Body Work and Gender among Middle Class Ghanaian Women (Abstract)

Emelia Afi Agblevor

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


Research in body work, that is, work performed on one’s body for aesthetic modification or maintenance has particularly received increased attention due to its linkage with a presentation of self-identity in a consumer culture. Various studies however indicate that women more than men feel the need to modify their bodies. This paper presents findings on the role of gender in how women take on bodywork among middle class Ghanaian women. Data was collected qualitatively through in-depth interviews with 35 (thirty-five) middle-class Ghanaian women. The findings showed that gender norms had a real impact on the natural bodies of women where women engaged in body work practices mainly to satisfy male partners. However, as other feminist scholars have pointed out, women are not cultural dopes. Some women actively made decisions in the body work activities they undertook and went a step further to be agents in the reproduction of the body ideal. The analysis using a corporeal realism lens shows that body work is not just a function of social structure or agency but most often, an entwinement of both. Gender however gave an unequal advantage to men rather than women.


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