Twenty-first century body paradox

I read this really good introduction in a text on disabled bodies in the genre of life narratives yesterday, and I really wanted to blog about it as it correlates quite nicely with a idea I have for my own research.

The text I was reading is Couser, G. Thomas. (2009). Signifying bodies: disability in contemporary life writing. Michigan: University of Michigan., which is available on google books. In the first chapter of this Couser outlines why dealing with the body is so significant. He says that we live in a society that is at once fixated on the body, and entirely dismissive of it (2009: 15), and argues that we must ‘face’ the body that has been effaced by Cartesian dualism and Western thought; defaced by Western cultural norms; and re-faced through the constant striving for perfectionism. In short, Western culture controls, perfects, and endeavours to transcend the body (2009: 8-10). I find this notion really significant and I think that it’s something that exists around us without our noticing it. In fact, this is an idea I’ve had myself, in what I term the body paradox, which sees us reduced to our bodies, yet separated from them.

I was struck again by the significance of this importance of ‘facing’ the body whilst watching a programme on BBC which looked at the nation’s favourite foods, and their nutritional elements. Even though this programme dispelled certain myths concerning stereotypical foods (such as baked beans, and crisps) being really bad for your health, it still served to reinforce the message that is constantly rammed down our throats (pun intended) by the media: the need to eat healthily, in order to keep check on our bodies. And it just struck me how paradoxical and difficult negotiating these parameters is. How can we overcome this paradox, and find a way of facing embodiment? Especially with the mass levels of on the one hand, obesity, and on the other, eating disorders. It leads me to guess that we are living a disordered embodiment, and something should be done about this.


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