research Fund launched “Sugar Free February”, and in March 2017, the British Heart Foundation recruited over 16,000 participants for its sponsored “Dechox” fund-raising initiative.

With the exception of those commercially invested in the sugar industry, there is widespread agreement that the high consumption of sugar, and its almost universal presence in processed and packaged foods (approximately 75% of supermarket stock has added sugar), constitutes a public health issue. However, debates rumble on among scientists, clinicians and policy makers about what counts as sugar (all carbohydrates? Added sugars?), on the feasibility of sugar consumption in moderation (an argument favoured by the sugar industry, perhaps not surprisingly), and the relation of sugar to the familiar dietary enemy, fat. These contestations sit at the intersection of anti-obesity ideology, professional status and the authority of science, and the vested and commercial interests of ‘big sugar’ and its allies, and are central to the ways in which sugar is understood and made meaningful in contemporary society. They are also inextricable from generational, gendered, raced and classed assumptions about who the primary consumers of sugar are, how food habits and tastes are produced and sustained, the meanings of food across different contexts and how changes in food behaviour occur.

The current rush to position sugar as what anti-sugar researcher and popular nutritional science writer, Robert Lustig, describes as the “Darth Vader of the Empire” is the focus of my new project, entitled “Sugar Rush: Science, Obesity and the Social Life of Sugar”. The research, which is supported by a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship, will begin from the question: “What are the social meanings and practices of sugar in the context of the ‘war on obesity’? I plan to explore this by gathering together an assemblage of discourses and materialities through which sugar is made meaningful, and through which the social life of sugar is enacted. This accumulated archive will include: policy documents, parliamentary statements; professional medical association statements; published scientific research; popular texts; websites; media reports and other sources that both reflect and produce the contemporary social meanings of, attachments to, and repudiations of sugar. I hope that the subsequent analysis will facilitate a greater understanding of the ways in which sugar is operating as node through which our anxieties about food, health and bodies are made meaningful.

My interest here is not to determine the ‘truths’ of sugar or to dictate what people should or should not eat. Instead, I want to use the rush to sugar to explore the intersection of key sites of social inquiry including: scientific knowledge production, validation and popular appropriation; the role of generation, gender, race an class in the production of embodied citizenship; the politics of food, particularly in the context of austerity; and the contemporary panics around health and body size.

This entry was posted in Blog, News.

Two new books by CIGS members

Immersion by Karen Throsby

Immersion by Karen Throsby

Karen Throsby‘s Immersion is about the extreme sport of marathon swimming. Drawing on extensive (auto)ethnographic data, Immersion explores the embodied and social processes of becoming a marathon swimmer and investigates how social belonging is produced and policed. Using marathon swimming as a lens, this foundation provides the basis for an exploration of what constitutes the ‘good’ body in contemporary neoliberal society across a range of sites including charitable swimming, fatness, gender and health. The book argues that the self-representations of marathon swimming are at odds with its lived realities, and that this reflects the entrenched and limited discursive resources available for thinking about the sporting body in the wider social and cultural context.

The book is aimed primarily at readers at undergraduate level and upwards with an interest in sociology, the sociology of the body, the sociology of sport, gender and the sociology of health and illness.

 

Gender, Metal and the Media by Rosemary Lucy Hill

Gender, Metal and the Media by Rosemary Lucy Hill

Rosemary Lucy Hill‘s Gender, Metal and the Media examines the tension between being a rock music fan and being a woman. From the media representation of women rock fans as groupies to the widely held belief that hard rock and metal is masculine music, being a music fan is an experience shaped by gender. Through a lively discussion of the idealised imaginary community created in the media and interviews with women fans in the UK, Rosemary Lucy Hill grapples with the controversial topics of groupies, sexism and male dominance in metal. She challenges the claim that the genre is inherently masculine, arguing that musical pleasure is much more sophisticated than simplistic enjoyments of aggression, violence and virtuosity. Listening to women’s experiences, she maintains, enables new thinking about hard rock and metal music, and about what it is like to be a women fan in a sexist environment.

 

You can read her blog about the book here: http://gender-studies.leeds.ac.uk/category/blog/

 

This entry was posted in News.

CIGS Reverse Advent

This year, SSP’s Emma Nelson (Student Experience Manager) is organising a Reverse Advent – so rather than opening a window each day in the run-up to Christmas and getting treat, you use the opportunity to set aside an item that could be donated to a food bank. CIGS would like to make a contribution to this fantastic project and we are inviting everyone to join in.

