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Feminist Theory: Postmodernism
Transcript of Feminist Theory: Postmodernism
"Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power"
Sandra Lee Bartky (1990)
"Fighting Bodies, Fighting Words: A Theory and Politics of Rape Prevention"
Sharon Marcus (1992)
Discipline and Punish
Michel Foucault (1979)
"The rise of parliamentary institutions and of new conceptions of political liberty was accompanied by a darker counter-movement, by the emergence of a new an unprecedented discipline directed against the body" (Bartky 38).
The army, the school, the hospital, the prison, the manufactory.
Increased utility of the body.
"...a 'mechanics of power' was being born..." (Foucault)
The power structure affects the body's time, space, and movements.
Control requires "relentless surveillance" (Bartky 405).
Jeremy Bentham's idea for a model prison.
For Foucault, this illustrates the fundamental nature of the disciplinary society.
Foucault: The effect of this is "to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power."
Each inmate becomes his own jailer.
The disciplinary control over the prisoner's body takes over his mind as well.
Foucault argues that this model resonates throughout society in places like schools, factories, barracks, and hospitals.
Bartky says that Foucault "treats the body as if it were one" (405).
What about the "docile bodies" of women, which are more docile than the bodies of men?
To ignore these modes of subjection of the feminine body "is to perpetuate the silence and powerlessness upon whom these disciplines have been imposed" (405).
Leads to Bartky's project...
Examine: Disciplinary practices that produce a recognizably "feminine" body
Consider: Three categories of 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" (406).
Examine: Nature of the disciplines (how and by whom they are imposed)
Probe: Effects of the imposition of these disciplines on female identity and subjectivity
Argue: "...these disciplinary practices must be understood in the light of the modernization of patriarchal domination, a modernization that unfolds historically according to the general pattern described by Foucault" (406).
Disciplines affecting body size and configuration
Massiveness, power, and abundance are frowned upon in women's bodies. "The current body of fashion is taut, small-breased, narrow-hipped, and of a slimness bordering on emaciation..." (406).
Dieting restricts the body's appetites. Since the dieter must ignore her body's hunger, her own body becomes the enemy.
Both men and women exercise, but given the emphasis on women’s weight, Bartky argues that they are likely exercising with a different goal in mind than men.
Expressive faces wrinkle more easily than non-expressive ones, so certain facial actions are discouraged for women. Sophia Loren's solution? Put some tape on your forehead.
Disciplines affecting specific gestures, postures, and movements
Movement and Spatiality
Iris Young observes that women seem to operate within a space that they are reluctant to move beyond. This is shown in a hesitance to "reach, stretch, and extend the body to meet resistances of matter in motion..." (Bartky 407).
German photographer Marianne Wex took 2000+ photographs of men and women in the streets to document the differences in masculine and feminine postures.
Feminine Faces and Deference
Under male scrutiny, women will look down or avert their eyes. Women are trained to smile more than men as well. A researcher found than the rate of smile return was 93% for a woman, 67% for a man.
Self-Movement and Being Moved by Males
Males in couples often literally steer the woman wherever she goes: "down the street, around corners, into elvators, through doorways," etc.
Disciplines affecting the female body as ornamented surface
Women’s skincare regimen is extensive. It includes having no strong facial features, partcipating in widespread and meticulous hair removal, and using lots of different products from facial washes to moisturizers, astringents, and various night creams.
Again, must use many products. Bartky argues that applying makeup is not an art form, and it is not conducive to self-expression.
Repeatedly checking oneself to make sure things are "in place" is another form of self-policing.
These disciplines create a body that is "practiced and subjected," and it is thereby assigned a status of inferiority.
The disciplines are not race- or class-specific.
Women make themselves "object and prey" for men.
Women try to be less "womanly."
Fulfilling the ideal does not do much for women.
Women's body language becomes a language of subordination.
Who Enforces the Disciplines?
Bartky describes the disciplinary powers that control femininity in our bodies as "everywhere and...nowhere; the disciplinarian is everyone and yet it is no one in particular" (412).
Foucault identifies the disciplinarians of the body as specific to institutions. This makes power somewhat anonymous.
Discipline can sometimes provide the individual a sense of mastery and identity.
Foucault: "The man described for us whom we are invited to free is already in himself the effect of a subjection much more profound than himself." Bartky says this is even truer of "woman" than it is of "man."
Foucault's "reversal of the political axis of individualization"
Women experience their own modernization of power.
Beauty preoccupation not new--pervasiveness is new
Women look responsible for their own disciplining.
