The contemporary world is apparently obsessed by bodily appearance. Social theory of the body can help to explain this, through thinking about how bodies are shaped by social contexts. There is a long history of thought relating to embodiment, but body theory as a specific field within the social sciences did not develop until the 1980s. There are three reasons why it emerged (Blaikie et al. 2003). First, there was the intellectual desire to improve on the mind versus body dualism that Western thought inherited from René Descartes (1596-1650). He was a French philosopher whose radical view of human being was based on his argument – ‘I think therefore I am’. This favouring of ‘pure’ reasoning minds over messy bodies was used by dominant social groups such as male upper-class elites to justify holding political power. Their supposedly superior intellect was deemed to fit them for ruling the allegedly weak-minded ‘lower classes’ and women, who were thought slaves to their flesh (Bordo 1987; Pateman 1988; 1989). Social theorists have long challenged such prejudices with arguments that lack of education, not naturally inferior brains, prevented women and other excluded groups from greater engagement in intellectual debates (e.g. Wollstonecraft (1985) [1792]). Nevertheless, people still struggle to think of minds as part of bodies rather than ‘higher’ and separate from them. This dualism is not the only way to think about bodies. Non-Western traditions in China, Japan and India are examples of alternative assessments which understand body and mind as more connected (Blaikie et al. 2003; Kasulis et al. 1993). And, indeed, Western views have altered, due to political changes which are the second reason behind the emergence of body theory. From the 1960s, social movements such as feminism, black power, gay liberation and the disability movement challenged dominant ideas about what was a ‘normal’ body. Third, social theory on the body became an essential tool in trying to make sense of a society and culture placing increasing importance on bodily appearance (Blaikie et al. 2003).