Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
I really enjoyed reading Oates and Durham's article "The Mismeasure of Masculinity: the Male Body,‘Race’ and Power in the Enumerative Discourses of the NFL Draft." I am not much of a sports person. I never really played any and I don't watch it on TV. However, this article opened my eyes about a subject that I think is really important to address. When taking about the objectivation of bodies, the female body is usually the subject of interest. There is a lot to say about the matter and it seems like it happens more often. But that is not to say it doesn't happen to the male body, because clearly, it does.
I was unaware of the process these men go through when being drafted. The idea of lining up and be examining sounds terrible and humiliating. And it's sad that people suck it up and go with it, mostly for money. If that was a room full of woman, I don't think it would ever happen. There are double standards for men and women when it comes to bodies. Men can be objectified too but it seems to go unnoticed. Since I am a female, I tend to understand and sympathize with the topics of woman. But that is why I am glad we read this in class, because I need to be aware of issues with men too.
I found it interesting when the authors were discussing how football, since it involves aggressiveness and violence, is associated with power. I think that power and aggressiveness are two different things and it is a misconception that dominance and anger can give you power. It is never authentic power. It is just instilling fear to get your way. However, I was interested to know how these NFL players take this aggressiveness off the field and apply it to there real lives. Right now there is a lot of press on the football player that hit his wife and dragged her out of an elevator and another one that beat his children. These are certainly not the first causes of this kind of domestic violence among football players. I wonder if it has anything to do with the lack of respect for bodies. They are not treated with respect when they are lined up and examined for what kind of strength and physicality their body has. They are conditioned from early in their career that they are nothing but a body. They are not instilled with the belief that their body is a being, a living human with more than just parts. Therefore, when they enter relationships or come in contact with other people, they have no respect for their bodies either. They can assert their power through violence because that is how they live on a daily basis when playing football.
Either way, I think our society has a mixed up view of what authentic masculinity really is. It is not about being physically big or your ability to assert dominance. There is much more that goes into it and I think respect for bodies has a lot to do with it.
September 29, 2014
Critical Response: Mismeasure of masculinity
The reading by Thomas P. Oates and Meenakshi Gigi Durham, The mismeasure of masculinity: the male body, ‘race’ and power in the enumerative discourses of the NFL Draft was interesting to read because it was related to a subject many people know about. Some may watch the draft, or even watch the players participate in the sport, but do we even think about what goes on behind the scenes of the drafting process?
In every sport there is a focus on the male body and the ideal look for what body type the male playing the sport should have. The NFL sets a standard for what the athletic men should look like. During the NFL Draft male bodies are “catalogued, classified, ranked and valued via an extensive and complex system of quantification that is the focus of national attention for a period of weeks every summer.” The male bodies are brought into the public sphere by analyzing the body though culture and historical context. The athletic male body has been idealized in western culture and began when the Greek’s first held the Olympic Games. The extent of the body type seems to be held to the typical look for football players in present time.
The reading focused on three main themes: the delineation of the body in terms of its dimensions; the assessment of the body’s performance; and the body’s productivity in terms of mastery of the sport. The male athlete holds an ideal for what the body should look like. It seems as if the male body is represented as an art as muscular, graceful, powerful and heroic. Muscles represent the strength a man has, and the body shape is supposed to be an indicator for how strong and tough the man is giving him the look of being able to be strong enough to play the sport. The male body shows physical and cultural power, but football players seem to take their power and turn it into an aggression and promotes violence. There is an incident regarding a football player who beat up his girlfriend. There were also other incidents that included violent and aggressive behavior in other football players.
I think the focus on the body of NFL players is to show their physical strength to be able to tackle another during the game. I never took notice to how players are chosen for an NFL draft, until reading this article. The reading also discussed the process of the NFL draft and described it as a long process of objectifying men. The potential NFL players are judged on their size of build, and tested by being measured, weighed, asked to run, jump, lift weights, take specially designed intelligence tests and quizzed about their injuries by professional teams. Majority of these players are African American while a majority of the evaluators are white. I wonder if race plays a factor in evaluating players. Many people only see the objectification of women’s bodies forgetting that men can be under the same situations, but men are just as objectified as women especially when it comes to their body.
