Monday, February 11, 2008

Always Already a Subject.

While browsing around on Jezebel, I came across this picture and this article, which made me want to talk about being a subject. That magazine cover constructs Faith Hill as a beautiful subject, but it's interesting that we see beauty that doesn't reflect how she actually looks. In fact, almost no one looks like the "after" picture, but because ten thousand magazine covers came before and set the standard of beauty, to become a beautiful subject means you must become wrinkle-less and attain tiny, tiny arms. To become a beautiful subject (at least in a cover girl sense) an individual must take part in the repetition of a standard which doesn't reflect reality. There never even was a person who looked like this, but somehow that standard of beauty came into being anyway.

This repetition of something that never existed is one way of thinking about gender. You see a hundred thousand enactments of gender everyday, and we have all felt the social pressure that comes from our assigned gender (race, sexuality, or religion). But because we feel that pressure every day, people start assuming that being a gender is actually the way people are. We have no "before" picture for comparison, so gender starts to look natural even though it is just people acting gendered because that's what they are told to do.

This is definitely the type of stance that I have taken for the few years I have paid attention. However, this stance rejects the experiences of those people who feel that a particular gender is desired. We can of course say that those people haven't seen the light yet, but that puts theory too far out in front of practical concerns for me. But, that's just my account, anyone out there want to share their own interaction with gender?

4 comments:

rook said...

Looking at this rendition of Faith, I am reminded of ads for food, in which various non-edible materials are sculpted to present an image of luscious food. A bowl of whipped soap foam can pass visually for whipped cream but will fail the taste test. Gender is one of the ingredients that make up a human consciousness and because the image of gender can be manipulated does not diminish the fact that whipped cream tastes like whipped cream. Just a thought.

Lawrence University Feminists said...

It's entirely possible that just because gender can be manipulated means that it doesn't exist. However, it seems like gender has been so manipulated that it might be closer to reality to assume that gender doesn't reflect human consciousness. At least until there is some seriously hard evidence that it actually does fundamentally influence things.

artrook said...

Okay,
you stumped me. What is consciousness? My consciousness is shaped by the body I am in and the circumstances that I find this body in. Gender is not body neutral since there are some specific things that each gender can and can not do.

artrook said...
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