Women must learn the cultural messages
"Knowers, Knowing, Known: Feminist Theory and Claims of Truth"
Mary E. Hawkesworth (1989)
1.) Rape is real
2.)To be real means to be fixed, determinate, and transparent to understanding
3.) Feminist politics must understand rape as one of the real, clear facts of women's lives
Hawkesworth's assertion that postmodern theories of language and reality are incompatible with the reality of feminist political action against rape "contradicts one of feminism's most powerful contentons about rape--that rape is a question of language, interpretation, and subjectivity" (Marcus 431).
“A feminist politics which would fight rape cannot exist without developing a language about rape, nor, I will argue, without understanding rape to be a language” (431).
"I propose that we understand rape as a language and use this insight to imagine women as neither already raped nor inherently rapable. I will argue against the political efficacy of seeing rape as the fixed reality of women's lives, against an identity politics which defines women by our violability, and for a shift of scene from rape and its aftermath to rape situations themselves and to rape prevention" (431)
...this works against current theories of rape and violence...
Violence is self-explanatory
Rape is inevitable
Rape is a fate equal to death
Rape "can only be feared or legally repaired, not fought" (432).
Past two decades...
Focus on "police procedures and legal definitions of rape" (432)
Racism and sexism in the legal system complicate rape trials for feminist politics.
Legal deterrence focuses on persuading men not to rape.
We should regard "rape not as a fact to be accepted or opposed, tried or avenged, but as a process to be analyzed and undermined as it occurs" (433).
Ways to do this...
1. Focus on what happens in attempts to rape and on differentiating among numerous rape situations to develop more prevention strategies.
2. Treat rape as a linguistic fact. How is rape "enabled by narratives" that force cultural scripts upon our lives.
Regarding Rape as a Linguistic Fact
1. Language representations which highlight the "assumptions and contradictions of rape"
Women are rapable, women deserve rape, women provoke rape, women want rape, women are ashamed of being raped, women publicly lie about being raped.
2. Highlight the presence of speech in rape
Rapists engaged in threatening conversation with their targets; rapists often speak during rape, and/or they "demand that the women...talk to them or recite particular phrases" (433).
3. A continuum theory of sexual violence
"...links language and rape in a way that can be taken to mean the representations of rape, obscene remarks, threats and other forms of harassment should be considered equivalent to rape" (433).
4. Rape as a language
This view can explain the prevalence of rape and its prevention because language is a social structure than allows humans "to experience themselves as speaking, acting, and embodied subjects" (434).
This is rape, according to continuum theory.
The Rape Script
Rapists follow a "social script."
Marcus defines the rape as “a scripted interaction which takes place in language and can be
understood in terms of conventional masculinity and femininity as well as other gender inequalities inscribed on an individual before an instance of rape” (434).
"Script" acts as a metaphor.
Script implies a narrative, "a series of steps and signals whose typical initial moments we can learn to recognize and whose final outcome we can learn to stave off" (434). Rape has a beginning, middle, and end.
"Rape script" also implies that social structures inscribe misogynist inequalities on men and women.
The script is a process of sexist gendering that facilitates rape.
The script is a framework for our understanding of actions surrounding rape, and we need to "rewrite" the script.
Gendered Grammar of Violence
predicates white men as legitimate subjects of violence between all men and a subjects of legitimate sexual violence against all women;
portrays men of color as ever-threatening subjects of illegitimate violence against white women;
and generically predicates men as legitimate perpetrators of sexual violence against women in an intraracial context (436)
"legitimate violence between"
"illegitimate violence against"
"legitimate violence against"
A competitive pact between potential equals
Unjustifiable attack that challenges social inequalities
For example: male violence against women
How Gendered Grammar Works
Men are subjects of violence and operators of its tools; Women are objects of violence and subjects of fear
Femininity and victimization are conflated.
Women are encouraged to fight rape with "empathy" and "responsiveness."
Women assigned role of fear
Instumental theory of rape
Toward a Feminist Discource on Rape Prevention
Replacing the emphasis on what the rape script excludes "women's will, agency, and capacity for violence" (438).
Verbal self-defense refuses to give the aggressor power over his target.
Directed physical action undermines the myth that women are powerless in rape situations
Viewing rape as metaphor for stealing or invasion ignore the need to reconfigure the views of women's bodies.
"I have argued against understanding rape as the forced entry of a real inner space and for considering it as a form of invagination in which rape scripts the female body as a wounded inner space" (442).
Rape exists because the representations of women's bodies surrounding it make us paralyzed in the face of rape attempts.
"To construct a society in which we would know no fear, we may first have to frighten rape culture to death" (443).