“The Mismeasure of Masculinity: the Male Body, ‘Race’ and Power in the Enumerative Discourses of the NFL Draft” by Thomas P. Oates and Meenakshi Gigi Durham raises some very good points not only about the rhetorics of male bodies, but bodies in general. The article points out that: “the measurement of the body has been shown to be a function of ideology: a tactic by which hegemonic power may be sustained” (302). They also liken this situation to that of women. The objectification of women is the more often discussed example of this, but I think that it is very important to talk about the situation for men as well. I liked that this expands the subject of bodily objectification and shows that it is not simply an isolated incident with male athletes, it happens to all demographics. All groups deal with these kinds of situations, and just because we don’t often talk about men doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening.
The article progresses to talk about the ways in which football in particular is objectifying. I was able to easily grasp this when they discussed the draft. I’ve never spent much time thinking about football, but when it is laid out in such a way the draft does seem objectifying. The players are weighed, measured, and judged and then simply have to wait patiently to see if someone will consider them “good enough” and choose them. There are also racial overtones here, as most of the pickers, if you will, are white and the players are often African American. The following quote really stuck out to my while I was reading this section: “Thus, while football serves to assert the power of men and the subjugation of women, the practices of combat sports also serve to maintain race and class hierarchies through violence, control and objectification” (304). I’ve never thought about football in such a way. Even though I never really got it or liked it, I never would have linked it to these things. Seeing it laid out, however, it makes sense. The players are not men in the eyes of the sport, they are commodities.
I found the “Anthropology Games” to be a bit shocking. While it did happen quite a long time ago, it still doesn’t seem right to just kind of pit different racial and ethnic groups against each other to test who is “the best”. I’m sure that most if not all of the judges were white as well, which makes their findings that the white man is the most advanced questionable. Racial overtones seem to be rampant in athletics both then and now.
28 September 2014
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
“The Mismeasure of Masculinity”
In the article “The mismeasure of masculinity: the male body, ‘race’ and power in the enumerative discourses of the NFL Draft” by Thomas P. Oates and Meenakshi Gigi Durham, an under-discussed form of body policing is highlighted; one in which males are objectified and controlled through practices put in place by people with higher power. As the work develops, Oates and Durham display how the quantification of bodies has contributed to the promotion of an excessively male ideal that also reinforces previously-established social hierarchies. Most significantly, Oates and Durham are concerned with the objectification and quantification of black football players and how this is understood in relationship to these athlete’s superiors, such as their assistant and head coaches as well as the owners of teams, among other people in charge that all tend to be white males. Thus, this work accomplishes much within its pages and it yields almost countless opportunities to discuss the pressures placed upon football players within the NFL.
Within the first line of the text’s abstract, the authors highlight an important aspect to consider: idolization of male athletes within Western society. They state, “The athletic male body has long been idealized in western culture, and its dimensions are a key aspect of its iconic status.” While I do not personally concern myself with sports on any level, I believe there can be a general assumption that all professional athletes are granted a level of celebrity unlike any other. It is common for a young boy to dream of growing up to score the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl. Furthermore, football is promoted to be one of our American values – Super Bowl Sunday is almost its own holiday here, even if you don’t like sports. Therefore, once this idolization and celebrity is taken into consideration, it’s obvious that the ideals that the NFL promotes can be inherently harmful. The football player’s body is an extension of their celebrity as well as the vehicle that has let them gain that status, thus it would follow that the young boys who wish to be these athletes also wish to have these bodies. Often, critics focus on the pressures placed solely upon women to have ideal bodies that are thin and feminine and attractive, while the pressures placed upon men who grow up in the same society are ignored. Men are meant to be strong, healthy, fast, muscular – and these are just some of the physical traits they must have for their body. The NFL promotes this throughout the sport by breaking down human beings into sheer statistics.
