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Philosophy in the Contemporary World

Volume 11, Issue 1, Summer 2004
Feminist Apporoaches to the Body

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Displaying: 1-13 of 13 documents

1. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Laura Duhan Kaplan, M. Carmela Epright Introduction: Feminist Approaches to the Body
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2. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Hilde Lindemann Nelson Damaged Bodies, Damaged Identities
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In this essay I examine Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer prizewinning play, Wit, to explore the numerous connections drawn there between damage to bodies and damage to identities. In the course of this exploration I aim to get clearer about the kinds of illness, injury, or medical interventions that damage patients’ identities; how the damage is inflicted; and what might be done to repair identities that have been damaged in these ways. I argue that just as bodily illness and injury can damage the identity-constituting narratives by which we understand ourselves and others, so too (as the play demonstrates) injurious identity-constituting narratives can result in bodily harm. Because identities are narrative constructions, the damage inflicted on them requires narrative repair. The defective stories must be uprooted and replaced, but the success of the repair depends on both the soundness of the replacement story and the willingness of others to take up the new story.
3. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Laura Duhan Kaplan Disfigured Bodies and Social Identity: Ancient and Modern Reintegration Rituals
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Beginning with a narrative about social reactions to my own temporary disfigurement, I note that an individual’s disfigurement can affect others by making them feel unsettled and unsafe. The contemporary approach to disfigurement, exemplified in the practice of cosmetic surgery, focuses on changing the disfigured individual. In contrast, ancient priestly rituals in Israelite culture focus on reintegrating the individual into the community. I compare and contrast the two approaches, noting the value of reintegration rituals, but also recognizing their insufficiency in several contemporary situations.
4. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Emily Caroline Martin-Hondros Anorexia Nervosa: The Illusion of Power, Perfection, and Purity
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In this paper anorexia nervosa is examined through three lenses to determine its possible causes. This paper contains a clinical analysis of the anorexic personality, a psychoanalytic/religious interpretation of the demands of society, and· a feminist reinterpretationof the effects of those demands on the female body. The societal demands to renounce instincts, when examined through a feminist lens, reveals that these demands, in concert with the detrimental effects of feminine socialization and characteristics of the anorexic personality, may lead some women to view their needs as not important, and cause a detachment from and turning against the body in the form of anorexia nervosa. It is concluded that anorexia is not just women taking a diet “too far.” There are other psychological, philosophical, and social factors leading to a prevalence of anorexia nervosa in Western culture.
5. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Marla Morton-Brown Artificial Ef-femination: Female Bodybuilding and Gender Disruption
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Many feminist and queer scholars believe that one way to fight racism, sexism and homophobia is to challenge identity labels---ideas of what it means to be “black,” “gay,” “white,” “woman,” “lesbian.” Biology, however, continues to thwart this political agenda; the Body---the biological reality of skin color and sex chromosomes---makes it difficult to propose the idea that identity labels are merely social constructs, not natural facts. Female bodybuilding is a performance that literalizes the body as a site of artificial construction, of intervention, modification. Furthermore, female bodybuilding is a performance of gender bending---women who construct hypermuscular bodies disrupt social norms of gender, performing a kind of self-styled hermaphroditism that begs the question, “why?” This essay explores how female body builders challenge identity labels of sex and gender because of the fact that their gender transgressions occur at the physiological level of the body. I argue that female bodybuilders parody dominant labeling philosophies of sex, gender, and sexual orientation, challenging our sex/gender paradigm in very unique ways.
6. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Michael Burke What would happen if a ‘Woman’ outpaced the Winner of the Gold Medal in the ‘Men’s’ One Hundred Meters?: Female Sport, Drugs and the Transgressive Cyborg Body
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The separation of men’s and women’s competitions in the sporting world has been suggested as a necessary protection for female athletes against the superior athletic performances of male athletes. The comparison of the most elite performers in these two categories maintains the historical pattern of viewing male sport and the male athlete as the standard, and female sport and the female athlete as the inferior ‘other’. This paper argues for a transformative utilization of the separation of men’s and women’s sports by female athletes and sporting organizations. Female sporting organizations may creatively change the rules and practices of the malestandard, so as to challenge the historical patterning of sport. This paper will use the image of the cyborg, and the motivation behind cyborg politics, to call for creativity in dealing with the ban on drugs in sport.
7. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Jennifer A. Parks Grin and Bare It: Philosophical Reflections on the “Public Breast”
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This paper considers the issues surrounding women’s bare-breastedness and breastfeeding in public. I argue that women should have equal freedoms with men to bare their breasts in public, but not for the reasons commonly cited Proponents of “the public breast” tend to focus on the similarities between women’s and men’s breasts; I argue that the sameness versus difference debate is unhelpful in resolving this question. As I argue, women’s breasts differ from men’s in significant ways, and by dismissing these differences we dismiss the possibility of women’s authentic breasted experience. Instead, I suggest that women share an equal interest with men in defining their sexuality: When women are denied the right to go topless or breastfeed in public, they are denied their own understandings of their breasts.
8. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Susanne Gannon, Babette Müller-Rockstroh In memory: Women’s experiences of (dangerous) breasts
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Women’s embodied memories of “Dangerous Breasts”, generated as part of a wider collective memory project on women’s breasts, Iconstruct women as always at risk of our bodies turning against us. We trace through memory stories how we inscribe our bodies as “dangerous” through practices involving silence, fear, surveillance and diagnosis. We examine how regimes directed at the prevention and treatment of breast cancer serve, in our memories, to increase anxiety and distance us from our bodies and any sense of agency.
9. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Rosemarie Tong Out-of-Body Gestation: In Whose Best Interests?
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This article revisits the question of ectogenesis (out-of-body gestation) as our neonatal care and biogenetic technologies bring us closer to the possibility. In 1923, J.B.S. Haldane wrote approvingly of ectogenesis as a eugenic technique, using a science fiction format. In the 1970s and 1980s, feminists debated whether ectogenesis, if possible, would be liberating or oppressive for women. Given current legal and bioethical issues, we must now take seriously the possible costs of ectogenesis: the possibility of growing bodies for use as spare parts, the erosion of the autonomy of women in the reproductive process, the denigration of the body through the loss of the physicality of pregnancy and childbirth. (Abstract prepared by Aaron Lee.)
10. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Margrit Shildrick Reconfiguring the Bioethics of Reproduction
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The paper contends that, despite critiquing certain aspects of modernist thought feminist bioethics has become stuck in its own inadequate paradigms that pay insufficient attention to either the theoretical insights of postmodernism, or to the capacities of biotechnology in the postmodern era to disrupt prior certainties. In the face of an incalculable expansion of both theoretical and material possibilities, feminist bioethicists working in the field of reproduction have remained largely unwilling to reconfigure notions such as embodiment, subjectivity, agency, and so on. There is little recognition of a need for an openness to the shifting complexities, or to think without prior determination. Starting with a brief critique of the normative values of one governmental body concerned with biotechnology, I move on to suggest how postmodernism mightframe an appropriate bioethical response, both to the explicit material issues, and to a rethinking of ethics itself.
11. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Pia C. Kontos Local Biology: Reclaiming Body Matter
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The biological body has remained peripheral to much feminist theory which is the consequence of a legitimate critique of biologicaldeterminism. However, rejecting the biological body altogether runs the risk of treating the body as a sociopolitical effect. It is my argument that corporeal reality can be theorized without lapsing into the totalizing perspectives of essentialism or relativism. To do so Ipropose drawing upon Judith Butler’s analysis of the productive effect of power relations that materialize the body’s sex, and Margaret Lock’s notion of local biology which introduces the notion that biological matter has dynamism of its own that is not reducible to discourse/power. Bringing together these two perspectives on the body holds the prospect of capturing the complex interrelationship between biology, culture, social structure, and power.
12. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Mary Walsh Narratives of the Unsaid: Reading Sexual Difference in a Post Foundational Millennium
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Debates between Anglo-American and Continental feminist theorists of the body appear to have been largely settled as we move into the new millennium. The result has been that a particular Anglo-American perspective (represented by Butler) has gained authoritative ascendency over the continental perspective (represented by Irigaray and Braidotti). This paper draws upon these theorist’s main works as well as a series of interviews and a reading of Freud to raise some key questions about the often unacknowledged complexities of the interplays between patriarchalism and phallocentrism present in a great deal of contemporary international feminist theorizations of the body. This has implications for the types of feminist subjects that can emerge and the political direction of international feministtheorizations of the body into the future.
13. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
M. Carmela Epright Honoring Feminism’s Past, Approaching on Embodied Future: An Afterword
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