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To what degree is gender embodied?. Lecture 8. outline : gendered bodies. 1. introduction: some historical and theoretical issues 2. is there a ‘natural’ body? 3. men’s bodies 4. ‘woman as body’ 5. gender: women as more than bodies 6. bringing bodies back in

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Outline gendered bodies l.jpg
outline: gendered bodies

1. introduction: some historical and theoretical issues

2. is there a ‘natural’ body?

3. men’s bodies

4. ‘woman as body’

5. gender: women as more than bodies

6. bringing bodies back in

7. doing/disciplining bodies

8. gendered bodies: final observations


Introduction some historical and theoretical issues l.jpg
introduction: some historical and theoretical issues

  • Plato and ‘somatophobia’ (Spelman 1982: 118)

  • ‘Cartesian dualism’: mind/body – gendered split – men/culture and women/nature

  • how to understand ‘the body’? – much debate – the extent to which the body is ‘real’ and/or discursive - 3 main perspectives


3 main perspectives l.jpg
3 main perspectives

  • body as nature – biological entity

    e.g. Firestone – reproductive differences;

  • body as socially constructed – continuum:

    - sex/gender distinction – socialisation theories

    - critique of sex/gender distinction – is the body a ‘coat - rack’?

    - Butler – ‘sex’ –socially constructed – what happens to the body?

  • embodiment – the lived body – ‘we are bodies’


Is there a natural body 1 see diana fuss in kemp and squires 1997 250 258 l.jpg
is there a natural body (1)?see Diana Fuss in Kemp and Squires (1997:250-258)

  • essentialism – ‘true essence’

  • feminist theory:

    - ‘female essence’- pure femininity

    - ‘universal female oppression’

    - ‘ female voice’- Irigaray

    - ‘feminist discourse’- category of ‘women’


Is there a natural body 2 l.jpg
is there a ‘natural’ body (2)?

essentialism

  • the ‘natural’ or real body

    underlies gender

  • ‘real’ femininity and women’s bodies are repressed or unrepresentable in patriarchy

    often recognise importance of the social


Is there a natural body 27 l.jpg
is there a ‘natural’ body (2)?

constructionism

  • opposed to essentialism

  • focuses on the social:

    - ‘natural’ socially produced

    - bodies shaped by social factors/meanings

    - representations of bodies change

  • involve essentialism?


Men s bodies l.jpg
men’s bodies

  • men seen as disembodied - mind reigns

    - men can transcend their bodies

    - male bodies not problematic –privileged position – marginalised groups?

    - construction of masculinity (hegemonic) – physical bodily performance – injured?

    e.g. male labourers


Woman as body 1 l.jpg
woman as body (1)

  • women historically associated more with nature and disordered (reproductive) bodies

  • de Beauvoir – ‘anatomy is not destiny’

  • ‘body in trouble’ (Moi in Hughes & Witz 1997)

  • dualistic account of the female body – positive and negative?

  • ‘reproductive body’ - bodily-related crises – source of alienation?


Woman as body 2 l.jpg
woman as body (2)

  • second-wave Feminism highly influenced by de Beauvoir’s argument that patriarchy shapes women’s bodies but biology does not determine women – can change

    • but de Beauvoir did not escape patriarchal notion of women’s bodies as repulsive

    • body as source of woman’s alienation (self & species) – crises

    • privilege gender does body slip out of view?


Gender women as more than their bodies l.jpg
gender: women as more than their bodies

  • domination of female body – source of women’s oppression?

  • body politics – e.g. women’s health movement

    • Our Bodies, Our Selves (1971)

    • challenge medical expert knowledge/discourses


Bringing bodies back in l.jpg
bringing bodies back in

  • sociology of the body – from 1980s, lots of work

  • Butler refutes distinction between sex and gender.

  • discourses have material effects.

    • bodies that conform to the ‘heterosexual imperative’ (boy/girl) matter and others do not

  • positive - allows criticism of how some bodies delegitimated

  • problem because bodies - especially as experienced by women – lived body - get lost under gender as fluid?


Doing disciplining bodies 1 l.jpg
doing/disciplining bodies (1)

  • doing gender means bodily doing (West & Zimmerman)

  • e.g. Iris Young – femininity and space

    • see also (Mauss (1973[1934]) walking

  • techniques of the body developed in line with disciplinary regimes - reinforce gender opposition?


Doing disciplining bodies 2 l.jpg
doing/disciplining bodies (2)

  • techniques involve surveillance and discipline of our bodies in effort to fit with social norms:

    • e.g. Brush (1998) – cosmetic surgery – ‘rhetoric of choice’

    • e.g. Bordo (1993) on diet/ing

    • Tyler & Abbott (1998) make-up weight,

    • e.g. Mansfield & Mcginn in Morgan (1993) – ‘pumping irony’

  • norms often unrealistic and/or contradictory

    • always resistance - & alternatives: women’s football; female body building?


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gendered bodies: final points (1)

  • how are bodies socially constructed?

  • materially - through social institutions (e.g. work, media) and social practices (e.g. ways of walking, beauty)

  • are men’s bodies increasingly subject to disciplinary processes previously aimed at women?


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gendered bodies: final points (2)

  • symbolically - produced by representation/ discourses?

  • social constructionism criticised for still assuming that there is a natural sexed body on which gendered meanings are ‘written’

  • is the body a tabula rasa (blank slate)?

  • are women’s bodies a problem to be gone beyond or something to ‘think through’?


Some extra references l.jpg
some extra references

Hughes, A & Witz, A (1997) ‘Feminism and the matter of bodies: from de Beauvoir to Butler’, Body and Society, 3(1): 47-60.

Johnston, L (1996) ‘Flexing Femininity: female body-builders refiguring ‘the body’, Gender, Place and Culture, 3(3): 327-340

Martin, E (1987) The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction, Milton Keynes: Open University Press

Mauss, M (1973) ‘Techniques of the Body’, Economy and Society, vol 2, pp. 70-88.

Spelman, E (1982) ‘Woman as Body: Ancient and Contemporary Views’, Feminist Studies, 8(1): 109-131.

Stanley, L ‘Should ‘sex’ really be ‘gender’ – or ‘gender’ really be ‘sex’? In Jackson, S & Scott, S (2002) (eds.) Gender: A Sociological Reader, London: Routledge.

Tyler, M & Abbott, P (1998) ‘Chocs away: weight watching in the contemporary airline industry’, Sociology, 32(3): 433-450.


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