Customising and The Social Body

The introduction on this lecture looked at ‘What is customising?’ and what does it consist of. The definition to customise is: modify (something) to suit a particular individual or task. In this element it looks at the alteration of any physical elements of your body, including;

Plastic surgery

Hair Dyeing



Body Modification


This developed into looking at Roland Barthes who was a French literacy, theorist, philosopher, linguist, critic and semiotican. His theory looked at semiotics or the study of signs. He developed this understanding through connotations (signify/what we associate with the image based on previous knowledge/thoughts) and denotations (signs/signfiers which is pretty much just what we see with no previous understanding)

‘the distinction between signifier and signified is crucial. The signifier is the image used to stand for something else, while the signified is what it stands for (a real thing or, in a stricter reading, a sense-impression).’ (Robinson, 2011)

We looked at different symbols and how we have added meaning to what we have seen. For example the signs on toilets distinguishing between male, female and disabled. It looks back at how we have associated these symbols to mean what they do. Based on imagery we relate to that gender etc. Women wear dresses? I feel this is through history, representation, culture, society and upbringing to why we associate these things together.





Young Thug – Jeffery

Another good example of how we use denotations and connotations today is the album cover to Young Thugs Jeffery. We were asked to write down connotations and denotations to the picture. Denotations were; purple dress, mysteriousness in covering the face, colour. Denotations were; feminine pose, attire, colour, materials could be related to a female. The irony behind this album of Young Thug dressing like a woman is that he was apparently quite a fearsome figure in relation to street crime and gang banging.

“In my world, you can be a gangsta with a dress or you can be a gangsta with baggy pants. I feel like there’s no such thing as gender.” (Thug, 2016). This statement shows his stance of gender roles and semiotics and how gender isn’t something that he thinks about.

Another theorist we looked at is Jean Baudrillard who, like Barthes was a theorist and philosopher. His theory looked at Simulacra and Simulation.

Simulacra and Simulation is most known for its discussion of symbols, signs, and how they relate to contemporaneity (simultaneous existences). Baudrillard claims that our current society has replaced all reality and meaning with symbols and signs, and that human experience is of a simulation of reality. Moreover, these simulacra are not merely mediations of reality, nor even deceptive mediations of reality; they are not based in a reality nor do they hide a reality, they simply hide that anything like reality is relevant to our current understanding of our lives. The simulacra that Baudrillard refers to are the significations and symbolism of culture and media that construct perceived reality, the acquired understanding by which our lives and shared existence is and are rendered legible; Baudrillard believed that society has become so saturated with these simulacra and our lives so saturated with the constructs of society that all meaning was being rendered meaningless by being infinitely mutable. Baudrillard called this phenomenon the “precession of simulacra”. (Simulacra and Simulation, n.d.)

This is then broken into 4 stages;

First stage is a faithful image/copy, where we believe, and it may even be correct, that a sign is a “reflection of a profound reality”, this is a good appearance, in what Baudrillard called “the sacramental order”.  (Baudrillard, 1994)

Second stage is perversion of reality, this is where we come to believe the sign to be an unfaithful copy, which “masks and denatures” reality as an “evil appearance—it is of the order of maleficence”. Here, signs and images do not faithfully reveal reality to us, but can hint at the existence of an obscure reality which the sign itself is incapable of encapsulating. (Baudrillard, 1994)

Third stage masks the absence of a profound reality, where the sign pretends to be a faithful copy, but it is a copy with no original. Signs and images claim to represent something real, but no representation is taking place and arbitrary images are merely suggested as things which they have no relationship to. (Baudrillard, 1994)

Fourth stage is pure simulation, in which the simulacrum has no relationship to any reality whatsoever. Here, signs merely reflect other signs and any claim to reality on the part of images or signs is only of the order of other such claims. This is a regime of total equivalency, where cultural products need no longer even pretend to be real in a naïve sense, because the experiences of consumers’ lives are so predominantly artificial that even claims to reality are expected to be phrased in artificial, “hyperreal” terms. (Baudrillard, 1994)

We then looked at French musician Stromae and the song ‘tous les memes’ in which the video gives two serperate perspectives on gender roles and he plays along with the stereotypes that are given to men and women. It was a really good example to how we cohere to gender roles and what we signify to them. Stromae is a bisexual and in the video it gives the representations of both sides of the gender.

What gendered signs did you see?

Male; Short hair, bad habits, the way he walked/bodily action, slapping a girls arse, walking around, being lazy

Women; Long hair, make up, clothes, facial expressions, appearance, dancing.

Colour and lighting represented the gender. Also using stereotypes through that method.

Where did they come/originate from?

Where did they come from/originate from? Behaviour/social environment/parents/media/upbringing/history of women/religion/Marketing (gender colours, gender copied from society) History; male being the hunter gatherer and women being the child barer.

How did they copy gender signs?

Exaggerating gender roles, meanings. What we associate with that particular gender. Emphasizing elements of the roles.

How was clothing, adornments and overall styling using to perform ‘gender’? 

What we represent a woman to be wearing (makeup, dress) compared to man, potentially (underwear, socks, wife beater) which both really play to the stereotype. Each item is assosiated with a specific gender. The lighting and colour of particular sets/side of the narrative helped distinguish each part. As well as one side of Stromae had shaved hair, and the other had long, permed hair.


Songs about relationships, how there are similar needs but are the same. Want the same thing. Gender doesn’t differentiate what is wanted.


Robinson, A. (2011) An A to Z of Theory Roland Barthes and Semiotics, Ceasefire Magazine. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2017).

Thug, Y. (2016) Young Thug Says, “You Can Be a Gangster in a Dress” – DJBooth Article, Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2017).

Simulacra and Simulation (n.d.) Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2017).

Baudrillard, J. (1994) Simulacra and simulation. 1st ed. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

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