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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?

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Presentation on theme: "To what degree is gender embodied? Lecture 8. outline : gendered bodies 1.introduction: some historical and theoretical issues 2.is there a natural body?"— Presentation transcript:

1 To what degree is gender embodied? Lecture 8

2 outline : gendered bodies 1.introduction: some historical and theoretical issues 2.is there a natural body? 3.mens 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

3 introduction: some historical and theoretical issues Plato and somatophobia (Spelman 1982: 118) Plato and somatophobia (Spelman 1982: 118) Cartesian dualism: mind/body – gendered split – men/culture and women/nature 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 how to understand the body? – much debate – the extent to which the body is real and/or discursive - 3 main perspectives

4 3 main perspectives body as nature – biological entity body as nature – biological entity e.g. Firestone – reproductive differences; body as socially constructed – continuum: 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 embodiment – the lived body – we are bodies

5 is there a natural body (1)? see Diana Fuss in Kemp and Squires (1997: ) essentialism – true essence essentialism – true essence feminist theory: feminist theory: - female essence- pure femininity - universal female oppression - female voice- Irigaray - feminist discourse- category of women

6 is there a natural body (2)? essentialism the natural or real body the natural or real body underlies gender real femininity and womens bodies are repressed or unrepresentable in patriarchy real femininity and womens bodies are repressed or unrepresentable in patriarchy often recognise importance of the social

7 is there a natural body (2)? constructionism opposed to essentialism opposed to essentialism focuses on the social: focuses on the social: - natural socially produced - bodies shaped by social factors/meanings - representations of bodies change involve essentialism? involve essentialism?

8 mens bodies men seen as disembodied - mind reigns 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 men seen as disembodied - mind reigns 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

9 woman as body (1) women historically associated more with nature and disordered (reproductive) bodies women historically associated more with nature and disordered (reproductive) bodies de Beauvoir – anatomy is not destiny de Beauvoir – anatomy is not destiny body in trouble (Moi in Hughes & Witz 1997) body in trouble (Moi in Hughes & Witz 1997) dualistic account of the female body – positive and negative? dualistic account of the female body – positive and negative? reproductive body - bodily-related crises – source of alienation? reproductive body - bodily-related crises – source of alienation?

10 woman as body (2) second-wave Feminism highly influenced by de Beauvoirs argument that patriarchy shapes womens bodies but biology does not determine women – can change second-wave Feminism highly influenced by de Beauvoirs argument that patriarchy shapes womens bodies but biology does not determine women – can change - but de Beauvoir did not escape patriarchal notion of womens bodies as repulsive - body as source of womans alienation (self & species) – crises - privilege gender does body slip out of view?

11 gender: women as more than their bodies domination of female body – source of womens oppression? domination of female body – source of womens oppression? body politics – e.g. womens health movement body politics – e.g. womens health movement - Our Bodies, Our Selves (1971) - challenge medical expert knowledge/discourses

12 bringing bodies back in sociology of the body – from 1980s, lots of work sociology of the body – from 1980s, lots of work Butler refutes distinction between sex and gender. Butler refutes distinction between sex and gender. discourses have material effects. discourses have material effects. bodies that conform to the heterosexual imperative (boy/girl) matter and others do not bodies that conform to the heterosexual imperative (boy/girl) matter and others do not positive - allows criticism of how some bodies delegitimated positive - allows criticism of how some bodies delegitimated problem because bodies - especially as experienced by women – lived body - get lost under gender as fluid? problem because bodies - especially as experienced by women – lived body - get lost under gender as fluid?

13 doing/disciplining bodies (1) doing gender means bodily doing (West & Zimmerman) doing gender means bodily doing (West & Zimmerman) e.g. Iris Young – femininity and space e.g. Iris Young – femininity and space see also (Mauss (1973[1934]) walking see also (Mauss (1973[1934]) walking techniques of the body developed in line with disciplinary regimes - reinforce gender opposition? techniques of the body developed in line with disciplinary regimes - reinforce gender opposition? doing gender means bodily doing (West & Zimmerman) doing gender means bodily doing (West & Zimmerman) e.g. Iris Young – femininity and space e.g. Iris Young – femininity and space see also (Mauss (1973[1934]) walking see also (Mauss (1973[1934]) walking techniques of the body developed in line with disciplinary regimes - reinforce gender opposition? techniques of the body developed in line with disciplinary regimes - reinforce gender opposition?

14 doing/disciplining bodies (2) techniques involve surveillance and discipline of our bodies in effort to fit with social norms: 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. Brush (1998) – cosmetic surgery – rhetoric of choice e.g. Bordo (1993) on diet/ing e.g. Bordo (1993) on diet/ing Tyler & Abbott (1998) make-up weight, Tyler & Abbott (1998) make-up weight, e.g. Mansfield & Mcginn in Morgan (1993) – pumping irony e.g. Mansfield & Mcginn in Morgan (1993) – pumping irony norms often unrealistic and/or contradictory norms often unrealistic and/or contradictory always resistance - & alternatives: womens football; female body building? always resistance - & alternatives: womens football; female body building?

15 gendered bodies: final points (1) how are bodies socially constructed? how are bodies socially constructed? materially - through social institutions (e.g. work, media) and social practices (e.g. ways of walking, beauty) materially - through social institutions (e.g. work, media) and social practices (e.g. ways of walking, beauty) are mens bodies increasingly subject to disciplinary processes previously aimed at women? are mens bodies increasingly subject to disciplinary processes previously aimed at women?

16 gendered bodies: final points (2) symbolically - produced by representation/ discourses? symbolically - produced by representation/ discourses? social constructionism criticised for still assuming that there is a natural sexed body on which gendered meanings are written 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)? is the body a tabula rasa (blank slate)? are womens bodies a problem to be gone beyond or something to think through? are womens bodies a problem to be gone beyond or something to think through?

17 some extra references Hughes, A & Witz, A (1997) Feminism and the matter of bodies: from de Beauvoir to Butler, Body and Society, 3(1): Johnston, L (1996) Flexing Femininity: female body-builders refiguring the body, Gender, Place and Culture, 3(3): 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 Spelman, E (1982) Woman as Body: Ancient and Contemporary Views, Feminist Studies, 8(1): 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):


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