Bartky, S.L. 2010. “Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power.”

Bartky, Sandra Lee. 2010. “Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power.” In The Politics of Women’s Bodies: Sexuality, Appearance, and Behavior, 3rd ed. Edited by Rose Weitz. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 76-98.

Foucaultian concept of “docile bodies” as gendered – having individuals that submit without resistance through the teaching of discipline, conveying surveillance and control as normal — used to justify assault, control of expression (kx^ fest?). Foucault’s notion of “political anatomy” – aka “mechanics of power” – offers ability to control functions, techniques, efficiency of body – becomes subjected and practiced (Foucault 1979, 138) – the processes and practices of bodily activity help shape personal subjugation. Understood surveillance as “state of conscious and permanent visibility” allows for increased self-discipline, self-consciousness (kx^ observation – consumption without consent?) – Foucault makes mistake by noting that discipline is not gendered, but is exercised similarly across bodies. Women’s bodies as “tamed” through diet, clothing, exercise, makeup, etc. – ornamented through forms of learned techniques of discipline. These can be portrayed as self-expressive (potentially by those with vested interests in these markets – clothiers, etc.), but are often subjected to a code of normalcy – eccentricity in deviation (kx^ however, at fests, this seems to be a bit more flexible, though not without norms). Discipline becomes classed as different forms and expectations are accessed at different status levels; heterosexuality presumed as the “docile body” becomes subject to predation, the male gaze and assessment. “[…] femininity as a spectacle is something in which virtually every woman is required to participate” (86) – as this garners sexuality, power – but rarely agentic. Diffusion of disciplining femininity : “The disciplinary power that inscribes femininity in the female body is everywhere and it is nowhere; the disciplinarian is everyone and yet no one in particular” (88). Despite lack of formal sanctions, women can be subject to stigma or internalization of negative assessments – impacting desires to change, perceptions of agency. “Power now seeks to transform the minds of those individuals who might be tempted to resist it, not merely to punish or imprison their bodies [….] A reversal has occurred: power has now become anonymous, while the project of control has brought into being a new individuality” (92-93). Normative femininity centers around monitoring and shaping the body, and relating to others regarding this experience. Beauty’s pursuit and predominance in the media creates similar demands for women of all ages, shapes, etc. – submitting all to self-surveillance – a type of immediate, unconscious obedience to the patriarchy,


Foucault, Michel. 1979. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage.


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