If we ever transcend the limits of our bodies as a species I for one will be relieved never to have to find a public toilet ever again. I can never quite figure out from the signs which one I am supposed to use because I am not a triangle. But for now, I’m stuck with this one and it serves me pretty well most of the time.
If you are a human being chances are you have an awareness of your body and how it looks and functions. I know I became very aware at a young age that people confused my gender with my short hair and love of flannel shorts and matching top. As other lumps and bumps appeared I noticed certain bumps and lumps were commented on more than others, some approved of others not so much. There were conversations around eating, food, and a new idea ‘weight’ that emerged to sow seeds of doubt around this vessel I was conscious of as my body. Not the media, not images on TV, no – my parents and coaches and others drawing attention to how I looked or should look helped unease and self-surveillance (Foucault was definitely onto something – but did miss the gender thing slightly),
We have placed an incredible amount of meaning on body size and shape that we cannot escape. Gender aside (for the time being) our physicality is inescapable but we are told it is maleable. Choice and responsiblity and self-accountability have become the new mantras of an industry primed to cash in on the collective fear of being anything other than thin and/or buff, fear is a great marketing tool – remember that. When I talk with adults about the teasing or bullying they experienced more often than not it was about their looks, particularly their weight. Women’s magazines are a page by page rollercoaster through extremes and contradictions. First there is the weight loss success story, followed by the celebrity ‘lost my baby body in 3 weeks’ story, next to the chocolate cake recipes and finally the extreme close ups with arrows pointing out all the flawed bits and ‘too skinny’ or ‘out of shape’ with looking good fitting an incredibly narrow criteria but generally its somewhere between skeletal and thin – thigh gaps essential.
But we do it to each other as well. We notice and comment on whether people have put on weight, lost weight, have a tan, a new hair style, are on a diet, not on a diet, should be on a diet, what diet is new. People are quick to ‘tut tut’ those who’s body shape has moved out of the narrow margins of ‘acceptable’ while condemning those who fall into the clutches of anorexia or bulimia.
The morbid fascination and objectification of obesity as a form of ‘horror show’ can be seen in the number of TV shows dedicated to weightertainment. It’s kind of psychotic and pathological but we accept it as normal and even important to know what our ‘ideal weight’ should be based on a fundamentally flawed formula called the BMI – invented by a mathematician in the 19th Century…yes you read that correctly. Not a physician (let alone one within the last 100 years!) someone who liked numbers and measuring things. Well I have to say those three letters should be renamed from Body Mass Index to Blatantly Manipulated Information.
Bodies come in all shapes and sizes but lets get real and honest about how we restrict what is validated as beautiful. There is a rather more insidious effect; the art of distraction, like a perpetual maze confusing, disorienting and consuming consciousness. The time and energy that some people put into managing their bodies to ensure they ‘look perfect’ means less for other things. It is the ultimate form of control, probably the most effective form of Matrix program for subduing a population. People can now get Apps to help them stay plugged in more deeply and ensure they become fully immersed in the Weigh-tricks.
Yip, I’m feeling inspired to write a spoof – The Weightrix. Main characters Porkeus, Thinnity, and Gello. Porkeus looking for Gello inside the Weightrix offers him the red or blue pill – they’re jelly beans. Thinnity hopes Gello will make the ‘Pump test’ but he fails the first time. They send him to The Biggest Loser where he meets The Oraface.
“Bake up – the Weightrix has you.”
Thigh gaps focus attention on the procreative centre and are thus attractive to the male.
I think any male that needs to see a ‘gap’ to be attracted to a woman clearly has a gap somewhere else. Sounds pretty pseudoscientific to me and a way of re-objectifying women.
Thigh gap ‘logic’ in a 2 minute nut shell https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omAb1Cgvg7A
Amusing enough video, though my point was not about the conscious attraction to which you and the video both refer, but an attraction which operates at the subconscious level i.e. the pre-conceptual level that determines around 95% of action and, of which, some then become consciously known. It has nothing whatsoever to do with gender politics.
Even the notion of conscious and pre-conceptual are social constructions to some degree, I guess I am sceptical about the neutrality or ‘objectivity’ applied to some concepts of attraction and even the subconscious (Freud?). I’d probably agree with you if as much attention was given to the ‘Man V’ (area where the lower abdominals meet the hip flexors forming a V) – as the male equivalent of the Thigh Gap. Certainly gives a new swing on ‘mind the gap’ 🙂
Okay Jeannie; it’s feeling less hostile so let’s go a little further.
When I originally wrote ‘focus attention’, then that was not to imply any sense of ‘staring at’ – I should have been clearer. The mind gathers and processes data via means of what is attended to [‘attention’] though our conscious ideas of what we are attending to do not paint the whole picture. [By ‘conscious’ I mean the representations that the mind makes of sentience generally]
As regards what you refer to as the ‘Man V’, then from what I have read, this is indeed processed subliminally by the female under certain circumstances. It’s purely anecdotal, but I once had the dreadful misfortune of being forced to watch the film ‘What women want’. In it, there was a nod to the ‘Man V’ phenomenon in that when the female protagonist is having her mind read by the male she is flirting with, the words come into her own mind ‘Oh my good, I just glanced at his penis’. This isn’t meant to demonstrate the validity of my point at all of course, though the scene in the movie was constructed with the intent that the audience is knowing in this regard, and so will laugh – it’s referencing a phenomenon as a truism.
Yes, ‘subconscious’ is an awkward term – neither this nor that. Still, what is ‘conscious’ is but a highly partial superimposition of data gathered by the brain and senses; so in acknowledging that stuff goes on outside of the superimposition (a representation), we need some shorthand phrase for it. ‘Unconscious’ seems inadequate in that it may imply no acknowledgement whatsoever.
Anyway Jeannie, my original intent was just to throw an idea from your article back into the mix and see what comes up, have an exchange of views etc. I guess this is what blogging is largely about, rather than something necessarily academically rigorous.
All best wishes to you.
Thanks and good to throw this around with you – I do appreciate the intention to throw an idea in and ‘see what comes up’ and for me being rigorous is important – just my style and might not work for everyone. Best wishes to you as well.