Scott, S. and D. Morgan. 1993. Body Matters: Essays on the Sociology of the Body.

Scott, Sue and David Morgan, eds. 1993. Body Matters: Essays on the Sociology of the Body. Washington, DC: Falmer Press.

Chapter 1 – D.H. J. Morgan and Sue Scott. “Bodies in a Social Landscape.”

Sociological absence from study of the body rooted in attempting to distance field from biology and social (medical?) anthropology; prominence of demonstrating rationality and the study of public realm overshadows the irrationality and disorder of the private-sphere body. Presumptions of essentialism that is brought into inquiring of the body.  Sociology’s unwillingness to dissect the “objective” biology – which, has longitudinally been understood quite differently – women as “men turned outside in”  and ovaries as “female testicles” – “Obviously the body is made up of parts, but the perceived relative importance of these parts and their relationship to the whole is culturally defined” (6). Feminist contribution to body literature  include where gendered/sexed bodies can/not do, and where they can/not go. Issue of societal presumption on women’s inherent tie to motherhood, simply due to/regardless of biological capacity. Dichotomization of mind/body, animal bodies vs. human bodies.  Even the notion of agency (as labeled by Giddens 1991, pg 57) refers to the body – “Bodily discipline is intrinsic to the competent social agent [….] routine control of the body is integral to the very nature both of agency and of being accepted (trusted) by others as competent”.  Bodies are integral to the experience of social context – colorism, pain, oppression, stigma, etc. all have impacts on how one receives resources, and how one navigates institutions.

Chapter 4 – Alan Mansfield and Barbara McGinn. “Pumping Irony: The Muscular and the Feminine.”

Foucauldian reminder than bodies are not ahistorical, but of cultural and physical impression – “The body perceived in this way is not a reality to be uncovered in a positivistic description of an organism… it is instead a reality constantly produced, an effect of techniques promoting specific gestures and postures” (Feher 1987, pg 159, here 52). Where, bodybuilding, like anorexia, becomes the embodiment of discipline, order – despite perceived irrationality. Control of bodies, growth and strength of body is a means to claim equality. Perceived demand for dimorphic difference – the largeness of male bodies, and smallness of female ones – bodybuilding becomes a means for subversion, and to blur constructions of biology, culture, psychology – (kx^ queering these identities?)  –

Chapter 5 – David Morgan. “You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine: Reflections on the Male Body and Masculinities.” – most work on bodies has centered on the discipline or embodiment of femaleness or femininity. Many studies leave the connection between masculinity and aggression unquestioned. Many figures of language regard the possession of masculinity with power, and power embodied in male features – “having balls”, for example; though most representations of men (in power) seek to obscure the body – through clothing, through metaphor? Men’s power as public, and thus, often publicly embodied – remarked to “occupy space, to have a physical presence in the world” (Connell, 1983, 19). Some embodiments of men work to differentiate between men – for the integration of rationality and body, for the supremeness of the body, for the supremeness of the mind.  HOWEVER – the embodiment of gendered power is not universal.  “The discussion about the connections between power, rationality and masculinity underlines this point. Linked to this consideration is the continuing need to stress that such discussions of dominance should not be interpreted in straightforwardly biological or deterministic terms. It is not the possession of a penis which provides the basis for male dominance over women. Rather it is systems of patriarchy which enable the penis to be represented or understood in ways that express domination” (76).  Reinforces notion of hegemonic masculinity by Connell – complicated by notions of rational and grotesque bodies – grotesque bodies of lower-classed peasants, but not those of “wild men” – native americans, or feral humans which invoke a (re)construction of nature, civility; grotesque bodies as lacking rationality, self-discipline. Middle class or bourgeious culture invoking bohemian embrace of grotesque, despite classed rationality that is presumed. Or, round belly as a form of conspicuous consumption? “The grotesque body represents the symbolic power of the natural, a capacity for violence and sheer physical domination, highlighting the potential fragility of respectable society. In reversal of the conventional equation, it is a man’s apparent unmediated links with nature, in all its earthiness and unpredictability, that provides the power of the grotesque body. Respectable, cultured society in this context becomes feminine or effeminate. The classical or rational body represents the power that resides in control, control over self and control over others. The aesthetic order of the classical body both mirrors and is a metaphor for the social order” (84).

Chapter 6 – Susan S.M. Edwards. “Selling the Body, Keeping the Soul: Sexuality, Power, the Theories and Realities of Prostitution.” – discusses bodily boundaries made by prostitute as a means to survival, as a way to privatize sexual relations, and to demarcate symbolically significant acts. “The division of labor by sex inevitably makes women dependent to some extent on their sexual attractiveness and puts men in control of economic means. Since the economic means are distributed unequally between classes but female attractiveness is not, some women of lower economic means can exploit their attractiveness for economic gain’ (Davis, 1971:345 – here 91) “Essentialist arguments for the fundamental role of men and women in relation to one another and sexual pleasure explain the sexual subordination of women as fixed, immutable and, above all, the natural state of things” (96).

Chapter 7: Ruth Waterhouse. “The Inverted Gaze.”

Cross-dressing, or here, the masculinized dress of some lesbians may work to assume privileges of ‘male gaze’, assume male privilege; or, visually accentuating difference of subjective gender/sexual experience. “This is particularly so when the object before the camera is the apparently ‘natural object’ of the human body. There is nothing, however, natural or pre-cultural about the body. It is heavily endowed with meaning, and whilst the meanings attached to it might change, it can never escape signification” (110). Women have neither full subject nor object status. “The myth of the ‘real’ feminist, the notion that there could possibly be a single feminist subjectivity, a single feminist gaze or project equally valid for all women, has been exploded. (Young, 1988:182, here 117).


Fehrer, M. (1987) ‘Of Bodies and Technologies’, in Foster, H. (Ed.) Discussions in Contemporary Culture, No. 1, Dia Art Foundationx, Seattle, Bay Press, pp. 159–165.

Connell, R.W. 1983. Which Way is Up? Essays on Class, Sex and Culture,  Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

Davis, K. 1971. “Prostitution” in R.K. Merton and R. Nisbet (eds.). Contemporary Social Problems. London: Hart-Davies.

Young, S. 1988. “Feminism and the politics of power – whose gaze is it anyway?” in L. Gamman and M. Marshment (eds.) Pp. 173-188. The Female Gaze. London: The Women’s Press.


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