Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
November 12, 2014
Samantha Murray's article "Corporeal Knowledge and Deviant Bodies: Perceiving the Fat Body," was filtered though a lens that I had never explored before: the clinical gaze. Her argument stemmed from the notion that doctors are always perceived as having the "right" knowledge about everyone's condition and Murray is saying that a lot of their diagnosis or ideas about our health are filtered though the cultural means. Since "fat" is not accepted in our society, is that one of the reasons doctors insist patients loose weight.
Personally, I felt like this idea is not in the case of every overweight person. I understand that society is very hard on overweight people and I don't condone that. But I think a lot of the reason why "fat" isn't accepted is because it is unhealthy. America has an extremely high obesity rate right now and children are becoming this way more and more. They can't live their lives to the fullest with a body that they can barely more in. Unfortunately, this concern or discrimination has trickled down to discrimination against people who are not the supposed "right" weight. Murray's argument about her own self being healthy on the inside is true for herself, but not for every overweight person. I think this article opened up a good conversation about the perception of doctors though and how they could be enforcing weight lose on people would don't really need it. I think we also need to look at our bodies in the sense of what is right for them health wise and not just what society wants.
"The (Dis)Embodied Self in Anorexia Nervosa" by Rebecca Lester was also interesting, bring up a few points about anorexia that I never know. One was that a lot of the patients developed this disease as an act of rebellion against their female body. I was really surprised at this because when I think of anorexia I think of it as an act of starving ones self to be thin for the sake of being thin. I didn't realized a lot of the female patients were trying to stop the formation of their female bodies. This is incredibly sad to me because it begin a battle with body image at such a young age. Adolescents have a hard enough time embracing what they are developing, never mind actively trying to stop it from happening. It was also interesting that this can be read as her rejecting her female self and embracing a male self. Lester points out that their behavior is not a complete denial of their body, however it is that they are painfully aware of it and her self punishment is like a realization of who she really is.
These two articles, “Corporeal Knowledges and Deviant Bodies: Perceiving the Fat Body” by Samantha Murray and “The (Dis)Embodied Self in Anorexia Nervosa” by Rebecca J. Lester, although they are talking about two rather opposite conditions of the body, make very similar points in regards to the way society and the medical field treat patients according to body type.
Murray spends a great deal of time discussing the perception of fat bodies and the implications that these perceptions have on the people inside of these bodies. She claims: “We see a ‘fat’ woman, and we know her as lazy, greedy, of inferior intelligence. We may still address her more or less normally, we may smile at her, we may eat lunch with her or go shopping with her, but somewhere within us these kinds of understandings, these knowledge’s, of what her ‘fatness’ means to us are stirred and brought to the surface in unconscious ways” (363). I found this claim to be extremely important to her argument. Just because we see someone as being “fat”, does not mean that we will treat them any differently. However, Murray claims, that we will subconsciously think of them differently because it has been instilled in us.
Murray also acknowledges that “A normative ‘slender’ body… not only occup[ies] a space of power and influence, but is a means of projecteing onto our perceptions a kind of ‘backdrop’ of normalcy that structures our readings/constitutions of certain bodies as normative or aberrant” (364). I found this to be an interesting segue to Lester’s article. Around page 484 Lester discusses numerous examples of Anorexic women who dispise their femininity. They are stiving to be thin in order to avoid having the curves of a female. While this makes sense to me, I also must question why they would strive to be thin, when being thin has become so feminine (perhaps a disconnect in the years since this has been published – but still interesting to think about).
Lester explains that “A woman who is thin is seen as smarter, better, more "together" and less vulnerable. Slenderness communicates competence, self-control and intelligence. It reflects a self which can "rise above" a need to eat--an ascetic,morally refined person not subject to the "female" excesses of appetite and sloppy overindulgence” (486). This lines up with what Murray claimed about the stigmas of obesity. Anorexic’s strive to embody the opposite of those stigmas.
14 November 2014
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
“Perceiving the Fat Body” and “The (Dis)Embodied Self in Anorexia Nervosa”
Both Rebecca J. Lester’s work entitled “The (Dis)Embodied Self in Anorexia Nervosa” and Samantha Murray’s “Corporeal Knowledges and Deviant Bodies: Perceiving the Fat Body” are concerned with similar issues, even as they concern themselves with vastly different bodies within society. Despite Lester’s focus on anorexia (and the mental state that accompanies this disease) and Murray’s focus upon fatness (and the perceptions facing that body), the two works complement each other to give a deeper understanding of the forces facing and restricting bodies, especially those of women. The two works share commonalities, such as the inclusion of the medical community as an entity that dictates and observes these bodies through a clinical eye, or the idea of both fat bodies and anorexic bodies as being “broken.” Together, these works reveal the pressures that prey on bodies, in their health, their minds, and their identities.
