blends feminism, sociology and medicine
Slippery slope from health to beauty
Photo by HSIMS
We have to give everyone a way to keep themselves fit
and healthy and not blame individuals for getting sick.
Dr. Natalie Beausoleil
of Medicines commitment to broadening arts education within
its doors is in strong evidence in the Division of Community
Health, where Dr. Natalie Beausoleil, professor of social sciences,
brings her own blend of feminism and sociological analysis to
questions of health.
Its not the first time Dr. Beausoleil has taught at Memorial
she was a member of the Sociology Department from 1993-1995.
But with her recent appointment to Community Health, she feels
shes finally found the right place to base her ever-growing
concerns with womens health.
Originally I started looking at womens beauty practices
in our culture and found that women have contradictory relations
to issues like make-up, she said. Theres oppression,
but theres also joy in playing with looks.
In her doctoral studies at the University of California in Los
Angeles, she became interested in questions of health. One issue
she studied was weight and the obligation women feel to be thin
in order to be beautiful.
Dr. Beausoleil said that linking health and beauty can be problematic,
even pernicious. There are a lot of things done in the
name of health that legitimize certain practices. There are cultural
constructions which use the phrase its a medical
fact which we are supposed to accept it as if it were the
Its not just the fact that the medical establishment
intervenes through cosmetic surgery, but rather through literature
that intertwines health and beauty. Sometimes theres a
slippery slope from health to cultural constructions of beauty.
Thats one reason why Im doing more research on this
and on issues of fitness.
While acknowledging that fitness is good, Dr. Beausoleil has
concerns for women who face obstacles such as restricted access
to sports. There often arent the social conditions
necessary to do physical activities that are fun, not done just
to lose weight.
One of the aspects of working in Community Health that intrigues
Dr. Beausoleil is the commitment the division has to linking
academia with the community and government policy-makers. Thats
something I really believe in, even though its difficult
Dr. Beausoleil came to her current appointment from Canadian
Heritage and the University of Ottawa. When I left St.
Johns in 1995 I was in a bit of a shock, having come here
from California and Toronto. I thought I wanted to be in central
Canada, but quickly discovered it was a mistake to have left
Newfoundland and ended up coming back here all the time. For
awhile I was here full-time with Canadian Heritage, working with
official language and Francophone minorities.
One of the local networks she is involved with (the Body Image
in Youth Network) is dedicated to promoting a positive body image
among youth. I am really proud of this network because
we come from many different areas, but we all take the time from
busy schedules to promote positive body image. We want to promote
the vitality approach through school curriculums and make links
with the community to promote positive body image.
We need a comprehensive program for teenagers. Good food
has to be as cheap as junk food. We have to give everyone a way
to keep themselves fit and healthy and not blame individuals
for getting sick.