CMNS 262 Lecture Notes - Lecture 9: Neurasthenia, Femininity, Gender Role

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Reading notes Week 9
Reproduction of Femininity
Reconstructing feminist discourse on the body
Body is a medium of culture
Body is a text of culture and a practical, direct locus of social control
Trivial routines, rules, and practices, culture is “made body”, converted into automatic,
habitual activity
“docile body” regulated by the norms of cultural life
Women are spending more time on the management and discipline of our bodies than
we have in a long long time
Through the pursuit of an ever-changing, homogenizing, elusive ideal femininity a
pursuit without a terminus, requiring that women constantly attend to minute and
often whimsical changes in fashion female bodies become docile bodies bodies
whose forces and energies are habituated to external regulation, subjection,
transformation, “improvement”
Through these disciplines, we continue to memorize on our bodies the feel and
conviction of lack, of insufficiency, or never being good enough
The discipline and normalization of the female body perhaps the only gender
oppression that exercises itself, although to different degrees and in different forms,
across age, race, class, and sexual orientation has to be acknowledged as an
amazingly durable and flexible strategy of social control
Our narcissistic and visually oriented culture, may function as a backlash phenomenon,
reasserting existing gender configurations against any attempts to shift or transform
power relations
oNews and magazines
Contemporary aesthetic ideal for women
oObsessive pursuit has become the central torment of many women’s lives
Power as the network of practices, institutions, and technologies that sustain positions
of dominance and subordination in a particular domain
Describe a power whose central mechanisms are not repressive, but constitutive “ a
power bent on generating forces, making them grow, and ordering them, rather than
one dedicated to impeding them, making them submit, or destroying them
We need a discourse that will enable us to account for the subversion of potential
oAllow us to confront the mechanisms by which the subject at times becomes
enmeshed in collusion with forces that sustain her own oppression
The body as a text of femininity
The symptomatology of these disorders reveals itself as textuality
Loss of mobility, loss of voice, inability to leave the home, feeding others while starving
oneself, taking up space, and whittling down the space one’s body takes up all have
symbolic meaning, all the political meaning under varying rules governing the historical
construction of gender
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