Date of Award

Spring 5-2014

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis


Anthropology and Sociology

First Advisor

Amy Chasteen Miller

Advisor Department

Anthropology and Sociology


The selection of body altering products available to twenty-first century women is easily accessible and widely utilized. These products, though, are vastly different from those once available to their female predecessors. Although women’s bodies have been sites for societal pressure and control for centuries before the twenty-first, American girls in this century experience body image norms and pressures in qualitatively different ways than girls who came before them. Of particular interest to this study is the differing bodily experience of early twentieth century women to that of twenty-first century women.

The trading in of corsets and floor-length dresses for razors and bikinis is a key change in terms of this research. By using a historical context as well as sociological theory and methods, this research aims to understand women’s current body trends, especially those pertaining to genital alteration as they relate to societal pressures and genital self-esteem levels. As such, this project seeks specifically to examine women’s beauty routines and practices, especially relating to genital alteration, societal pressures, and genital self-esteem. As such, this project seeks to understand the bodily experiences of women and the bodily choices they make and why. Emergent themes this thesis explores include: beauty routines: mom and the media; puberty stories; intimate partner expectations; female genital self-image; and the ideal vagina.