Graduation Year

2006

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Sociology

Major Professor

Spencer Cahill, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Donileen Loseke, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Maralee Mayberry, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Maggie Kusenbach, Ph.D.

Keywords

beauty, cancer, cosmetology, hair, stylist

Abstract

When we choose to alter or manipulate our physical appearance we also manage our presentation of self; we communicate to others about our identity. Salons are typical social spaces for women to engage in body-changing, enhancing or disguising practices and thereby manage their identity. The following ethnographic research explores the intersection of female cancer patients' who request salon services while undergoing appearance altering medical treatments and female cosmetologists who provide such services.

Over a period of 6 months, I volunteered weekly at Hannah's, a hairstyling salon located in a large cancer research and treatment hospital in southern Florida. The following paper relies on data collected through participant observation and conversational interviews with the three individual stylists at Hannah's. This research provides a rare glimpse into the interaction between women who actively pursue the appearing healthy by requesting cosmetological assistance and women who seek to identify as professionals by providing cosmetological expertise.

The unique setting exemplifies how, what we often consider burdensome, norms of feminine beauty are potentially beneficial. While Western feminine beauty standards are often exacting and difficult to meet for individual women; Hannah's offers women cancer patients' the opportunity to gain some sense of control over their bodies through the use various salon services. In this way, women have options for presenting themselves as healthy and feminine when medical treatments are compromising each identity.

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