Having recently seen the film, “I, Daniel Blake”, I have become aware recently of the lack of sanitary towels and tampons available to women who are experiencing poverty and using food banks. There’s a very disturbing article about it here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/women-are-using-newspapers-because-they-cannot-afford-tampons-warns-salvation-army-food-bank-a6932111.html

So this year, we are asking CIGS members to contribute packets of sanitary towels or boxes of tampons, which will be donated to women experiencing poverty and using food banks. If you would like to make a donation (and you feel that you can afford to do so), please send your donations to me – you can bring them to my office (Social Sciences Building, 11.25), or to the CIGS Christmas Celebration on 13th December, send them via internal mail, or drop them off at the SSP reception, either for me or directly to Emma. Alternatively, if you are on campus, if you email Karen Throsby (k.throsby@leeds.ac.uk) I can come and collect donations.

Thank you in advance for your contributions.

This entry was posted in News.

New CIGS blog post – gender and sport reporting

Visit here to read a report by CIGS MA student, Olivia Morris, about the problems of gender balance in sport reporting.

This entry was posted in News.

CIGS Christmas Celebration (Tuesday 13th Dec)

Tuesday 13th December, 4-6pm, Social Sciences Building 12.21 / 25

Come along to the CIGS Christmas Celebration – a chance to hear about exciting publications, research projects and other 2016 successes, and to celebrate the achievements of last year’s MA students who will be graduating the following day.

Speakers will include:

  • Rosey Hill talking about her new book, Gender, Metal and the Media: Women Fans and the Gendered Experience of Music (Palgrave, 2016)
  • Karen Throsby discussing her book, Immersion: Marathon Swimming, Embodiment and Identity (Manchester University Press, 2016)
  • Sally Hines introducing her new, ESRC-funded project on pregnant men.
  • The event is free – all you have to do is register at the address below so that we can make sure we have enough mince pies. We’re looking forward to seeing you there.

There will be lots of time to chat and catch up with staff and present and former students over drinks and nibbles, and all are welcome.

it’s free to attend and all are welcome – please register at the address below so that we have an idea of numbers.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cigs-christmas-celebration-tickets-29650502451

This entry was posted in News.

CIGS seminar: Dr Karen Throsby

Wednesday 7th December 2016
12:00-13:30
Social Sciences Building 12.21/25

All welcome

Real meals: radical diets, science and the masculinisation of weight loss

In recent year, anxieties around obesity have shifted away from the familiar bête noir of fat towards sugar. Sugar – or what paediatric endocrinologist and anti-sugar popular science writer, Robert Lustig, calls the “Voldemort of the diet hit list” – is now widely treated as a primary cause of obesity, and it has also been closely linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and tooth decay, prompting the declaration at the level of international health policy of a ‘war on sugar’. The rush to denounce sugar has facilitated a flourishing array of radical exclusionary diets to which the elimination of sugar (variously conceived) is central. This includes both a variety of low-carbohydrate diets, which are heavily reliant on animal protein and fat, and plant-based diets that shun animal products. However, in spite of their divergent philosophies and practices, these plans share considerable common ground, particularly in their antipathy to mainstream dietary advice and in relation to the ways in which they mobilise nutritional science to support their positions. Furthermore, both dietary approaches make strategic use of similarly normative models of athletic masculinity as a primary means of recruitment and justification, to the exclusion (and sometimes derision) of the women who are the primary targets and users of the weight loss industry. Using the low-carbohydrate plan, The Real Meal Revolution, and the vegan weight loss plan, Forks Over Knives, as examples, this paper explores the ways in which the rush to sugar as the primary enemy in the ‘war on obesity’ impacts upon our understandings of the fat body, and investigates the ways in which these apparently irreconcilable dietary prescriptions find common ground in their appeals to ‘heretic’ science and to athletic masculinity. I argue that this analysis positions the rise of anti-sugar policy and practice not simply as a new departure, but also as a retrenchment of highly individualised gendered (and racialised) understandings about what constitutes the good body in contemporary society.

This entry was posted in News.

Dr João Manuel de Oliveira: Gender and its Ghosts: Feminism and the Construction of Gender Theory

Date: 14 November 2012, 5.00pm
Location: Seminar Room, Beech Grove House

Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies Seminar Series

Dr João Manuel de Oliveira: Birkbeck Institute for Social Research and University of Porto

Abstract

In the past two years, I have been working on a book on gender historiography trying to make sense of the multiple entanglements between feminism and gender theory. I have used the work of Benjamin, Derrida, Foucault and lately Deleuze and Guattari to understand how to tell a story of gender that : (a) is not based on an epistemology of history that only celebrates the winners, (b) takes gender as a pharmakon, ie, simultaneously medicine and poison for feminism; (c) uses the genealogy of gender as way to understand relations of power embedded in discourses; (d) allows an understanding of the mutations of the concept, its de-territorializations and re-territorializations, ultimately treating gender not as a concept, but as a rhizome.

