Gender, Ageing and Everyday Life: Visually Representing the Body

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: Booth 40
Oral Presentation
Wendy MARTIN , Brunel University, United Kingdom
Katy PILCHER , Sociology, Aston University, United Kingdom
As people grow older, daily norms and practices can be disrupted, the taken for granted nature of embodiment challenged, and people may increasingly be required to make sense of bodily changes in order to maintain and/or re-negotiate their identities. Drawing on the findings from an empirical study Photographing Everyday Life: Ageing, Lived Experiences, Time and Space funded by the ESRC, this paper explores the significance of the body in everyday life for 62 women and men aged 50 years and over in the UK. Participants took photographs of their different daily routines to create a weekly visual diary, which was explored through in-depth interviews to make visible the rhythms, patterns and meanings that underlie habitual and routinised everyday worlds. This paper explores the ways in which lived experiences of gender and ageing intersect and are performed and represented through the visual accounts of participants about their daily lives. In doing so, it focuses on two key aspects: (1) the ‘everyday’ appearance and body practices that participants visually depicted – which include work done on and with the body, through engagements with clothing, hair, make up application and shaving; and (2) representations and discussions of dieting and weight loss. The paper further highlights the potential disruptions, bodily betrayals, and moments of flux, in experiences of constructing the body in everyday life, and in representing the body through the visual. We argue that these visual representations, and participant narratives discussing their daily practices, indicate that the body is a process of ‘becoming’, a continual bodily ‘project’ (Gill et al., 2005), which is both socially and physically constructed through the practices participants engage in to maintain, discipline, and work on and with their bodies. The paper overall highlights participants' negotiations of, and sometimes resistance to, dominant ideas and discourses surrounding gender, ageing and the body.