Disgust and “normal” corporeality: How cultural ideologies about gender, race, and *class are inscribed on the body
In this dissertation I argue that cultural ideologies about gender, race and class influence social norms for appropriate and acceptable bodies, and that moralizing emotions, such as disgust, facilitate internalization of body norms by individual members of society. To test these premises, the everyday body practices of men and women were examined using qualitative and quantitative studies grounded in feminist theory and interdisciplinary approaches to social science research.
Study 1, a qualitative study of American body practices, found that women expressed more disgust than men and expressed more gender-related concerns when considering how they would feel if they did not engage in their usual body practices. Men, however, expressed more class-related concerns than women, and participants of color, particularly African Americans, expressed more race-related concerns than whites.
Study 2, a quantitative inventory study of American body practices found that women perform nearly twice the number of body practices as men and spend twice the amount of time on these body practices as men. Study 2 also found that African Americans spend more time on their body practices than any other ethnic or racial group, and this was particularly true of African American women.
Study 3, a cross-cultural study of body practices comparing the U.S. and the Netherlands, tested whether the findings from Studies 1 and 2 were culturally specific to Americans. Study 3 found that the Dutch perform fewer body practices than Americans, spend less time on practices than Americans, and express less disgust, shame, and other moralizing language than Americans. In addition, Study 3 found that disgust toward the body is not gendered in the Netherlands as it is in the U.S., pointing to the cultural construction of ideologies about the body.
The dissertation examines some potential explanations for the race, gender, and cultural differences found in these studies, and discusses the psychological, political, and financial consequences of these differences for American women and people of color. The dissertation also makes a case for the importance of focusing on gender when theorizing about disgust and other moralizing emotions.
0451: Social psychology