Furthermore, the NFL supports the society it exists in, and as Oates and Durham writes, American football represents western culture and “serves to equate whiteness, heterosexuality, athleticism and (of course) males with power.” This seems to be the major take-away from the article, that the athletic ideal also has unsaid consequences with the promotion of other ideals that create further division among minorities within the same “unified” system. Consider that only just this year, the NFL saw its first openly gay football player within the league. The NFL has decades of history and the players that go along with this, statistics would suggest that there are far more gay athletes in our past and present that stayed hidden, perhaps in fear of not meeting the athletic ideal of manliness. This manliness is problematic in itself as well, as masculinity is often associated with violence as Oates and Durham discuss. They mention “recent public relations disasters” within the NFL; these took place in 2004 and ten years later, not much has changed. In the past year or two, without even being a follower of sports, I have seen three separate incidents within the NFL that suggest a dire problem within professional football: Aaron Hernandez’s suspected murders, Ray Rice’s domestic violence towards his now-wife, and Adrian Peterson’s abuse of his own son. While there must be other factors at play (after all, the NFL has 32 teams full of players and the majority of them have not been involved in anything of this nature), I think these incidents form their own statistics that cannot be ignored, no matter how ideal the athlete is.
September 29, 2014
Response to “The Mismeasure of Masculinity”
I had never considered this point about the idealized man or that it was connected to the NFL, before. Yes, the professional football players in the NFL are extremely muscular and fit, but they have to be in order to be able to play the game. I had not connected this physical image with the image of the ideal man or power, but after reading the article, the two do go hand in hand.
A passage that really stood out to me was when the author states, “Jackson Katz refers to the football player as 'a signifier of violent masculinity,' adding that in 'the male sports subculture... size and strength are valued by men across class and racial boundaries' as a marker of men's separation from women.'” This passage is significant because of all of the accusations of and domestic violence that has been occurring among the players of the NFL. It is a biological fact that men are physically stronger than women, but this is especially true in the case of football players. I am not sure whether it is the physical strength or the power that comes with fame that makes them think that they have control, especially over women, but more and more cases of domestic violence are coming forward. A quick google search will bring up pages of domestic violence cases in the NFL. It is disgusting how these men treat women. While many people probably do not see them as role models, they are idolized by men and boys around the country, and should be setting a better example than they are. It is also sad that many women feel that they need to stay with these abusers for whatever reason. Maybe they feel as though they deserve it, which is just adding to the sense of power and entitlement of the men. The one thing that the NFL is doing right in these cases is suspending and expelling the offenders. This is sending the message that what they are doing will not be tolerated, and they will be punished.
In the article, the author compares beauty pageants and the NFL. I was disgusted when the author explained, “The 1923 Miss America Pageant graded bodies on a 100-point scale... Although the scale proved too confining, it has influenced the current scoring system that remains heavily number-centered.” Beauty pageants are very degrading and objectifying. Now, pageants have a talent section, but it is still based on looks. This annoys me. Who are the judges to say that one woman is more beautiful than the others? Where did this 100 point scale come from and who decided what the ideal scoring would be? The author compares this process to the drafting in the NFL, but I think they are very different. The Miss America contest is to determine who is the most beautiful woman in the country who can be a representation of the nation. While the NFL does base the draft on physical features, they do this because each team wants to have the best players. The physical nature of the draft is based on their ability to play football, not just be a model. While the author attempts to make a comparison between the objectification of men and women, I think women are objectified more. With that being said, the objectification of both genders is wrong. It just produces insecurities among individuals because the standards to which they are held and try to live up to are almost impossible to reach in a healthy way. I tend to say this often, but society needs to change their views on many issues including the standard of beauty.
