Researcher History

Building on my video reflections and my initial research ideas, I decided to look more closely at my personal investment and interests that have led me down this path of research. I feel it’s important for my reflexivity and self awareness as a researcher to understand my own research path in order to be as fully realised as it can be.

Since my first year at university, from my first module of the term, I was interested in feminist theory and women within media. I had looked at this before during my A Levels, with an analysis of the sexualisation of women within anime, although I hadn’t developed much theoretical understanding or depth of knowledge from that project on the subject of feminism.

I quickly found myself very drawn to the topic of feminism, gender, sexuality and women, and I resonated with many of the issues strongly, from representation of women within media, to Postfeminist issues of femininity and sexuality, to understanding the fluid embodiment of gender and sexuality within people. During my time as an undergraduate, I developed a lot of these ideas and read extensively on the topics, often including them within essays and video projects. At the beginning of my third year, I began to identity as a feminist, initially looking at Postfeminism, but I have since revised this stance after a conversation prompted to think much more carefully about what it truly means to call yourself a feminist. It is something I am still thinking through, although gender equality is still that which comes most to my mind when I think of feminism.

My third year of my undergrad gave me the opportunity to begin specialising and narrowing down my interests around the previously mentioned topics. I opted to focus on performances of femininity and sexuality (specifically asexuality). My dissertation would eventually come to be centred on these two ideas, and I drew heavily on the ideas of Postfeminism, identity performance and embodiment, constructions of power (related to Western hegemonic ideals of women, beauty and heteronormativity, drawing on Foucault) and the deterritorialisation of bodies, specific to Deleuze and Guattari. Prior to writing my dissertation I wrote an essay which came to strongly influence my dissertation, on the subject of time, memory and spectacle specific to Barbie. I particularly enjoyed and found myself interested by the performance of femininity and what femininity means as a practice throughout the course of the year. The year enabled me to gain a really good understanding of theories relevant to my ideas and not just focused on one topic either. I studied feminism in the Post Soviet throughout this year and conducted active research this, which resulted in a conference and critical reflections of my researcher position. It’s safe to say I learned an awful lot during the course of the year, and not just about interested topics, but also about what doing research really means.

Why was I drawn to topics of feminism and femininity? Truthfully, I’m not sure. I never had any strong feminist influences growing up, although I can remember from a young age preferring to write and read stories about strong female heroines, play with female characters, and generally being much more interested in viewing females as equal to men. I had a period when I was quite young when I was obsessed with femininity, and although this resulted in a tomboy phase a few years later, I picked up again on femininity in my teen years, doing typical teenage girl activities like playing with make up, practising with high heels, and dressing up with my friends. I always loved putting on make up and trying new looks, and still do today. It influenced my modelling and my fascination with how femininity practices can be so diverse has resulted in a number of interesting shoots for me.

One of my experiences with high end beauty and performing femininity in a distinctive way. I always loved sitting in make up being transformed. Credit: Aaron Sehmar Photography, Flawless by Shaheen

The topic of Basic Bitches and femininity performances online through Instagram fascinates me because I feel I can relate to it. I love following pages related to beauty, seeing make up tests and perfectly made up faces with expert skill. High end beauty and make up is something I have experienced during my modelling, but it’s not something I do on a regular basis (nor can I afford it!). Understanding what normative femininity is, and how it’s performed everyday and here celebrated by the Basic Bitch movement as being the pinnacle of current femininity trends, really interests me, and appeals to myself both as a researcher, and as a Western, white, heterosexual female who enjoys all of the beauty practices and fashion that is depicted. Using a position of self-reflexivity within the research will benefit the research and challenge me also, which in turn enables me to produce a better and more useful piece of research into understanding femininity.

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