A sociology PhD student is studying changing women’s clothing sizes while also not looking in the mirror before her wedding

This story has now been going around for a few days: a bride-to-be decided 6 months before her wedding to not look at herself in the mirror for the next year, blog about the experience, and draw attention to how women think about beauty and their bodies. What perhaps has gotten lost in this story is that this is being undertaken by a sociology PhD student who is writing a dissertation about women’s clothing sizes:

When Kjerstin Gruys got engaged to her longtime boyfriend, the former fashion merchandiser turned sociologist feared she would relapse into an eating disorder as she hunted for the perfect wedding dress. She was fiercely committed to researching her sociology Ph.D. on beauty and inequality, but was overwhelmed by the pressure of having a picturesque wedding. Her values and behavior were at odds, and she knew had to do something — and quick.

Instead of becoming engulfed in a vanity obsession, she committed to a year without mirrors — and launched the blog Mirror Mirror…OFF The Wall six months before her wedding date…

For her Ph.D. research, Gruys has moved on from body image and started examining vanity size — when clothing that was once, say, a size 8, becomes a size 6 so that women feel better about themselves, she said. By analyzing Sears catalogs from the past 100 years, Gruys said she’s seen drastic changes in clothing size over time. “I think the most interesting thing I’ve found so far is simply that clothing sizes have changed so dramatically, especially for women, and in the direction of getting away from having the clothing size and clothing measurements having any relationship to each other.”

“When we think of standards we think of things that make our lives more standard and more efficient,” she said. But clothing size standards are different across every fashion firm and even across brands within a firm. “We attach so much emotion to body size, women especially and companies want us to feel good when we are trying on their clothes.”

Both projects sound interesting and studying women’s clothing sizes from a sociology of culture perspective is something I wrote about recently.

It is also intriguing to think how this PhD candidate is mixing more traditional forms of research with blogging. This particular mirrors project is not simply being undertaken by someone like AJ Jacobs, a writer who has tackled some odd activities and then written about them (my favorite: The Year of Living Biblically). Rather, this is an academic who has a background in fashion who is also researching topics in the same subfield. The blog could function as more of a personal outlet but I assume it would be informed by sociological insights. I suspect we will see more of this in the future as academics would benefit quite a bit from blog side projects that draw attention to noteworthy issues as well as highlight their research.

A final thought: what would be an equivalent project that a man could undertake?

Righthaven drops another case

Righthaven comes up a lot here at Legally Sociable, and I’ve mentioned their suit against Brian Hill, a 20-year-old blogger with autism and severe diabetes, before.  In another victory for defendants in Righthaven lawsuits, Ars Technica reports that Righthaven is dropping its suit against Brian, after the judge noted that enabling a cheap, easy settlement “is not my primary concern”:

Though the case was moving forward, Righthaven made clear it wasn’t actually interested in litigating the suit; it wanted to settle. “Righthaven is no longer willing to engage in settlement discussions over trivial issues while the Defendant and his counsel seek to extend this action for publicity purposes,” said the company. With settlement not a possibility, the company now just wants the suit to go away. [emphasis added]

Indeed, Righthaven’s lawsuits are starting to drop like flies.  It was just two weeks ago that Righthaven dismissed a suit against the freelance author of another Ars Technica article that covered Righthaven’s litigation antics.  In dropping the suit against Ars’ reporter, Righthaven claimed it was all just a mistake:

“We took immediate corrective action” after learning that Righthaven had just sued a reporter, said [Righthaven lawyer Shawn] Mangano. He added that, since reporters make use of copyright and tend to know a good deal about fair use, “It’s somewhat counterintuitive to sue a reporter for copyright infringement!”

While I certainly applaud Righthaven’s decision to drop these two particularly suits, I have to wonder about the outcomes in the other 260+ lawsuits they have filed over the past year.

Dictionary.com defines “bully” as “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.”  This definition appears to describe Righthaven perfectly; indeed, it is only when a defendant proves not to be “smaller or weaker” that they tuck tail and run.  Clearly, Righthaven didn’t think it was worth fighting a reporter backed by one of the largest magazine publishers in the U.S. or a highly sympathetic blogger with a clearly competent lawyer (PDF).  However laudatory in result, its dismissals in these cases seem to confirm that Righthaven is not truly defending a principled (if overzealous) view of copyright law.  Instead, Righthaven appears to be a garden-variety bully out to shake down the small and weak for four-digit settlements.

Copyright reform, anyone?

Update 4/12/2011:  Joe Mullin at paidContent has additional information about the Hill dismissal:

In a 3-page motion, Righthaven tries to let Hill off the hook but maintains a complainy sort of tone….Judge Kane responded to that by taking another extraordinary action—he actually ordered Righthaven’s “warning” to be stricken from the record entirely, along with all the company’s complaints about Hill’s bad behavior. That part of the filing was “immaterial and impertinent,” Kane wrote. That’s a strong suggestion that Kane has become quite annoyed by Righthaven’s tone and actions in this case.

Wow.  I think I’d be quite worried about sanctions if I were representing Righthaven in this case.

Further reading (hat tip to paidContent):

  • Order Denying Righthaven Extension, April 7 [Scribd]
  • Righthaven Notice of Dismissal, April 10 [Scribd]
  • Order To Strike, April 11 [Scribd]