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
29 September 2014
The article, “The Mismeasure of Masculinity: the Male Body, ‘Race’ and Power In the Enumerative Discourses of the NFL Draft” by Thomas P. Oates and Meenakshi Gigi Durham discuss how men are scrutinized within the NFL draft. According to Ancient Greeks, the male athlete has been viewed as to be powerful, heroic and virile in image and painting and sculpture, and organizing the precursor to the modern Olympic games. They were seen in art as muscular, graceful, powerful, and heroic. In the NFL Draft today, male bodies are catalogued, classified, ranked, and valued according to strict rules each summer. Throughout this time, media follow them bringing in hundreds of journalists, including representatives from four foreign countries. The author mentions, “In scholarly terms, the Draft discursively empties the male athletic body of its subjectivity, making it a commodity to be bought, sold or traded. In vernacular terms, the process is one that a number of commentators find more than a little creepy. The Combine is ‘where fresh beef is brought to one central market, where it is poked, prodded and tested’, according to the New York Times” (310). Even though I am a huge patriots fan, and watch it each week, I have never followed the draft. While it can’t be healthy to be paraded in front of the media not being able to hide any aspect of your life, I do think as a sport it can be important for the audience to know their team. If they are going to follow the sport and root for a certain team, it is important that they know all of the players. Maybe some aspect of one of the men’s life could one day impact how they play the game? If the fans knew this then they might not want to place them on their fantasy football league or buy his jersey. Sometimes, I do think this process can be somewhat worse than being a famous actor or actress. Even though it’s only over the summer, everyone talks about the players so in depth, they never have any freedom, and they can’t risk injuring themselves in the slightest. If they hold back their ability even the slightest, then they might risk being cut.
Each player is scrutinized so much that they barely have any time to breathe. Within football, “the connection between statistics and player value is enacted in the commemoration of statistical ‘milestones’, events that are being choreographed with increasing care. Numbers as a measure of a player’s performance and relative value also play a central role in the wildly popular fan pursuit of ‘fantasy leagues’” (308). Each player has a ranking on the field and the players have to live up to this number and work against each other. These numbers create a hierarchy within the sport. It is mainly seen to be an important legitimizing tool for usually white and male elites. It is often compared to slavery and people put numbers on the slaves as a way to reassert the owner’s position of power. Women are not always the only ones who have their bodies be the subject of statistical scrutiny. There is no freedom for these players during this time. I think that, while the fans should have some right to know about the players in the NFL draft, the journalism needs to be toned down. These men deserve to have some privacy like everyone else.
“Shrinking Women” by Lily Myers and “Cultural Rhetorics of Women’s Corsets” by Wendy Dasler Johnson both made very interesting and profound statements about the rhetoric of women’s bodies. I genuinely enjoyed Myers’ poem. It is beautifully written and conveys so easily the struggle with food that many women have, along with the double standards between men and women.
The poem not only indicated that the speaker has learned her behavior of limiting food intake from her mother, but also they she is aware of it and dislikes this quality. I think that this is very important because we truly do take so much from our upbringing without realizing it. I think that the same is true with many aspects of rhetoric. Take racism for example. I think that one would have the ability to recognize this quality in their parents, dislike this quality in their parents, but at the same time- if their parents have it, and raised them by it, it probably exists in the child to some degree. This holds true for women’s behavior, men’s behavior, sexism, homophobia – you name it.
One interesting parallel that stuck out to me in these two works was that of learned behavior. Myers writes about how she “has been taught to grow in” from her mother. This leads to an unhealthy relationship with food. Johnson also touches upon a passage of behavior codes which is so detailed and unrealistic that I was surprised by it. Johnson follows up by saying: “Sounds like a drill in high school physical education, and so they were, these Delsarte posture exercises, in some women’s academies of the day” (211). To expect women to train themselves to turn their head to favor a certain foot while walking, or to hold her heels near together just seems pointless and silly. They were also trained that looking a certain way – wearing a corset – made them powerful, or acceptable.
I also liked when Johnson made the analogy that “The corset produces a girl entirely bound up by conventional expectations” (216). This is a rather poetic way to put it. In addition this article goes on to discuss how in certain situations the women liked wearing the corsets, as it made them feel powerful. It is an armor of sorts. This also relates back to the poem, as those who restrict their food intake in order to control their weight also often do so in order to have power over their body/life/etc. In this way, the corset’s impact on the body is the same as restricting food intake.
