Sandra, Lee Bartky “Femininity as Disciplinary Regime

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  • Topic: Homosexuality, Same-sex marriage, Civil union
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  • Published : June 13, 2012
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Sandra, Lee Bartky “Femininity as Disciplinary Regime.”

our society women are often pressured and conditioned to conform to traditional feminine standards. In the past fifty or so years women have begun to find modes of resistance against these cultural constraints. Bartky theorizes about the properly feminine subject by stating that it is to embody the proper feminine qualities of character and behaviors. According to Bartky the properly feminine woman must be sure to never appear sloppy or loose. The properly feminine woman should also allow herself to physically controlled by male companions to a certain extent. She must allow the man to lead her around almost like a dog on a leash. Bartky talks about the properly feminine body and how every movement is to be done a certain way in order to seem feminine. It is like when a mother tells her daughter “Don’t sit with your legs open, its not lady-like”. Bartky talks about how the proper feminine body must display itself within the proper parameters of femininity. A woman must wear clothing and make-up that display her in a positive way. A woman should not wear clothing or make-up that would make her look sloppy, unkept or masculine. This can be seen through out society but especially in the sports world. Women who compete in sports are often seen as unlady-like or non-feminine because they are active in a masculine dominated realm of society. Most sports are traditionally seen as outside the parameters of femininity. The idea of the properly feminine subject is an extreme example of femininity, yet it is the example that we use most in our society. In order to conform to these concepts a woman must train herself and her body. Bartky talks about how the proper feminine body requires training and how our culture implements certain disciplinary practices in order to do this training. She talks about dieting, make up and fashions. American culture perpetuates these practices through the mass media. One of the most powerful disciplinary practices for women in the United States is that of dieting. “Dieting disciplines the body’s hungers: appetite must be monitored at all times and governed by an iron will.” ( Bartky 18) By dieting women are disciplining their bodies to only consume a certain amount of food. By doing this women feel they are becoming more like the image of the perfect (properly feminine) woman. Many women tend to over diet which leads to anorexia and women who don’t diet are scorned by society. Mass media contributes to these ideas by using images of predominantly thin unrealistic women. After saturating the women audience with images of super-thin starlets , television networks then proceed to show hours and hours of commercials and infomercials on weight-loss, dieting and fitness programs. Another disciplinary practice that is perpetuated through the media is that of skin care and make-up. “ A woman’s skin must be soft, supple, hairless, and smooth: ideally, it should betray no sign of wear, experience, age, or deep thought.” ( pg 19 ) Images of proper skin care and make up can be found more in magazines than on T.V. This is because magazines can give you page upon page of “make-up tips” and “skin care strategies” that women should follow in order to conform to the properly feminine standard. The overwhelming media showcase of properly feminine subjects and disciplinary practices leads to women either conforming to these practices or resisting them. Bariky also talks about how and why women can and should resist these practices and cultural constructions of the female body. Bartky lists several reasons why women should resist these practices: 1) it is very costly and time consuming, i.e women spend hours and hours infatuated with their physical appearance instead of spending time working on their mental appearance 2) women are persuaded that their bodies are defective, i.e. images in mass media tend not to reflect the average woman leading the average woman...
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