Managing meaning and belonging: Young women’s negotiation of authenticity in Body Art

Sarah Riley, S Cahill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (SciVal)


It is a common-sense ideology that appearance is vertically representative, in that the outer surface reflects the inner self. This paper explores the impact of this ideology on women's understandings of their Body Art. Meaning and belonging were identified as central themes in accounts produced from two focus groups with young women in Glasgow, Scotland who had piercings and tattoos. Meaning was constructed through two alternative accounts. First, that Body Art is meaningful because it represents a particular and valued subjectivity (brave, independent, different). Second, that the current popularity in Body Art endangers the vertical representation of the first account, making Body Art meaningless. To claim a meaningful relationship with Body Art, our participants drew on discourses of subcultural knowledge, 'Othering', authenticity, and rights. These discourses show that authenticity continues to be an important account in youth cultures. Authenticity both worked to produce a meaningful personal identity, but also a 'mythical mainstream' that denied other young women discursive space from which to explore alternative subjectivities through Body Art.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-279
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2005


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