October 1, 2014
Critical Response: Cultural Rhetoric’s of Women’s Corsets & “Shrinking Women”
The readings consisted of Cultural Rhetoric’s of Women’s Corsets and a poem written by Lily Myers titled “Shrinking Women.” The readings dealt with women and the space they took up in the world around them physically as well as the shape of their bodies as influenced by the corset and the world around them. The reading Cultural Rhetoric’s of Women’s Corsets talks about restraining a women's figure by wearing corsets which became popular during the Victorian era. The corset was worn to squeeze the women’s torso in to make her look smaller and give her a specific “hourglass” look. Corsets altered the way women took shape. They changed the way in which their bodies look, and gave people the assumption that these women had the “hourglass” shape, even when they did not have it on their own. The corset allowed for that illusion so all women would fit the look. From the article I found there to be mentioned two aspects of eighteenth-century rhetoric that a woman’s body would signify in particular ways. The first is “a remarkable prominence given the female body in examples cited by theorists of sentimental rhetoric. It is a surprisingly small step from these representations to figures of properly corseted nineteenth-century women, and such links between rhetorical theory and corsets underscore the pervasiveness of “omnibus” rhetoric in nineteenth-century America. A second aspect pertinent to corsets is a spectrum from naïve to sentimental that became a complex hierarchy implicit in sentimental discourse.” According to the nineteenth-century the woman’s body lacked shape and the corset gave the women’s body a shape and without the corset, the body did not have a shape on its own.
Lily Myers’ poem discusses her views on women as she has learned growing up through watching the behavior of her mother. Her poem allowed me to think about the space in which women occupy within the world. Women appear to have smaller physiques than men, making the space in which they occupy seem like a great deal less than what space men take up. The line of her poem “you have been taught to grow out I have been taught to grown in” really stuck with me while reading. If you think about how women look they are much thinner and smaller than men. As they grow older they get smaller, growing in while men are larger and grow out with age. The stomachs of men seem to go grow out while women “grow” in, becoming much smaller. The Lily Myers performance of “Shrinking Women” on the video clip was interesting to watch concluding the reading of her poem because the performance brought life to her words and emotion to correspond with her writing. She also discusses her limited food intake and choosing foods low in calories. She is aware of this issue but she cannot escape from it because it is the way she learned to be. Both of these reading showed that women conformed to certain behaviors to fit into society to be accepted.
30 September 2014
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
Lily Myers’ poem “Shrinking Women” is a work of art I could spend years trying to fully understand. This is my third or fourth viewing of her performance of it, and each time I feel that I find some new line to relate to or decipher. I still cannot say that I know exactly what she is saying because I feel that there are so many ways that one could choose to interpret it, but nevertheless every time I watch her in a mad fury on stage I’ll find tears on my cheeks no matter how much I fight them. “Shrinking Women” has applicability to all women; we all are part of the same system and the words Myers spouts have been in our thoughts or directed at us in an unlimited cycle that repeats throughout our lifetimes.
Myers begins with her mother – this is arguably the start of all women’s lives, as we all look to our mothers or the other women in our lives for guidance, to figure out what role we are meant to assume. There is a certain sadness as we hear that Myers’ mother “only eats dinner when [she] suggests it”. Here, it is clear that the roles have reversed in which the daughter is forced to do the mothering; and her father is seemingly oblivious to the situation.
The power of the poem builds, where she says, “I have been taught accommodation.” This is an unfortunately familiar sentiment in regards to women. Too often it seems in our society that women feel that they are meant to be the ones who “go with the flow” or merely accept the situation, as if they are secondary to men in importance of needs and desires. While this might not always be the case, women are still expected to be quiet and adhere to certain rules that do not apply to men. Myers’ poem supports this, stating, “I have been taught accommodation. My brother never thinks before he speaks.” This disconnect between children within the same family proves the dichotomy taking place between men and women.
