Chapter 12.doc

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Women's and Gender Studies
Anissa Talahite- Moodley

CHAPTER 12: Contours of Everyday Life: Women's Reflections on Embodiment and Health over Time − analysts tended to focus upon representations of the female body in the professional discourses of medicine and science or the popular discourses of media and advertising, and to presume a direct link between these representations and women's experiences of the body − largely influenced by writers like Foucault, analysts have carefully documented the ways in which media and advertising serve to promote and normalize disciplinary practices of the female body towards the achievement of unhealthy ideals − Susan Bordo's much cited essay 'Reading the Slender Body' brilliantly deconstructs the pathologized, individuated image that both medicine and media present us with – the women who 'succeeds' in achieving these ideals only to damage her own health and perhaps risk her life in the process − Bordo's analysis clearly shows the importance of seeing the 'everyday-ness' of these disciplinary practices and how they inscribe on the surface (and increasing the interior) of women's bodies the 'bulimic personality' of contemporary American capitalist society − this society requires, at one and the same time, unrestrained consumption to achieve health and happiness and intense repression of desire and body boundaries to meet narrowly prescribed moral and cultural standards − yet Bordo's analysis, along with those of many others who address this topic, leaves us with little, if any, indication of how women 'read' and respond to – or perhaps even resist – these dominant ideals − we get little sense of the extent to which these dominant ideals may or may not be significant or predominant in women's identity construction and how this may shift over time and in different social contexts, as well as in relation to other aspects of the multiple-subject positions women hold (such as class, ethnicity, age, sexuality, regional identity, and so on) Defining Health and Healthiness − for many, ideas about health and healthiness have evolved from a more conventional biomedical notion of health as the absence of disease (adhered to at an earlier age), to the assessment of well-being in more environmental or holistic terms − women's notions of health discuss levels of physical energy, comfort in carrying out and balancing multiple roles, satisfaction with quality of work and family relations, and concerns about time for self and leisure − many women indicated that they did little consciously to stay healthy when they were younger, but now were much more conscientious about eating well, getting regular exercise, and rest − for most, time was the more important constraint in achieving optimal health - class differences were also apparent in the women’s definitions of health over the life course - many middle-class women identified with current ‘healthiest’ discourses that emphasize health as an individual phenomenon, and blamed themselves for failing to live up to the ideals of dietary and exercise regimes promoted in public health rhetoric - in general, the women were attentive to, and aware of, body image issues through the course of their lives, yet the importance and meanings attributed to them had changed significantly for most - many had previously d
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