While both of these works were well-written and insightful, I found Murray’s article on fatness to be more compelling in its form and subject. However, I must admit that these are my own biases at work, as I am personally invested in many of the ideas that Murray discusses, as well as the simple fact that I have encountered many of the situations and perceptions that are covered within the work. Thus, it would be irresponsible to discount Lester’s work entirely, because not only did it inform me about a topic I am less familiar with, but it also helped inform my own ideas about fatness in comparison to the idea of anorexia.
One issue I noticed within Lester’s text is that it does not make explicit the diversity of patients that suffer with anorexia. While I found myself understanding and empathizing with the narratives chronicled within this work, I also realized that there is a vision of the anorexic body as frighteningly thin, and that often is not the case. This is not a reflection upon Lester’s writing, but instead the society as a whole that Lester (and I) are a part of. When she discusses the idea of gender as it overlaps with control in anorexic patients, I felt that this disconnect was most evident. For example, she writes, “The body the anorexic woman wants to destroy, to ‘break out’ from, is a female body. This body is the enemy, to be controlled, punished, disciplined, ‘starved out’”. This is an understandable mentality, yet I do not feel that this is necessarily inclusive or representative of all anorexic patients. What I mean to say is that a person can be anorexic and still look “normal” or even “fat”, and likewise their motivations or causes for anorexia may differ. I found myself relating to a lot of the ideas documented within Lester’s work, even though I have never suffered from anorexia; as a fat person, I have felt trapped in my own body and “wanted out” before, yet that was in response to how other people have treated me. I wonder if many anorexics may feel the same, and their illness is not a response to just the gendered pressures they face and an attempt to remove their femininity, but in an attempt to remove the cause of their pain.
Murray’s work was a revelation to me, despite my familiarity with the subject. The article exposed the depravity within the medical community as doctors and experts perceive the fat body. Not only do they look at these bodies, but they categorize them, prescribe a state of health to them, and often they simply judge them. I found that Murray did an especially effective job of representing that medical professionals are, “already structured by the world in which [their] subjectivity is constituted.” She establishes that doctors cannot separate themselves from the cultural practices they had already learned; they are subjective and this influences their work and diagnoses. I was particularly appalled (yet unfortunately unsurprised) to hear the words of psychotherapist Irvin Yalom, in which he conveys his utmost disgust for the fat body of a patient he is meant to treat. The words he spouts were hateful and hurtful all the same, not just because he felt them, but because I know that he is not the only person that feels that way. When Murray writes, “The real question Yalom asks is ‘What right does Betty have to exist?”, I had to pause. I’m still speechless, honestly. It is hard to reconcile this idea as Murray states it so clearly: fat bodies are told continually that they are wrong, that they are broken, that they should be fixed, because a fat existence is not a meaningful one, and perhaps it threatens the existence of the so-called “normal” bodies.
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
17 November 2014
Perceiving the Body
Within both articles, “The (Dis) Embodied Self in Anorexia Nervosa” by Rebecca Lester and “Corporeal Knowledges and Deviant Bodies: Perceiving the Fat Body” by Samantha Murray, the authors discuss the appearance of different bodies. Within the first article about Anorexia Nervosa, the author writes, “Not surprisingly, this leads quickly to the construction of the anorexic woman as manipulative, secretive and deceitful” (480 Lester). I don’t like how people automatically view this disease as such a negative thing, and a woman is purposely doing this to her body. A woman may be keeping this to herself, but she might not being manipulative and deceitful at all or on purpose. When a person with anorexia looks in the mirror, they don’t see their bodies for what it really is. She even mentions how some people who are anorexic just want to get out of their bodies. When these feelings occur, I don’t see it as there are trying to hurt other people by lying and manipulating, they are just trying to make themselves feel better and to feel whole again.
Lester also mentions, “Women are taught that the mind--the male--is to be valued, while the body--the female--is to be hated and, if at all possible, to be destroyed” (484). According to Lester, the anorexic woman wants to destroy the female body. This makes it seem as if this body is an enemy that needs to be controlled, punished, and disciplined. So by starving themselves, they are trying to make their bodies less feminine, flat chested. They might not want to be viewed as weak and detestable to society anymore. Women are always taught in society, that they need to wear make-up, look nice, be thin, and work to make their bodies perfect. Women are always trying to fix themselves, as if they aren’t good enough the way they are. Society always tells females that they need to change, and then when some do, they get sick.
