Posted in AS Sociology: Family

Embodiment and gender

Marcel Mauss (1872-1950)

Culture – generated meanings from living together.

Ideologies become embedded into us which appear natural.

The social is expressed through the collective which becomes inscribed in the body.

Things that appear natural are not. Even simple things such as swimming are done differently in every culture.

Pierre Bourdieu – ‘The Peasant and his Body’

‘Habitus’ – the socially acquired embodied systems of dispositions history is turned into nature.

Gender – what does the way we act say about the embodiment of gender?

Iris Marion Young – Throwing like a Girl’

Strongly disagrees with Erwin Strauss who argues that girls and boys throw differently due to biology.

‘Every human existence is defined through its situation’ (Simone de Beauvoir). Femininity is a set of structures particular to a culture.

‘We feel as though we must have our attention directed upon our bodies to make sure they are doing what we wish them to do, rather than paying attention to what to do through our bodies’.

Women fail to make full use of spatial and lateral positions – sitting, standing etc.

Women are aware of being objectified (male gaze).

Gender scripts are very defined and hard to break – women who do try and break out of them are often publicly chastised and seen as a deviant. Famous female sports players such as the Williams sisters have often been denounced for being too masculine and it being unfair for the other female players!

Wonder Woman is a very good contemporary example of a more powerful representation of females which has been welcomed by many female audiences. However, the film still clearly sexualises the women – so have things changed that much?

How do these ideas link to the family topic?

Embodiment of gender scripts clearly relates to the feminist argument that patriarchal biological determinist arguments are unfounded. New Right and functionalists argue that it is natural for women to fulfill the expressive role but Young and Mauss in particular help explain why this is not the case. Women are socialised to be caring, to be feminine and gentle. There is nothing natural about it. There is no reason why men cannot be socialised in this way too and increasingly with the rise of the new man, it appears that this is already happening to some extent. Feminism has had a massive impact upon how British people view the roles within the family and without doubt, many males are happy to pursue a much more expressive role than their forefathers.

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Author:

Sociology and Media Studies teacher at Hazelwick School, West Sussex. Former teacher at Felpham Community College and Doha College

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