Week 9 Lecture Notes (along with Powerpoint Notes)

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Women's and Gender Studies
Victoria Tahmasebi

WEEK 9: The Gendered Body  Two dominant readings of the body: - As a private possession - As a collection of biological impulses  We think our bodies are ours – our private possession and nobody has control over it; or as an entity, a machine that is biologically determined (where our instincts control us)  The body is very much a social entity Factors Influencing the Well-Being of a Body  Socially determined - Examples: health care, working conditions, nutrition - Other examples: cultural ideologies about men’s and women’s bodies - Other factors: class, race, ethnicity, sexuality and ability  Example: Sexuality  We must include cultural ideologies (about men’s and women’s bodies) – (e.g.) what is deemed a beautiful feminine body; these ideas also influence our social and economic institutions and how they regulate women’s bodies and health  Other factors such as race, class, etc. also affect the way we look at our bodies (e.g.) the White body is seen as more beautiful than other bodies; (e.g.) the able-body is seen as more valuable than bodies with other abilities and capacities  We also know that for the integrity and well-being of every body there should be certain conditions: How do we keep our bodies respectful? To receive safe, effective medical care; the ability to control your reproductive rights (for women)  We assume that sex and sexuality are biologically determined and that we have no choice in terms of who we are as sexual beings, what we desire as sexual beings, and how we perform our sexual desires, but we know that human and sexuality is a range of human activities that are very much influenced by socially sanctioned scripts (stories, guidelines) which tell us what is or is not appropriate; thus it is these scripts that define or tell us how, where, with whom, and under what conditions a body must behave in a sexual way The Body as a Gendered Entity  Body is inscribed with a wide range of cultural signs and symbols  System of gendered signifying  “Bodies become social texts which we construct (or is constructed for us) in order to be read by others”  Women’s bodies as contested terrains - For women, the body has become the primary definer of gender identity - In what ways are our bodies gendered? Our bodies become gendered through what we call a system of gendered signifying; we inscribe our bodies with a wide range of cultural and social signs and symbols and our sexuality is an expression of well- established social norms and expectations; in a way, the body is a social text; we construct our bodies as gendered in order to be read by others - Within the system of gender signifying every body must signify at least one gender and the desirable body must exhibit and adhere to a narrow definition of femininity and masculinity - Gender signifying is gender by text Example 1: The Ideal of Beauty – Women  These ideals are deeply gendered: - Example: breast size:  Goldilocks dilemma  The intersection of economy with gender: - Example: the hemline  Men are the ones who create these standards; (e.g.) studies show in societies where women's status (social, economic) is higher, smaller breasts are considered more attractive (one theory that can explain this is because they look more like men and men and biological differences should be minimized because men and women are working side-by-side; another reason
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