October 8th Class Notes

We began class discussing:

  • The body as cultural spectacle
  • Inscribing femininity on the body
  • Susan Bordo
    -Topics in the introduction are foreshadowing to the second assigned reading                   -word style and rhetoric are important
  • The ideas we are covering are far more complicated then simply “men doing this to women” or “women doing this to themselves” much more complex and intricate
  • Not just a matter of choice, there are many other forces intertwined causing our societal reality 

We then moved into the specific sections of the Introduction reading that we did not cover in the last class:

Beyond the Oppressor/Oppressed Model

  • Society has so many expectations for women
  • Exemplified in the portrayal of the media (examples: mouth open, uneven posture, passivity)
  • In the media women sometime are allowed access to certain components of masculinity BUT they still must show their femininity usually exaggerated in another way
  • very rigid gender binary (femininity and masculinity)
  • Breaking expectations                                                                                                                     – Some women choose not to obey the cultural dictates of femininity -These choices have social consequences                                                                             -Our bodies are disciplined in subtle but specific ways -Men dressing femininely tend to be ignored                                                                              -Women dressing in a masculine way tend to be criticized/commented/judged
  • Strangers will think it is appropriate to comment on other people’s bodies, why is that anyone’s business?
  • Popular Culture -standard for boyish charm
    -older men = “silver fox”
    -older women = “cougar” , negative predatory connotation
  • Narrow view that women’s attractiveness is restricted to certain body size and weight
  • Appearance and discipline
  • Bordo addresses what it means to live in an increasingly mediated culture -Not just the idea of being bombarded by images, but ALTERED images that are unrealistic and unattainable
    -Normalization of the idea that old does not equal beautiful, can’t be beautiful in the skin they’re in
    -Narrow view of beauty ideal excludes almost everyone and even criticizes those who do fit
  • These unrealistic images become the general idea of what is typical -pg 25: normalized, model for what we try to be
    -Expectation in process of comparison is  a normalized practice                                           
  • Plastic Surgeries -Example of girls in China getting surgery to make themselves taller
    -Just because we have the means for these surgeries does not justify their use          -Why is this happening? Why are 90% of plastic surgery patients women
  • Are the social costs worth the pain and suffering to them?
  • Women who alter their bodies still find flaws
  • Endless cycle of expectations “if you can you should”
  • We should/need to re-align the framework
  • Need to address the problem that there are individuals that would rather die then live longer with their natural selves
  • Extreme cases can be placed on a spectrum, macrocosm of what all women are experiencing 
  • pg 26: power in the modern age
    -how is that women “do this to themselves?”
    -the common response of “why not just stop?” …so much more complex then this
  • Power Network, not always acknowledged but always at work
  • Illegal to regulate expectations like wearing makeup but it is still in place and silently enforced -Won’t receive a job if you do not “look the part”
    -Beauty standard still very much in place without saying it
    -“beautiful people” make more money in their jobs then “normal people” ($10,000 a year)
  • Power (pg26)-Not in the possession of individuals or groups –> Network
    -Dominant ideologies perpetuate status quo
    -Live in a system that duplicates system of privilage
    -Blame should be placed on individuals, but on the system
    -Does this take away blame? Agency?
    -Our framework of understanding is part of the problem
    -We need to recognize our part of the problem
    -The ways that we interiorize power “I like the way I look when I wear makeup”
    -Politics of appearance: there are real social and personal benefits in our society. consequences?

Feminism as Systematic Critique

  • Men are not the enemy, but contribute to perpetuating the system
  • If men are the enemy so are women, quick to judge one another
  • pg 29: Confronting our own personal belief systems
  • Locate privilege and inequalities
  • recognize power structures –> step of progress
  • Noses-pg. 30 first full paragraph
    -ex) Jewish girls getting nose jobs –> beauty ideal want tiny straight “white” nose
    Women’s bodies becoming cultural property
    -Women are taught that their bodies are not their own
    -ex) at early age learning that “small button nose” is cute
    -Society complex, does not embrace diversity
  • Connect to handout -Women (and boys/men to an every increasing degree) “come to believe that they are nothing unless they are trim, tight, lineless, bulgeless and sag-less” (32)
  • 6 facets/intersections (polyhedron of intelligibility) (32) –> knotted messy ball
  1. Cultural representations of female hunger and female eating -Mediatedness
  2. Role of consumer culture -Designed to get us to consume
    -Advertizing, normalization of “sex sells”
  3. Philosophical and religious attitudes toward the body
    -Mind and body dualism
  4. Similarity to other disorders (agoraphobia, hysteria)                                                                                                                                              
    -Traditionally assigned to female bodies
    -Cultural connection
    -Don’t exist outside of cultural contexts
  5. Connections with other contemporary body obsessions-Want to be strong but not big, continuous contradiction system
  6. Continues with normal female experience in our culture-In one context dieting and restriction is encouraged
    -In another it is the problem (when taken to extreme)
    -Who is internalizing the message?
  • Stresses systemic location “Eating disorders arise at intersection of patriarchal culture and post-industrial capitalism” (32)…and most consider the “intersection of culture with family, economic, and historical developments and psychological constructions of gender” (33)
  • Eating disorders-Men/boys with disorder having a hard time finding help because 90% effected are female
    -Stereotypes of female, white, rich with eating disorders
    -Disciplining tactics we all undergo
    -Skin associated with reproductive female body — fat, hips

Nature, Culture, and the Body

  • pg 34: first full paragraph-Problematic? reinforcing biology of race?
    -Arguing against the idea that bodies are “not purely biological or natural form” (35)
  • Blind Allegiance to Medical Model (35)-Diet pills, ADD pills @ young age
    -Relies on mind/body dualism
    -Tend to have default as medical profession as science
    -Can’t just diagnose illness, need to treat patient
    -Mind and body go hand in hand
    -Role of consumer culture–> quick fix
    -What system are we working within?
    -Cultural framework of medicine problematic, within the system call for paradigm shifts
    -cultural vs. biological
    -Turning on and off of genes, medication
    -Context of things being normal/acceptable
  • Transcendence, cultural difference
  • Macro issues, Both/and thinking
  • Have to go against normalized models
  • Human body both construction and resource
  • Cultural spectacle, site of self determination
  • Have to be seen together








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