As the poem hurdles towards its conclusion, the most tragic line is uttered: “Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark, a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled.” Every time I hear this line it makes my heart hurt, and I can empathize so much with it at the same time. Sometimes I feel as if I need to hide away to enjoy my food, as if others are explicitly judging me each time I decide to have a piece of bread or a sip of soda. The fact that plain yogurt is what her mother is sneaking into her diet makes this all the more upsetting, as this is a food considered “healthy” by most dietitians and also disgusting by anyone who has tastebuds. This is not meant to be a guilty pleasure (although I’d argue that no food is) and yogurt has so many nutritional benefits and yet her mother does not feel like she is allowed to publicly consume it. There is a diminished existence here, where the women within Myers’ family are constantly apologizing for things they have a right to do.
This is proven in the conclusion of her performance, where Myers announces, “I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word ‘sorry.’” There is a moment of proud shock that enters the crowd with this line, suggesting an unsaid truth – that women are constantly apologizing for their existence, for daring to speak. These women are shrinking into themselves while men are allowed to expand and grow tall, and we need people like Myers to break the cycle.
October 1, 2014
Response to “Shrinking Women” and “Cultural Rhetorics of Women's Corsets”
I have listened to the poem “Shrinking Women” before, and it had just as much of an impact on me then as it did now. It is so sad that women have come so far in society, yet we still have such a long way to go. Men still hold power over women whether society wants to admit this fact or not, and women are still held to ridiculous standards of superficial beauty. What really stuck out to me in the poem was her comparison of herself and her brother. The separation between boys and girls and how they are treated differently is especially clear in families where the brother and sister are close to the same age. When I was growing up, I would have to go to my dad's house and spend time with my stepbrother and stepsister. My stepmother would always make my stepsister and I do chores while my stepbrother played videogames all day. Also, if anything went wrong it was our fault; he could do no wrong. I remember being frustrated even back then at the unfairness of it.
The other point that stuck out to me from “Shrinking Women” was when she said, “I asked five questions in genetics class today and they all started with the word 'sorry.'” I see this a lot in my classes. Women feel the need to apologize for asking questions or giving their opinion. Society has taught women to step back. Countless television shows protray women being upset and embarrassed when they are considered smart as though smart is the equivalent of unattractive. Apparently, a woman cannot be both beautiful and intelligent according to these shows. The sad part about this is that the shows I have seen this on are intended for young girls who are at an age where their mind can be easily molded.
Women apologizing for their ideas and opinions leads to a topic discussed in “Cultural Rhetorics of Women's Corsets” about women taking on male pseudonyms when publishing books. Women were afraid that their work wouldn't be valued if readers knew that the author was a woman. Even today, women authors sometimes use gender neutral names or simply initials to mask or neutralize their gender.
I thought it was interesting that a presidential candidate in 1872 had an anticorset platform. While I am sure it was more so because of the health risks that corsets cause, it was uplifting that a man saw the ridiculousness of corsets and was going to do something to change society and help women.
The author states, “With or without a corset, the woman's form bore a significance in the nineteenth century that we are only beginning to reimagine.” While most women do not wear corsets anymore, there is still a huge pressure on women to be slim to the point where it is unhealthy. Some music artists, such as Megan Trainor, have tried to break the mold and express that women are beautiful no matter what their size, but there is still an overwhelming push for women to lose weight. Recently the clothing store Urban Outfitters has been under fire for promoting a shirt with the words “eat less” on it. Also, in the past few years the “thigh gap” became popular. It seems as though society is constantly thinking of new ways to make women feel insecure about their bodies. In addition, with everything being photoshopped today, every woman in magazines and advertisements fit these standards. It has come to the point where many women become obsessed with their bodies and changing them to conform to what society wants.
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
September 30, 2014
"Cultural Rhetorics of Women's Corsets" by Wendy Dasler Johnson was full of so much to think about, I am having trouble figuring out what to talk about in this response. I would actually like to read this again, when time permits me, because I know there were some concepts or explanations I didn't full understand. But I am interested to fully comprehend them because I think Johnson's approach to bodies and rhetoric was really well done here.