Within the second article, Samantha Murray discuses how people perceive the body to look one way based on societal norms. Most of the time, people are doing this without it being expressed out loud; it is all hidden and unspoken. People will often stereotype a person based on their outward appearance alone, and might see a “fat” woman as lazy, greedy, and inferior intelligence. She makes a good point when she says, “We manage our identities through perception—we believe we can come to know the essence of a person through the way they appear to us” (363). I think it is so awful how people always judge others based on their appearance. Most people don’t even realize this is happening. Within society people are supposed to look one way, and when they don’t, they are automatically judged, whether consciously or not. A woman’s weight does not dictate how smart, trustworthy, honest, kind, or brave she is. Outward appearance does not correlate with internal traits.
Doctors are even subjected to the same view of society that any other person is. They might want to diagnose a person who is overweight as having high blood pressure, bad lung capacity, and internal organs not working properly, but that isn’t always the case. Someone who is bigger than another can be just as healthy, if not healthier, than a person who is thinner. Why does it matter that a person should lose weight if they are 100% healthy? If they are happy the way they are, why change that? I think that people should be more focused on being happy in life, than trying to fix something that wasn’t even broken to begin with.
Samantha Murray's article "Corporeal Knowledge and Deviant Bodies: Perceiving the Fat Body," and “The (Dis)Embodied Self in Anorexia Nervosa” by Rebecca J. Lester, unveils the shaping of bodies through the perspectives of two opposing lenses within the same spectrum. The social identity that is constructed, intentional or not, when an individual sees a fat body is what shapes their perception, reactions and entire interaction with that person. As Murray states “We manage our identities through perception—we believe we can come to know the essence of a person through the way they appear to us” (363). Part of this is instinct; we’ve grown from a time in our past when first glance identification, knowing if an individual was friend or foe, meant life or death. Now however, our judgments are not formed out of necessity, but self-reflection . As Foucault stated, we internalize our customs and rules. We believe if we do not abide by these customs we will be punished at any moment. By judging people who are different from us, we are in a sense abiding by these rules. We see in others what we wish to see within ourselves, and maintain the status quo.
November 17, 2014
Critical Response: Perceiving Body Fat and Self Anorexia
The article “Corporeal Knowledges and Deviant Bodies: Perceiving the Fat Body” by Samantha Murray discusses the roles of perception of the “fat body.” The way many people see and perceive a fat body is viewed differently than an average body. Often they are perceived as “the fat man/women” not known by their accomplishments. If someone was of a heavier build and was to come on television as having done something of importance the name may not be caught from the story but in conversation it will come up and that person will be known because of their size. In the reading Murray talks about research about perceptions from Alcoff. In the article Murray says “Alcoff (2001) looks at the primacy of perception in the formation of bodies of knowledge, bodies of flesh, social bodies, and the relations between them. Alcoff investigates their “visible” non-white bodily markers. She argues the way we perceive, other bodies is not simply a result of our vision, but of the sedimented knowledges we embody, and body forth” (362). This was interesting because it seems as if discourse does not necessarily “describe the conditions of one’s existence, but the productive of it” (362). Statements about certain body types are ruled and encouraged by the society we live in. Our society is so based on the way people look, and their sizes that who they are becomes what they appear to be.
The second article “The (Dis)Embodied Self in Anorexia Nervosa” by Rebecca J. Lester discusses the debate about eating disorders. Eating disorders are a destruction of the self. Anorexia is defined in the article as “animal, appetite, deceiver, and jailer of the self, undermining the best strivings of the self” (481). The article discusses the body as the “non-self, the base material which grounds the self to the worldly plane of existence” (481). Where an individual who suffers from anorexia is trapped within their own body and way of thinking where they only thing they can do is change the physical image to match the image of society or with the image they have within their minds of what they want to look like. From reading the article I gather that there are two branches of the medical model- “the medicalization of anorexia as a purely biological dysfunction and the employment of the abstract self-theories” (481). From this statement there are two reasons why anorexia is a thing, one is a biological dysfunction such as an illness pertaining to a physiological thought to an individual believing they are fat, when in fact they look fine and the other is an act of creating the look of a body being a certain way.
These two readings complement each other as they discuss the look of the body in a certain way as a result of societal and self-view. How we view our selves is a reflection of what we are influenced to from society. How a person perceives the body of self and others is based on the views of society. How a person or other is defined is by their look rather than achievements. While the body may look a certain way, it can be altered to match the society view of body image of self-destruction from suffering from anorexia and thinness as self-worth.
Responses to and thoughts about course readings