Taking into account parts of the works of these philosophers I will present the cartography of three different accounts of this de-territorialized gender coming from a Western tradition of accounting for the ontology of masculinity and femininity. Using Avery Gordon’s (2008) proposal of a sociology of ghosts and haunting and Freud’s account of the uncanny, I will summon some ghosts of gender theory – the invert, the hermaphrodite, the transsexual and the feminist – to ground my several possible narratives using figurations and their material-semiotic contexts (Haraway, 2008).

The last part of the talk will show how these ghosts are present in the work of Judith Butler, who has actively summoned these ghosts and figures, creating a unique body of work on gender studies and feminist epistemology. This work of reframing the history of gender refusing to tell it as history, but rather as a cartography of several genealogies, provides a possibility of training the imagination for epistemological performance (Spivak, 2011), a basic condition to understand the promiscuity of the concept of gender and its multiple effects on feminist theory.

This entry was posted in CIGS Seminar Series 2012-13, News.

Dr Jane Chi Hyun Park – South Korean Beauty as Transnational Pan-Asian Aesthetic: Reading Around and Beyond 200 Pounds Beauty

Date: 30 October 2012, 5.00pm
Location: Seminar Room, Beech Grove House

Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies Seminar Series

Abstract:

This paper focuses on 200 Pounds Beauty, a contemporary South Korean film that uses humor to delineate the experiences of women who fail to meet dominant codes of beauty and femininity. Directed by Kim Young-hwa and released in 2006, the film follows the plight of Hanna, an obese twenty-something woman who has extreme plastic surgery to find love and become a famous singer.

Adapted from the manga, Kanna-San, Daiseikou Desu (Kanna’s Big Success) by Suzuki Yumiko this updated Ugly Duckling meets Little Mermaid story proved to be a surprising hit, selling 6.5 million tickets and earning $45 million at the domestic box office. It went on to win the Grand Bell Award for best actress and best cinematography in 2007, was adapted into a successful stage musical in 2008, and spawned a less successful sequel in 2010. The film also performed well in the region (grossing $550K in Singapore in a month and $190K in Hong Kong in 3 days). Finally, it catapulted Kim Ah-Jung, the actress who plays Hanna, to hallyu fame, eclipsing Jun Ji-hyun’s popularity from My Sassy Girl five years earlier.

Elsewhere I have argued that the commercial narratives, which we consume the most uncritically and which seem to have no overt ideological function often provide the richest examples of how dominant cultural values are being shaped and negotiated. As a way of exploring these values, I examine how the film’s melodramatic slapstick humor frames the protagonist’s journey and encourages the audience to sympathize with her. In particular, I want to consider how this sympathy, and in some cases, empathy might be read beyond a simple acceptance or celebration of normative femininity.

I attempt to do this with a close reading of how such femininity is depicted and complicated in the film through Hana’s physical transformation and its emotional, social and moral consequences. I then contextualize this reading in the film’s critical reception within Asia as well as through popular and medical discourses around beauty in Korea during and after its release. In so doing, I raise and attempt to respond, in preliminary ways, to the following questions. First, what new virtual model of hybrid and transcultural pan-Asian beauty is celebrated in this film and countless other hallyu media. Second, how can we understand its development and appeal for women and increasingly men, beyond reductive Westernization and globalization models? Finally, what kinds of social and cultural implications does this trend toward surgically modified beauty have, not only on members of South Korean society but also increasingly, those of other East and Southeast Asian countries as Korean cosmetic surgery tourism becomes ever more popular in the region?

Biograhpy:

Dr. Jane Chi Hyun Park is a senior lecturer in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies and the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. Her research and teaching are concerned with the social uses of media technologies, the cultural impact of minority representations, and transnational flows of popular film, music, and television.

Her first book, Yellow Future: Oriental Style in Hollywood Cinema (University of Minnesota, 2010), examines the ideological role of East Asian imagery in Hollywood films. She has also published articles in a number of international journals such as Global Media Journal, World Literature Today, Asian Studies Review, Screening the Past, and Gender, Place and Culture and book chapters in East Main Street: Asian American Popular Culture (NYU Press, 2004), Mixed Race in Film and Television (NYU Press, 2008), Complicated Currents: Media Flows and Soft Power in East Asia (Monash University Press, 2009), and The Blackwell Companion to Film Comedy (Blackwell, forthcoming 2012).

