Representations of gendered image – Why women have to be more like ‘women’? Nature or tools?
We are all victims of the representation on gendered bodies. Women, particularly, have been scrutinized on their sizes, femininity and all kinds of imperfections one can imagine. We have to admit that while one may choose what and who he/she/it wants to be, there are factual differences within our physical structures. Though, does that entitle us our identities? What it is to be the quality of being women? We now often speculate the feminine body image with the controversies in advertising, that ciculate us to the core question – are female tied to nature by their own ‘nature’ or male freeing themselves using tools from it?
Some see the female embodiment as an aesthetic celebration of its quality and physical structure, and that it is a destined incarnation of its ‘own’ kind, confirming to its ‘nature’. It is a challenge to the attitudes towards women and their bodily functions, whether they actually exist or judged to be existed. Take a look at the anatomy of the female image: big breasts, extremely small waist, thigh gap, etc. They are exaggerated, extreme, none of them are mainstream body shape and are difficult to achieve. They are weighing on and pushing the professionalism female possess to achieve certain goals, instead of flourishing female’s way of ‘being’. According to Grosz(1994), “There is no ‘natural’ norm; there are only cultural forms of body, which do or do not conform to social norms”(143), and Butler(1990) that ” gender is socially and culturally constructed” , these ‘nature’ as people distinguished, helps merely on biological organisation of the subject based on genetic and environmental factor. And to quote Butler(1993) “Sexual difference, however, is never simply a function of material differences which are not in some way both marked and formed by discursive practices”, suggesting that sex “is part of a regulatory process that produces the bodies it governs” and never only functions as norm or values in society. Pointing out that although there is the difference in sex(biological) and gender(culturally constructed), the construction of sex itself already work as a cultural norm that governs the materialisation of the bodies. Therefore, women or men have no ‘nature’ nor it is destined, and shall not be fixated to it.
On the contrary, there are arguments that the construction of femininity may also be considered as the strategy of hegemonic masculinity. It argues that the female embodiment acts to sustain the male-centred patriarchal society, taking advantage from women by ‘othering’ them. Regarding women’s biological conditions(menstration, pregnancy, menopause or sex organs, etc.), none of them constitutes any meaning or handicap, so it relies on the construals one has, to interpret it into disadvantage or burden. And the controversies arise from here, suspecting that power control has been held by the dominant group(male) in society. However, we came to understood that by distinguishing genders this way, it relies on a stable and clear-cut models of identities. But as Foucault(1980) suggests sexuality and body are constructed by relations of power, that power can be manipulated by particular people in specific situations and isn’t tied to specific identities or groups. It is simple to accuse certain group for holding all power that the others do not at all. On top of that, we need to analysis different kinds of discourse and its narratives in the level of desire, since it offers the anatomy on the implication of subjects, objects and their power relations. ‘Who wants what from who’ became a signification on who being subjectified or objectified, and it signals the power relationships in between. More, I think it is noteworthy to examine the nature of the construction, before we proposed the means that heterosexual/male imperative allows certain sex identification and discourage the other sex, we must first been through the process in assuming the sex, then to question its identification(Butler, 1993).
Given the examination on both sides, it seems that the facts and myths have been mixed together with lived expreience, as a persuasion or dogma, etc. And when we fall into the disscussion and anatomy of bodies(gendered), we are exploring and investigating a bodily sites of ambiguity, for it can be passively oppressed and actively as a vehicle for freedom at the same time. Female indeed has been subjugated and scrutinized in this ‘he’ or ‘she’ binary for histories, though male per se have to built their own identity based on strict guidelines before they submit themselves to renders to this binary. However, it seems that males’ identity and inequality, while being in the name of manipulating women, are rarely examined and defended. To quote Butler(1993), “gendering is, among other things, the differentiating relations by which speaking subjects come into being. Subjected to gender, but subjectivated by gender, the ‘I’ neither precedes nor follows the process of this gendering, but emerges only within and as the matrix of gender relations themselves”. It came to show that we don’t necessarily have to live in this binary by demarcating people using their ‘gender’ and its ‘nature’, because it is essential to note that people can choose to become who and what they want to be, in spite of their biological conditions they possess. And all these arguments and speculations are mere inspection on how society forms these identity and how individuals turned to accept them.
Butler, J (1990). Gender Trouble. New York.
Butler, J (1993) Bodies that Matter. New York.
De Beauvoir, S (1997) The Second Sex. 295.
Grosz, E (1994). Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism. 120-164.
Winter, K (2014). ‘A body for every body’: Victoria’s Secret FINALLY changes controversial ad slogan that declared the physiques of its Angels ‘perfect’. Available from <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2824118/A-body-body-Victoria-s-Secret-bows-outrage-amends-ad-slogan-originally-declared-physiques-Angels-perfect.html> [10.11.2014]