One of the biggest catalysts for my interest in this class was this topic of women’s bodies. From discussions in my communications class to the seminars I sit in for my Living Learning Community, women’s bodies always seemed to pop up as a hot topic. However, this idea of equating women’s bodies to disabled bodies was something very new and honestly mind baffling to me. I can’t believe I have never noticed before that vulnerability, helplessness, dependability, etc. were used to describe both females and those with disabilities. I can’t help but wonder if that women discipline their bodies to compensate for this. According to the article ‘Integrating Disability’, society exerts “tremendous social pressures to shape, regulate and normalize subjugated bodies” (2002). The article then further explains about the “normalcy system,” which reveals how society has an unsaid standard for women, to be thin with big breasts. The common go to for “fixing” women who don’t fit this standard is plastic surgery. I have never even thought of this before, how we as individuals could be losing our uniqueness and distinctiveness because we desire to look like those women we see in TV ads and commercials. However, I am happy to read about progression in the area of celebrating all body types, such as with “Fa(t)shion February” (Connell, 2012). I understand the criticisms too, whether it encourages an unhealthy lifestyle, one of the debates in my seminar class. Unfortunately it is a hard to define what is unhealthy and what is normal, considering we don’t even know what normal is anymore thanks to mainstream social media. I do however, like the idea of this movement, and appreciated Ashley Graham’s discussion on plus size modeling because the fact that “only 2% of women find themselves beautiful” (2015) is not only crazy but a very sad statistic.
Honestly, I am very pleased at how far women’s bodies have come in terms of not being considered men’s property anymore. Much of the material I read I had previously known just through history classes. Now the issues with women’s bodies has shifted to address more modern times such as with abortion. It is fascinating though, that politics influence women’s bodies so much, and mostly by people who know nothing about women’s bodies. I found the video ‘Guys Try Periods’ to be very amusing, and it was very heartwarming that these men would put themselves through this to try and understand. It was a little disheartening to see the critiques who claimed this was an exaggeration. Although it may be, I think that many of the problems these men faced on their trial periods were very similar to experiences that young girls face when they first are learning how to take care of their period, and not as much by women now who know what to expect.
My favorite section of this topic was media representation because I think that this is women’s biggest downfall when it comes to our self-esteem and confidence. From Barbie dolls to children’s literature, young girls grow up learning how women should look and act. I loved Jean Kilbourne’s presentation on ‘Women in Advertising’ and how relevant the media is in our lives. She extends on how the media influences our subconscious environment with its computerized and enhanced advertisements. She even included the Dove commercial that I mentioned previously, a very impactful representation of how the media distorts their models. And the consequences are numerous! Men and women compare real women to women that were created out of a computer that are seemingly flawless. I am sure that I can speak for many that it has a negative impact on my self-esteem. And then there are the eating disorders, violence against women, guilt when eating and so long. External beauty and sexualization should never be the most important aspect of our life, but many, including myself, fall victim to the expectations of society, beginning at such a young age. I am pleased that there is progression in education about body positivity, a great start to self-acceptance among women.
Connell, Catherine. 2012. “Fashionable Resistance: Queer ‘Fa(t)shion’ Blogging as Counterdiscourse.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 41(1/12):209-24.
Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. 2002. “Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory.” NWSA Journal 14(3):1-32.
Jackson, Auri and Kirsten King. 2016. “Guys Experience Periods for the First Time”, BuzzFeed. (https://www.buzzfeed.com/aurijackson/guys-try-periods?utm_term=.is0z2Mkxj#.txNO1kpRW).
Kilbourne, Jean. 2012. “Women and Advertising.” Youtube Website https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-08qnL_Okw
Steinem, Gloria. 1978. “If Men Could Menstruate.” in Ms. Magazine.
TEDx Talks. 2015. “Plus-Size? More Like My Size| Ashley Graham| TedxBerkleeValencia.” YouTube Website (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAgawjzimjc).