The Body

Sorry I’ve not been around a lot in the past few days, apart from the internet connection troubles I am settling in at University again and have been spending more time watching rubbish TV with my housemates (being a proper student 😀 ). Anyway, I did find the time to write a little something.

Nowadays the body is viewed quite differently due to increased mobilisation with the mass use of cars and a change in the job market from labour intensive to office work/computerised systems.

Berber Women

Mostly we experience and theorise about our bodies in medical terms. Critical thinkers have rejected this biological reductionism and state we need to see the body in cultural, social, economic and political contexts. Feminists agree that the body should be recongnised as a part of the surrounding environment. For instance, male bodies are stronger because they are encouraged to take part in sports which develop muscles. However, Berber women are the ones who carry heavy loads over long distances and thus are viewed as stronger than men.

Phenomenology, briefly, is the idea that the ‘self’ (mind) and body are inextricably linked. When normal body functions become impaired or restricted it’s almost impossible to not reflect on the ‘self’. Medical illnesses can not only disrupt how the biological body works but can cause psychological issues resulting in a loss of self-confidence, hence, affecting social life, economic participation etc. Something I’m intimately aware of.

Phenomenology provides a bridge between the naturalist perspective which advocates the body as a biological entity and social constructionism which focuses on the body in a cultural context, being influenced by the society within which it resides.

To me, the body cannot be separated from the ‘self’ as Cartesian dualists claim, as the intentions of the ‘self’ have a direct effect on the body. If you decide to climb a vertical cliff your body takes the strain, similarly if you prefer to restrict exercise to the more conventional morning jog/walk it’s the body which ultimately becomes stronger and consequently causes your self-esteem to build.

In the modern age where beauty is defined in comparison with air-brushed magazine photos and tall, slim models inevitably generations of insecure people have learnt to assess and criticise their bodies in conjunction with their self-worth. This attitude has created the ‘beauty myth’ of socially constructed, unattainable beauty.

In desperation many turn towards the medical profession and cosmetic surgery. This technology could be utilised to create uniqueness but instead it’s exploited to form ‘normality’. The freckles which brought individual character to your face are deemed unsightly and the laughter lines by your eyes which show a life of experience and fulfillment also have to be cast away. It’s as though society wishes to stifle personality by subtly encouraging us that our appearance is somehow ‘wrong’ because we don’t confirm to the ‘norm’. The consumer culture is not only exploiting our pockets, influencing our opinions and lifestyles but causing the body to be objectified in a manner which disregards personality or talent. Just look at celebrities, what does Katie Price actually do? Who cares, with knockers like that she can force herself into the media all she likes. Who cares if the latest singer mimes during live concerts because they can’t really sing, as long as they look the part they’re allowed to strut about on stages across the globe.

Cosmetic surgery primarily targets women, some feminists see this as an extension of patriarchy as men seek to control and objectify women through the ‘beauty myth’. Other feminists argue medical professionals don’t advocate patriarchy but seek to increase their own influence and acquire power.

Whatever your view on the ‘beauty myth’ and cosmetic surgery it’s evident society is being oppressed and educated into a docile, false consciousness which is responsible for the lack of confidence and inferiority experienced by those who attempt to resist the ‘norm’.

(Obviously I’m talking about cosmetic surgery for beauty, not for reconstruction after burning, skin cancer or other accidents/illnesses).

Main References:

Katie Davis Reshaping the Female Body: the dilemma of cosmetic surgery

Susan Bordo Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body

B.S.Turner Medical power and Social Knowledge  and The Body and Society: explorations in social theory

N.Wolf The Beauty Myth: how images of beauty are used against women

Images from google

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7 thoughts on “The Body

    • Perhaps but who owns the companies offering make-up and cosmetic surgery? Primarily it is men, there might be some who are owned by women but more often than not it is powerful men who reep the benefits financially.

  1. Even though nowadays it probably is society encouraging women to look ‘beautiful’ through the use of cosmetic surgery that influences people, the views must have stemmed from somewhere probably women them selves.

    • Maybe, but it’s the big companies who want the profits so encourage women to use as many products as possible. It’s why cleansers say use after toner and before moisturiser to make you buy the other stuff as well.

  2. Have to put my comments into a logical fashion:
    1) This is the best post I have ever read on this blog. Period. It has opinions, it has passion, it even has a slight hint of you, the real you. It has cited sources, it has facts, it has information that is useful for discussion and makes the brain think and work hard to think of all of the issues in this post.

    2) Length is perfect in my opinion.

    3) Know for a fact you do not need my approval or feedback, but giving it anyway.

    4) Subject matter is wonderful choice and obviously something you are know much about, have researched and are passionate about, which makes this a wonderful piece of writing.

    This is my review of the piece.

    • Thank you, wouldn’t say it was my favourite but I admit when it comes to referencing I can be a bit lax – though if someone asked I could tell them where the info came from. 🙂
      I always appreciate your in put, especially when the review’s positive like that 😀

  3. My thoughts on the subject matter:
    Agree in the fact that the mind and body are interconnected, completely. Example: If a person is depressed, the body will feel this and not feel well.
    People who exercise do have more confidence and self esteem, that has been proven.
    Cosmetic Surgery – Now as for the theory of men trying to make women into some type of Barbie Dolls – not your words, mine…I do not believe this is the case at all.
    Think the cosmetic surgeons are often out for one thing, and one thing only, that equals money.
    Money is the driving force for a cosmetic surgeon.
    Women – who elect to have cosmetic surgery may do so to feel young or to improve self esteem.
    Slight cosmetic surgeries can improve an older woman’s self esteem dramatically…if the issue has bothered her for quite some time or is making her less likely to go into social situations. Example: Woman has a nose that is crooked, and it makes her not go out with friends.
    This would cause her to be unhappy and not feel comfortable in social situations. In this case, cosmetic surgery could improve her life greatly, being that humans are social creatures.
    However, I am against breast implants, not because of the social or moral issues, because of the actual surgery and devices used in the surgery. Done much research and actually have a friend that had an implant “burst.” This has caused her much pain and agony.
    Breast implants, the actual surgery itself seems to be unhealthy for the body.
    I don’t see how the human body would accept such foreign objects as a breast implant, in fact there are tons of cases, where the human body rejects breast implants and will start to fight it as a foreign object, thus the reason my friend’s implant burst.
    Breast Reduction is a healthy surgery to me.
    People who overdo cosmetic surgery, I feel may have some self esteem issues.
    However, if it is a small thing, that will help a person to go into a social situation or to even date with more confidence, a small surgery can help, the mind and body in a huge way, as we cannot live without social interaction and human touch.

Thank you for your comment. I shall endeavour to visit and comment on your blog :D

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