Analysis of Sandra Bartky’s Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power. | My Paper Hub

Analysis of Sandra Bartky’s Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power.


Bartky begins with presenting Foucault’s argument on docile bodies. The author shows docility in the example of the soldier in the 17th century where he is easily recognizable in the body and action. The docile body is therefore used, transformed ...Read More


~Posted on Jan 2019

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Bartky begins with presenting Foucault’s argument...

Bartky begins with presenting Foucault’s argument on docile bodies. The author shows docility in the example of the soldier in the 17th century where he is easily recognizable in the body and action. The docile body is therefore used, transformed improved and subjected to various changes to fit into the required shape. In the essay Bartky also presents the example of students in a classroom set up where there is a teacher is in control. A student is assigned to a desk where they cannot leave, and the students ranking is read off the serially ordered and categorized classroom. Through Foucault’s argument, Bartky presents the discipline and punishment in disciplinary practices that have been able to produce the docile bodies. The author presents an argument where she says that people are born male or female and not masculine or feminine. Throughout the article, the author examines the disciplinary practices that produce a body that appears to be feminine in appearance and gesture. The author discusses three of the many categories which are; those directed towards the display of the body as an ornamented surface, those that present the body as a specific collection of gestures, body postures, and movement, and those aimed at producing a body of a certain general configuration and size.

The first category the author discusses on the disciplinary practices is the one on aimed at creating a woman’s body in a certain general shape and size. The author presents various ways in which women are to conform to particular size and shape so as to be comfortable in their bodies. The author gives some articles on magazines marketing on ways a woman can be slim. An example of these articles is the one from The Ladies’ Home Journal of the February 1986 on fat burning exercise guide. According to her as time passes the titles of the articles become more captivating and show the importance of heeding to the proposed activities in the opinion piece, for example, using a title like “shed ugly winter fat with the all new grapefruit diet” (Bartky, 66). The tyranny of slenderness subject women to dieting as a disciplinary practice and control their eating for them not to gain weight. She presents various statistical data to support her argument and to contrast the women’s perception on eating food and gaining weight to that of their male counterparts. She says that both men and women exercise but it's hard for women to differentiate what is done for physical fitness and that done in obedience to what is required for femininity.

The next practice she discusses is on specific gender collection, gestures, postures and body movements. According to her, women as compared to men are far more restricted when it comes to body movement and their lived spatiality. Women seem to be restrained in their movement where they appear to be confined and enclosed, and any woman who tries to break the norms is seen as loose. The “loose woman” (68) is quite free in movement and in her speech. The disciplinary practice restrains women where their face is trained to express deference together with the body.

The last category she discusses is the one on a woman’s body as an ornamented surface. The argument she presents here is that of a woman’s skin is supposed to be soft, hairless and smooth hence shouldn’t display any signs of aging, experience or deep thoughts. A proper routine is advised by “beauty experts” (69) on taking care of the skin which involves processes like cleaning the facial skin four times in a day, application of facemasks, using cleansers at night and moisturizers and so much more. The author compares this to a schooling child or a prisoner who has to follow each and every step like following a timetable for them to get the result which is the good skin. She further counteracts the suggestion that applying make-up in women is a way of artistic expression and exposition of individualism. In her view applying make-up is doing the same thing over and over again without much difference and it in fact limits self-expression. The author views it is an art of disguise as its limited to what is acceptable for official purpose and casual purpose. The author suggests that women have accepted being subordinates of men where they do everything like make up, staying in shape presenting themselves for the sake of them that have set the disciplinary practices to control women.

One way the author could be criticized is by using what she has presented against her. The presentation of women and posture is seen in the show biz where models are the ones who convey the femininity she has described. However, she has left out the fact that men are also presented in a way that most cannot reach the standards. For example, male models are staged as these well-built figures and made to look attractive. However, we know that it takes a lot of work to build a body like that one presentable in the eyes of everyone. Does this mean that the way they are presented and the pressure put on them to develop that kind of body is by women or the mere fact that they want to look attractive to the women? In my view, the pressure is put by the industry they are in and their narcissistic nature, just to look good for themselves. What makes it different from women? Can’t women put on the make-up, limit their diet just to feel good about themselves? The author also relies so much on what she calls “obedience to the requirements of femininity” (66-67). Is it impossible for a woman to participate in physical exercise for the sake of their health? The lifestyle conditions are one thing that could lead one to take part in the activities and not just the one way she describes as trying to fit the image required.

I would agree with her argument at a certain percentage since there are women who would like to be like the supermodels on magazines, but there are people however who do not care about their appearance. Everyone has an aspect of their own that makes them uncomfortable. In addition, the woman has a mind of their own hence, capable of conforming or not.

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