Jane is currently working on two research projects. The first looks at diasporic and transnational movements in contemporary Asia Pacific film, focusing on aesthetics, performance, and genre. The second looks at the consumption of Korean cosmetic surgeries, products, and regimes through tourism and popular media. Linking both projects is her interest in the ongoing development of Asian modernities through the circulation of cross-cultural styles, objects, and narratives.

This entry was posted in CIGS Seminar Series 2012-13, News.

Bird la Bird – Holding Court on Class and Queer Femininity

Date: 25 October 2012, 5.00pm
Location: Western Lecture Theatre – Leeds University Business School

Bird la Bird is an artist who straddles comedy and performance art, she has been described as a “Queer Pearly Queen” and a “Haute Couture Fishwife”. Bird favours collaboration and works with a host of artists and designers to create surreal and satirical performances. Bird’s performances explore couple culture, austerity, adoption, terrorism, catholicism, class, feminism, and queer femininity.

Bird was a collaborator on The FeMuseum project, a performative archive exploring Femme legacy and lineage led by Lois Weaver. She often works with the Duckie collective and appeared in their anti-capitalist neo-panto “Copyright Christmas” at the Barbican Theatre in 2011.

Bird graces the cover of Femmes of Power by Ulrika Dahl and Del LaGrace Volcano (2009). She founded Bird Club in 2006 with Maria Rosa Young, and went on to organize Bird Pride, the UK’s first-ever Femme presence at the annual Pride march.

Bird Club was a shell breaking queer femme cabaret night which blurred the boundaries between art, politics and partying. Bird will discuss why she prefers clubs to gallery spaces.

In this “eggciting” lecture, Bird will hold forth on her favorite subject—herself—in a witty and amusing manner. She will also show documentation of recent shows—in other words, lots of images and video of herself.

You are invited to join in and ask questions, if you can get a word in edgeways.

This entry was posted in CIGS Seminar Series 2012-13, News.

Forthcoming Feminisms: Gender Activism, Politics and Theories Organised by the BSA Gender Study Group & the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies, University of Leeds

Date: 26 October 2012, 9.00am
Location: Weetwood Hall Hotel, Leeds

Keynote Speakers: Julia Downes (Durham); Imogen Tyler (Lancaster)

This one day conference will seek to explore the contemporary landscape of gender politics and theory at a crucial moment of feminist resurgence. Against the backdrop of political economies of austerity, in which women are disproportionately disadvantaged, and in challenge to ‘post-feminist’ cultural prophecies, current times indicate a renewed interest in, and commitment to, feminism. In academic climates, while women’s and gender study programs face threats of closure, the popularity of such programmes continues to grow; reflecting the continuation of feminist and gender theory as a flourishing and dynamic arena. This conference speaks to these political and theoretical paradoxes and flows in exploring varied (and sometimes opposing) feminist cultures, values, ethics, knowledges, challenges and aspirations across the levels of the social and cultural.

The conference will examine these issues in relation to temporality: how do current feminisms speak to those of the past and how might we imagine feminisms’ future?; the micro and the macro: how do grass roots feminist politics respond to structural processes and materialities?; the local and global: what are the similarities and differences – the uniting and dividing features – of national and international feminisms?; place and culture: how are feminisms formed through, and in opposition to, fields of habitus and spaces of public/private; citizenship and recognition: who can – and who can’t – find a place within feminism, who is – and who isn’t – able to ‘belong’?; equality and diversity: to what extent has feminism been mainstreamed?, what are the effects of this on gender studies and politics in and outside the academy?; intersectionality: how do social identities and material positionings impact on feminist commitments and lived experiences?, how do patterns of inequality bear on feminist aspirations and imaginings?; difference: how can feminism productively interact with trans and queer politics, theories, and communities?, how can feminism account for embodied diversities?

Papers will address questions of

  • Sites of Activism
  • Political Agendas
  • Spaces and Places
  • Gender Mainstreaming
  • Feminisms at the Local and Global
  • Intersections of Class, Race, Ethnicity, Faith, Age, Gender, Sexuality and Embodiment
  • Feminist Times and Generations
  • Agency and Affect
  • Political Economies
  • Inclusions and Exclusions
  • Transgender and Queer Feminisms
  • Representation, Media and New Technologies

Please click here to see the full conference programme

This entry was posted in Conferences, News.

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