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Published on November 27, 2007

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Reinstating Corporeality: Feminism and Body Politics by Janet Wolff:  Reinstating Corporeality: Feminism and Body Politics by Janet Wolff A presentation by Sabrina Boyer “What is being carved in human flesh is an image of society” -Mary Douglas Aims of Presentation:  Aims of Presentation To establish if the body is a sight of cultural/political protest to discuss the possibility of women’s bodies becoming the site of feminist cultural studies to recognize the dangers of these body politics to deconstruct the classical category of “woman” The essence of time...:  The essence of time... Establish article (10min) Video(5 min) Class Discussion (10 min Finish article, establish point (5 min) The Danger of Body Politics:  The Danger of Body Politics Wolff discusses 2 examples illustrating a failure of body politics: women protested the sole use by men of a bathing area by entering the water and removing their own suits A documentary of the pornography industry made by women was presented in a sleazy section of England, attended by few women Discussion Question:  Discussion Question Wolff’s point: There are existing problems with using the female body for feminist ends. The bodies preexisting meanings as sex object and object of the male gaze always prevails(82). Though our culture defines women’s bodies as passive and subordinate, can women engage in a critical poltics of the body? If so, how? Wolff says...:  Wolff says... Yes! The body can be a site of political intervention. Why? Because it is precisely the site of repression and possession. It is on these issues that feminists have argued FOR intervention through the body (83). Repression and Marginalization of the Body in Western Culture:  Repression and Marginalization of the Body in Western Culture Mary Douglas has shown that the body operates as a symbol of society Who is Mary Douglas? A self taught archaeologist and anthropologist who speculated that symbols grounded in the human body express social experience-the body is taught to individuals The “natural symbols” of the human body, such as blood, breath, excrement, are applied to ideas, practices, institutions, rituals and societies Wolff says...:  Wolff says... These rituals concerning bodily behavior are understood as the functioning of social rules and boundaries These “boundaries” of the body come to represent threats and powers, in turn, symbolizing social boundaries appropriate bodily behavior equals social order and hierarchy Norbert Elias Now, who is he? A sociologist who wrote The Civilizing Process-a book which chronicled the manners and personalities of Western Europe In Elias’ process, the body is constantly patrolled, the range of acceptable behavior narrowly defined. Michel Foucault:  Michel Foucault A French historian examined the codes and theories of order by societies and the “principles of exclusion” through which they define themselves For example, the sane vs the insane, the innocent and the criminal The body is brought into discourse-supervised, observed, and controlled Self-surveillance:  Self-surveillance The outcome of the body supervised, observed and controlled The body has been denied and marginalized in Western Culture based on the needs of bourgeois capitalism(85). The Female Body in Western Culture:  The Female Body in Western Culture Are women too close to the body? It is through the body women learn self-surveillance In what ways do women self-surveillance themselves? Isn’t it great being a woman?:  Isn’t it great being a woman? Women diet, dress for a certain effect, monitor their movement and gestures, participate in cultural norms such as shaving of legs and arms It is through the body women divulge in their own oppression women learn as girls to conform to what is in their culture, and to monitor their appearance Listen up girls! Cosmo says::  Listen up girls! Cosmo says: If you just love being a girl (and really look like one) this is your time! After decades of “you can never be too rich or too thin,” the all-girl girl has reemerged to be celebrated and adored. Curves a la Monroe (if she’d worked out a bit more!) are what’s red-hot now. So if you’ve been disguising all those luscious lines under industrial-strength bras and baggy sweaters, stop! Here are a few suggestions for really showing off this shapely, gorgeous girl. (Cosmo, 1989) (87). The Male Gaze:  The Male Gaze Come on, do women really lounge around in the nude, or is this for the male gaze? Can women paint women’s bodies? Can the body be a site of cultural critique? Can women’s bodies be portrayed as something other than through the regimes of representation and as an object of male desire? (or female desire?) Transgression and the Female Body:  Transgression and the Female Body The classical vs. the grotesque body Women are classical-going back to Mary Douglas’ ideas of the functions of the human body Women are seen as classical-never showing the these functions of the body If they are shown, she is somehow grotesque. The virgin/whore dichotomy The classical vs the grotesque:  The classical vs the grotesque Julia Kristeva: who is she?:  Julia Kristeva: who is she? A literary feminist who relates the “monstrous-feminine” the maternal body is an object of horror: why? feeling of fear of the reincorporation in the mother and fear of the mother’s power the child separates from the mother and becomes a subject As a result the maternal body becomes “abject” : an object of horror and threat however, this is particularly the male child she argues that this could explain the virgin/whore dichotomy which counterposes the “pure woman” (classic body) to the slut (the grotesque) Discussion Question:  Discussion Question Does the “monstrous-feminine” render the abject body a potential site for transgression and feminist intervention? L’ecriture feminine:French Feminism:  L’ecriture feminine:French Feminism Kristeva: contrasts the realm and language of … The Symbolic: law of the father, identified with coming into language Symbolic is the entrance into the world The Semiotic: the prelinguistic, the bodily drives, rhythms, and pulsions experienced by the child in the fusion with the mother which result in repressed feelings and pleasures Women and the Body:  Women and the Body French feminism is writing grounded in women’s experience of the body and sexuality This is not mediated by men or partriarchy (91). Discourse and the Body:  Discourse and the Body The Body is a social, historical, and ideological construct (92). It is seen by women as lacking or incomplete Do you think the body can ever be experienced without having been mediated through constructs and discourse? Why or why not? Wolff points out...:  Wolff points out... There can be “no ‘direct’ experience of the body, and we cannot talk about, or even conceive of, the body as some pre-given entity. What constitutes the body, and what constitutes the female body and its experience, is already implicated in language and discourse.” But….don’t abandon!:  But….don’t abandon! Wolff states, “the female body, as discursively and socially constructed, and as currently experienced by women, may form the basis of a political and cultural critique--so long as it is one which recognizes the body as an effect of practices, ideologies, and discourses.” (94). That means…learn from the past! Gender, Dance and Body Politics:  Gender, Dance and Body Politics The classical ballet has lead to the preservation of the classical body. Has helped reinforce the strict limits and size and weight Roles created, such as swans, fairies, peasant girls, have lead to a construct of a strangely disembodied female(95). Modern Dance:  Modern Dance Modern Dance has allowed women to become innovators and choreographers, not just dancers. Deals with stories of strong women, and stories told from a woman’s point of view. Has introduced weight and relationship to ground Let’s hear it for women!:  Let’s hear it for women! Do you think modern dance has begun to truly use the body as a political tool? Why or why not? The body as politics:  The body as politics Two kinds of risk: these images can be reworked and read differently than their intended meaning may go along with sexist thinking which identifies the woman with the body Therefore, what should body politics do to combat these risks? Speak about the body, stressing its social construction and recognizing its representation (96). Therefore...:  Therefore... Through questioning our bodies, our identities, our origins and our functions, women may work toward a nonpartriarchal expression of gender and body. Do you agree? Desmond, Jane C. Meaning in Motion, “Reinstating Corporeality: Feminism and Body Politics” Janet Wolff. 1997. Duke University Press:  Desmond, Jane C. Meaning in Motion, “Reinstating Corporeality: Feminism and Body Politics” Janet Wolff. 1997. Duke University Press

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