One of the first lines I highlighted was on page 205: "Bodies resist order. They can be unspeakably aroused or moved." Aren't we always in come kind of conflict with our body? Whether it be in a fight to not show an emotion or wrestling a fit of restlessness, or aroused or excited, as the article states. I never really thought about it until reading this and I think its fascinating that we are always conflicting with ourselves, not just internally.
Seeing the many connections Johnson makes between woman's bodies and rhetorics throughout this piece was really interesting as well. I have read both Little Woman and Charlotte Temple, two of the novels she mentions so I particularly enjoyed her opinion about those because I knew what she was talking about. Most novels written during this time apply extreme sentimental to woman's characters, having them faint and gasp and cry in any kind of situation that might be slightly stressful. Its interesting that these were characteristics of women, that "distress" was gendered as female.
"Shrinking Women" by Lily Myers was amazing. I watched it more than once, just to make sure I retained everything. She makes so many great points about the tradition of women absorbing men, something that a lot of younger people probably see more clearly now that our generation is against this. However, like Myers says "Inheritance is accidental." The idea of one body shrinking and another swelling, just like their influences on the house hold is such a perceptive way of seeing family dynamics. In Johnson's article, she mentions "well trained docile bodies"(215) which seem to coincide with Myers poem. We are trained to behave a certain way based on how our identities are formed within the domestic interior, the home in which we were raised. "Our bodies are shaped by cultural practices, practices that convince us of a particular sense of self," (223). Our identities, sense of value and self worth and perceptions of the world guide our bodies, making us who were are. However, they are being molded and shaped into what our culture tells us is right. I think it is important to be aware of this because it is something we can stop if we take a moment and figure out who we truly want to be and what our bodies truly should represent.
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
30 September 2014
I have seen the video, “Shrinking Women” a few times now and it still surprises me each time. Its sad how true aspects of her speech are in society today, while people often discuss how much better society is for women. While she talks about her mother throughout the entire piece, I look at it as if it represents all women in society. This isn’t just happening within one family. From the very opening of the poem, when Lily states that, “across from me at the kitchen table, my mother smiles over red wine that she drinks out of a measuring glass,” and we know from the start that women have to settle for less. Even though it is just wine, women can’t drink as much as men, they feel like they have to limit themselves to all the great things in the world because it is expected of them within society.
On the other hand, men aren’t shrinking like women, in fact she often points out that they are swelling. Lily Myers compares herself to her brother and how they both were raised. Even though the same parents raised them, it surprises me how different the morals each were taught. As she states within the speech, “my brother never thinks before he speaks. I have been taught to filter.” I often hear people point out, when a woman goes to swear or say something surprising, that they should be lady-like. Even when women are eating, they can’t shovel their food into their mouths like men can because it isn’t lady-like. Why is it more polite for a man to eat like pig than a woman? Shouldn’t both genders get in trouble for eating so rudely? She even states how her father taught her brother how to grow out, while her mother showed her to grow in. Today, women want to be the smallest and thinnest, and they are taught to eat less and do what they can to look so small. In families, even on TV, I see the father always taking their son’s out to play ball, go fishing, etc., and leave their daughters in the house with their mothers. It makes sense why the girls would pick up these habits. Like Lily states, if you spend enough time with someone, you will pick up his or her habits.
Within the article, “Cultural Rhetorics of Women’s Corsets,” Wendy Dasler Johnson discusses how women are presenting themselves in public with “manly-shouldered jackets, tummies seeming flat in pleated pants, hair upswept to not distract from the work of a scholar” (228). Women dress this way often to gain the same respect within the professional world as her male coworkers do. It isn’t fair that women have to change who they are in order to try to be viewed as an equal to someone who may not even be nearly as qualified for the job as her. Even then, she might not get the job because she is a woman. Today, people are dressing more according to their own styles, but there are still many women who dress in suits. While before I never really thought about how these suits could seem more manly with the shoulder pads, I always just thought of them as professional attire. But after reading this article, it makes sense. Women have been trying to be seen as an equal to men in work for hundreds of years, and even though we are many steps closer, we still are trying to gain the equality. Men still make more money to the hour than women do.
