How can any contemporary woman (especially one with brains and a lamentably slow metabolism) not be struck by the following passage from Susan Bordo’s Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body (courtesy of COMM 395: Gender, Media & Communication)?
“…women, feminists included, are starving themselves to death in our culture.
This is not to deny the benefits of diet, exercise, and other forms of body management. Rather, I view our bodies as a site of struggle, resistance to gender domination, not in the service of docility and gender normalization. This work requires, I believe, a determinedly skeptical attitude toward the routes of seeming liberation and pleasure offered by our culture. It also demands an awareness of the often contradictory relations between image and practice, between rhetoric and reality. Popular representations, as we have seen, may forcefully employ the rhetoric and symbolism of empowerment, personal freedom, “having it all.” Yet female bodies, pursuing these ideals, may find themselves as distracted, depressed, and physically ill as female bodies in the nineteenth century were made when pursuing a feminine ideal of dependency, domesticity, and delicacy. The recognition and analysis of such contradictions, and of all the other collusions, subversions, and enticements through which culture enjoins the aid of our bodies in the reproduction of gender, require that we restore a concern for female praxis to its formerly central place in feminist politics” (Bordo, 1993, pp. 183-184).
Bartky (1998) enumerates these practices: “…those that aim to produce a body of a certain size and general configuration; those that bring forth from this body a specific repertoire of gestures, postures, and movements; and those that are directed toward the display of this body as an ornamented surface” (p. 27).
Indeed, and it’s as I’ve known for quite a while: The culture might be serving up toxicity, but we’re also feeding it ourselves… and cooking up new creations at home.
“We.” I just implicated a “we,” Bordo admonished a proactive “we”… which is who? All women? Some shadowy phalanx of feminist scholars and advocates? How do I play a role in that inchoate “we”? Does it begin with the “I”? Or is that too linear and individualistic? Perhaps I can retrain the “I” by participating in the “we” — community, then self…?
Regardless of the player, what’s the game? What is anyone to do? Are we to recognize these contradictions? Rationalize these contradictions? Strive to eliminate these contradictions by modifying practice? modifying ideals?
The simple answer is “Yes.”
I recently came across this Chinese Proverb: “Those who say it cannot be done should get out of the way of those doing it.”
Who’s doing it, and how? Or is this when Gandhi’s words should be applied? ”You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
The simple answer: Yes.