Here an attempt is made to examine social factors affecting women’s tendency towards their body management in the Iranian city of Qom. In the contemporary world, this issue is considered as highly important, given a widespread health-related behavior such as body building, diets, and cosmetic surgery as well as interest in different sports and superficial equipment for body care. In fact, body is an arena for social regeneration that not only demonstrates power relations but social differences and inequalities. As a matter of fact, the body management should be considered as a significant social issue, hence, an extensive research is required to address a range of influential factors. Over the past decade, several studies have been conducted focusing on ‘body’ in Iran. They showed several factors influencing the body management such as identity, self-esteem, mass media, social and cultural capitals, religious beliefs, social acceptance, consumerism, and social pressure as well as gaining a higher status and more respect. Taking into account the same, the present study attempts to examine some social variables affecting women’s tendency towards body management in Qom. The theoretical framework of this study is based on viewpoints of Giddens, Goffman, Nan Lane, Cooley, and Homans.
As mentioned, the study tries to explore the relationship between women’s body management and a range of variables such as life satisfaction, social acceptance, and social pressure as well as attracting the opposite sex and achieving a higher social status.
This is a survey-based research, for which, data were collected through a questionnaire. The statistical population included women aged 16 to 60. A total of 384 participants were selected using Cochran’s formula and quota sampling. The data was analyzed using SPSS software (Version 22). The validity and reliability (Cronbach’s Alpha) of the questionnaire were checked carefully.
Most participants were between the age group of 20 and 39 and were married, unemployed and had a high school diploma. The results indicated that body management had a significant relationship with social pressure, social acceptance, and life satisfaction as well as achieving a higher social status and attracting the opposite sex, which were consistent with the theoretical framework of the study. Based on the regression analysis, body management was most affected by life satisfaction, social pressure, and social approval, respectively. Additionally, the effect of life satisfaction and social pressure on body management was statistically significant. In addition, the results of path analysis showed that life satisfaction and social pressure had a direct effect on body management. Furthermore, attracting the opposite sex, achieving social status and, social acceptance had an indirect effect on body management. In general, the findings were in line with past researches which too showed the tendency and impact of those variables towards body management.
Based on the results, it can be argued that people have gained more power and ability to shape their identity thanks to the conditions of the modern society. In fact, norms, customs, and traditions do not considerably determine social status. Instead, people do their best to build their identity through awareness and knowledge they gradually attain as well as through the prevailing environment in the society they live, and the world at large. Considering Giddens’ Theory of Structuration, lifestyle and identity are formed through an interactive process of human agency and social structure. Hence, human actors rely on their thoughts, motivation, and decision-making and are highly affected by the environmental as well as social and global conditions.
Modern man seeks to construct his/her identity based on self-perceived valuable criteria. In addition, the development of his/her physical identity is highly influenced by factors such as media propaganda at national, regional, and global levels. The results indicate that body management among women living in Qom, which is a religious city, is very noticeable in the public sphere. It should be noted that this finding does not mean that religiosity was totally neglected. Instead, women in this study preferred to freely present themselves and construct their personal identities, regardless of pressures imposed by traditions (especially religious ones), in the process of modernization and globalization and amid local, regional, and global media propaganda.
It is generally expected that people in religious and traditional cities lack extreme tendency towards body management. However, the results of the present study reveals that factors such as religion and tradition do not considerably affect women’s tendency towards body management even in a religious city like Qom. Further, women’s tendency towards their body management there found similar to or even more than those in other Iranian cities and metropolises.