I read an interesting article the other day. The author was sitting in the New York City subway system; her legs were neatly crossed, her elbows tucked in, and she took up no more room than the small orange seat allowed. Across from her, however, a young man lounged with his legs spread, his arms draped at ease across his stomach and his seat grew to the proportion of three. The idea of space was so different between these two bodies, that it is almost ironic that they sat across from each other. “Shrinking Women” by Lilly Myers brought this article to my mind. Men are taught that their bodies should grow to fill space while women shrink to allow their expansion. As Myers’ states in her poem:
as my grandmother became frail and angular her/husband swelled to red round cheeks, rotund stomach/and I wonder if my lineage is one of shrinking women/making space for the entrance of men into their lives/not knowing how to fill it back once they leave(14-18).
This inversion of space occupation by the genders is a power play of cultural construction. It is not a simple statement of comfortable seating; it is a statement of privilege. It is played out on subways, boardrooms and even fashion.
The idea of the corset was not just a mark of fashion. A corset would both literally and figuratively shape the body:” through rigorous training a peasant boy’s body would lose all sign of peasantry, but he also gained identifying marks of soldiery as he took on this bodily code”(Johnson 215). The idea that a body can take on a new identity through training, is the same transformation that was occurring with the corset. The body was literally diminishing, but also becoming a propped construct in the eyes of the public.
Women may not be wearing corsets today, but some may as well be. As Myers’ states “”women in ,y family have been shrinking for decades” (36). Women are taking up less and less space in order to fill a role in the eyes of society.
I really liked the poem “Shrinking Women.” I saw it last year in two other classes and liked it immediately. I feel like a lot of people can relate to that problem in different ways, either the aspect of picking up unwanted habits from our parents or feeling the need to be much smaller than we are. It reminds me of the way things used to be in the past actually. About how men were allowed to say whatever they want and go out and do whatever they want but women were expected to stay home and not really speak. Women were expected to basically handle the house and children without complaint while their husbands went off and did whatever. That is sort of what it sounds like here. Her mother feels as though she needs to stay at home and that she should avoid eating as much as possible. She avoids calories to the extreme. Lily Meyers says that she did not even think that her mother would have dinner if she were not there to suggest it. Meanwhile, her father has been going out and eating and drinking with his buddies all the time. He feels no restraints put upon him whatsoever. And neither does her brother. He freely speaks his mind and finds absolutely nothing wrong with that. He is not afraid to eat food and gain weight like his sister and mother are. It is almost like the mother was afraid that being any more than she is would get in the way of her husband. The way that Lily’s father swells and her mother shrinks seems to sort of suggest that he is sucking the life out of her and gaining it for himself. It’s like she leaves so much space that he felt the need to fill it. Even now with his new girlfriend it mentions that she used to be overweight, past tense, meaning that she has done something in order to lose that weight. It seems that women are often trying to lose weight to sort of prove something to themselves. They feel like they don’t deserve all of the same things as men and that they have to limit themselves when really that is not the case. Women have just as much a right to all of the things men do but we still have not reached that point yet.
In the article “Cultural Rhetoric’s of Women’s Corsets” I thought it was interesting that the author compared the idea of women’s rhetoric’s with corsets. How both of them can be restraining. Women used corsets in order to make sure that they had the correct shape of their body according to society, almost like the way that they were naturally shaped was not good enough. It talks about how even today women have to try and dress a certain way in the workplace in order to gain the same respect as men. It used to be much worse than it is now but women still have to do a lot more in order to prove themselves. In today’s society it is much easier for people to dress in a way that is more them then having to dress in the way that society deems is respectable enough, but there is still a limit. It even mentions how these restraints affected women on a rhetorical level too. Most of the time women used to have to pretend they were a man in order to get anything published and in order to break into a mostly male dominant world such as writing.
Responses to and thoughts about course readings