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Losing weight, particularly for the feminist side, has been an interesting experience throughout the years. It would be a complete falsehood to claim that the concept originated in the twenty-first century, however, because Bordo's book provides substantial proof of its usage dating back to the early Victorian era. Yet, the practice has evolved over time, beginning as an aesthetic ideal and progressing to the quest of an idealized physical weight or shape. This article attempts to study Susan Bordo's book and bring to light a number of analyses concerning feminism body weight advertising and the impact they have had on society over time. The beginning of feministic body weight management practiced early societies was pursued as an act of self-mastery and moderation in the intake of all types of food. However, despite these early attempts, varying societies already had a different perception with regards to how they viewed the practice. Christians practiced fasting as spiritual purification and elevation of inner self while Greeks did the same for public self. Subsequently, this propelled the practice even further to transform from simple body management to pursuit of servicing the body rather than weight.
Despite such transformations, none has had a lasting impact on body management than the inception of technology over the late 20th and beginning of the 21st century. Through technology over-determination of being slender as being the current ideal for women has become the norm. However, how has this concept come into play and what role does technology play in bringing such contradictions of the social body a virtually impossible task in our culture.
Through technology and advertisements in magazines and television portraying models the theme being sold around is the continuance appearance or construction of the body in an unsightly display of bulging flesh. Weight is not the key element in most of these advertisements but rather the expectations of the audience has completely changed. People’s standards have become more occupied with thinner bodies and the expectation of slender and tighter bodies such that criticism on particular soft and protuberant areas of the body has become the norm. As the author puts it, from an anorectic perspective it is a myth that they view their whole body as fat, instead, they only view singular aspect such as the bulging of their stomach as the issue. Technology has shifted our cultural competence to view the enemy not to be weight but a construction of bulge or flab in model’s pictures. That is why most ads have become common with phrases such as get rid of those embarrassing flabby breast and buttocks. Therefore, to get rid of such body and achieve results of a perceived body construction a violent assault on such lumps is often advised. The increasing practice of technological medical procedures such as liposuction has hence become more popular. Individuals have been driven by anxiety to overcome what they deem an enemy to their body and internal body functioning so far as to perform frequent and dangerous procedures just to calm their apprehensions. The aim being for one to perfect their body structure and construct as well as one whose internal processes are perfect.
The above perspective highlights how our culture has been influenced through and by advertisements and technology. The ideal of slenderness has been growing thinner and thinner with compulsive dieting and bodybuilding being viewed as a continuity in achieving the ideal body. In other words, our culture only permits substantial weight and bulk to the extent that it is tightly managed. Soft, loose and wiggly areas which amount to cellulite are completely disallowed.
Over the years the size and shape of the body have become to operate as a portrayal of personal and internal order/disorder thus symbolizing the inner state of the individuals be it emotionally, morally or spiritually. During the early days, however, class, race, and gender determined the classification of people. The body of people within the society only indicated the place and social identity of that person. Subsequently, bulging stomachs for men indicated and outwards manifestation of accumulated wealth. In other words, the body was only related to the social status of an individual. However, with the rise of middle-class families to occupy the same rank as others within society, the author points out to the shift of cultural perception. Slender wives became the presentation of their husband’s success. At the time, social power based on traditional body characteristics changed and was replaced with the ability to manage and mitigate resources and labor of others. Hence, excess body weight was a reflection of an individual’s lack of moral and personal inadequacies.
The author also tries to elaborate more on how managing body weight has now been sold as the symbol of correct attitude and one showing control over infantile impulse. Muscle building in an appropriate manner depicts sexuality but one that is controlled and is not about to erupt in an embarrassing display. Despite all this, culture has seen to still influence and impact people’s lives especially when it comes to body weight. Popular culture manifestation in television also influences social mobility when it comes to body management. Hence, through body weight management class status mediated by moral qualities have emerged. Furthermore, through a strict ability to dissociate with such characterization, people engage in work outs and exercise to overcome stereotypes of being branded fat hence laziness, lack of discipline and control among other things. A dominant ideology of upward mobility is what most ads are trying to sell when branding body weight solutions and alternatives.
In addition, unlike early pop culture depictions of using quest myths to fight social ills such as corruption, body transformations have become synonymous with depicting will and spiritual integrity through its numerous advance such as exercising and ability to tolerate physical impedance such as pain to gain something greater. Just the same way individuals with eating disorders and weight related issue have developed the same experience. They view their problems as a barrier to self-integrity and will and look upon physical exercise as the only solution to fight the batter. Although exercising is encouraged, advertisements have labeled the experience as a battle which has created more cultural discrimination and struggles rather than solutions. Same as an individual training for an athletic event, individuals who feel their bodies are unacceptable in society enter a battle with self.
Through advertisements, the female gender has been more vindicated when it comes to weight as opposed to the males. The female body is one whose gender meaning is not neutral, one whose image being displayed over and over again is either slim or slender. Over the years the author introduces two contrasting views on how the female body is perceived. While the male counterpart has been signified through their capacity to self-management, females are subjected to bodily spontaneities such as hunger, sexuality, and emotions. Subsequently, women desire and characteristics are by their very nature irrational, excessive, and threatening to challenge the patriarchal order. It is through such characteristics that the body shape of women has seen so much change from the hour glass in the mid-20th century to the now slender body being used in most ads.
The change experienced in the body shape has been attributed not only to the anxiety of male partners but the liberation from a domestic and reproductive destiny. Therefore, unlike previous ads which might suggest a fight with inner self for most ladies fighting eating disorder and other body weight issues, the female body in most ads is also attributed to gender change. A shift from conventional stereotyping of the female body towards an expression of rebellion against all traditional characteristics associated with maternal responsibilities. Therefore, some ads are trying to advocate on the strength of the female gender from a lack of position and authority outside the domestic arena. At the same time, the author tries to reassure that despite the contribution towards creating and empowering the female gender the hierarchical nature of the sexual division of labor and its utter powerlessness. Despite all ads and interpretation that ads try to convey out there, it is clear that no body can detach itself from the imprint of culture and gender.
Susan Bordo’s book on unbearable weight brings into contention very fundamental issues regarding the female body and how culture, as well as gender, have defined it over the years. Her interpretation has been meticulously done through placing focus on the different aspects which have the power to influence and impact perceptions on the female body. Additionally, she has also linked the use of technology channels such as media and advertisements and how they have tried to create balance on the cultural imprint associated with the female sex and the gender responsibilities expected and associated with them. However, despite such a dualistic hierarchy existing the author explores on the positive progress ads have illuminated to create a more liberating outlook on the female body. Culture and gender might not change anytime soon but our interpretation on the two allows the female sex to overcome challenges their bodies have been subjected to over the years and enjoy a productive life in an unequal society.
Bordo, Susan. Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, And The Body. 10th ed. Los Angeles, LA: University of California Press, 2004. Print.
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