#Picbod: Representing our bodies

Representing our bodies
Adrienne Evans


Going to explore the interaction between the social world and self-represented by:

  • Theories of representation

Outcomes of todays lecture:

  • Understand the different theories of representation
  • Identical the social, cultural, historical limits of representation
  • Appreciate forms of alternative and resistant forms of representation


What is the body?

  • Made of bones, skin and muscles. The way we understand this is much more.
  • We represent ourselves in certain ways and highlight certain aspects of our personalities.
  • Restricted by historical and cultural norms. i.e what we can wear and how we can show aspects of our personalities.
  • Some people are restricted by their place in society. i.e a homeless person could not engage in the body the same way as we do.

How is the body represented?

  • Defines what we can do, how we move and what is said
  • The media shaped how we understand the body
  • The body is represented in the media in a very limited way
  • The body is represented and limited by social structure


How do we represent ourselves?

  • When we recognise someone, we smile.
  • Range of new technologies able to re-present ourselves in different ways.
  • Participatory Culture = promise of ‘authentic accounts of the self
  • But still have a limited number of ways this is used.

The Gaze

What is it like to be looked at?

  • Practices of looking form out self concept – being recognised by others
  • But also causes us to feel uncomfortable
  • When people look at us, we don’t know if they’re seeing a subject or an object
  • Causes us to be aware


The process of turning people into an object or an instrument for their own gain. It allows somebody else to get what he or she wants. For women, usually something sexual. A camera is a tool for objectification. 


Feminists on Sexual objectification:

No sense of women’s identity. She is just an object.


Abject and Disgust

We look for disgusting things to look at. They make us feel like a person

Julia Kristeva (1982) defines abject things that pass in and out of the body. They’re part of us and different to us. ‘The most disturbing body is the dead body’ and those that have come close to death. Overweight and underweight.

Sarah Bartman, born in Africa and was sent to England as part of a freak show. There was a fascination with her body. Due to large bottom/breasts. Her body was on display in Paris till 1970’s. Nelson Mandela requested her body was sent back to Africa but this wasn’t deemed until 2002. She was seen as an object.

Gender (Inequality)
Long history of gender oppression – only recently that women be seen as ‘human’

  • Women were seen as weaker
  • Women couldn’t vote, be educated
  • Feminist movement

Gay, black female
How difficult would it be to. (very -20, Slighty -10, Not 0)
Walk into an expensive shop –0
Get married in a church -20
Get home safely -10 [out]
Go on holiday -0
This proves that it’s more than just gender that contributes to privileges

Construct of Privilege

  • Bodies by range of binary differences
  • Intersectionality; bodies are more than just gender, race, class, sexuality, but all of these things
  • White, straight, male = easiest difficulty setting

Reshaping the body
The body is malleable – can be changed in shape, appearance and physicality
Piercings and tattoos are quite norm.

More extreme body modification:

  • Female body builders,
  • Scarification and branding
  • Tightlacing
  • Suspension
  • Bloodletting
  • Extensive piercings and tattoos

Orlan – Body Beautiful?

  • Performance artist
  • Underwent cosmetic surgery to reconstruct her body so she looked like different women from history
  • Aim was to show how beauty was constructed through time

Deviant Bodies?

  • Ways of using abject/disgust to challenge taken for granted assumptions about the body.
  • Grotesque bodies ‘protudes, bulged, sprouts and bulges off ‘ (Bakhtin 1965 p.320) create feelings of ambivalence.
  • But usually, subject to ridicule or concern… or recuperation


Vo5 Advert

What kind of bodies are represented?

Tall, young, slim, fit and strong

Who is excluded from the ideal?

Older and overweight. Black bodies are disciplined. White are accepted. A racial divide. The creators learn the critical concepts yet have a racial divide in the video.

What is the contradiction?

Being told this product will make us more unique, yet all those in the advert end up looking similar.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s