The Body in Society – Power, Control and Why Men Don’t Wear Skirts (Week 2)

Before this session, we were given a reading to prepare by Foucalt on Panopticism. From this I learnt that a panopticon in an institutional building (prison), circular, with cells arranged around a central well, from which all prisoners can b observed at all times.
“He is seen, but he does not see”
“He is the object of information, never a subject of communication,”

It raises the difference between object and subject:
an object is passive, when something is objectified it can be owned; can contain information; is never an owner; is not free; cannot communicate, or can only do so one way.

During this lecture, Ashley spoke about different ways in which the body can be controlled.
In the past it was through religion, suppression of appetites (food – vegetarianism, and sexual), the concept of heaven and hell and the idea that a poor life would lead to ‘just rewards’ in heaven.

It is also controlled through gender – both in the past and present: it is expected that women and men dress differently.
However there is a long British tradition of men dressing as women (in Shakespearian plays, women weren’t allowed to act and men therefore had to dress as the female characters).
Women would also never wear trousers – but its not that they weren’t allowed, they just didn’t. Coco Chanel introduced this, initially for freedom of the body in sportswear – looser sleeves and trousers.


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