The Body as Materialized Action Part II



A radical act?

Last week I delineated Schraube’s concept of technology as materialized action—or the notion that material objects are simultaneously imbued with human subjectivity while independently affecting human experience. I concluded by noting that this relationship between built-in agency and independent efficacy makes the object necessarily precarious—leading often to unimagined consequences.

With this precariousness in mind, I want to focus here on the body as technology, and specifically I want to focus on the body as a potentially politicized technology. I do so using the case of body size.

The body is simultaneously infused with human meaning and independent efficacy. The body is an object created out of human choices about (literal) consumption, adornment, and sculpture. At the same time, the body tells the person to ‘eat this, wear that, desire hir, move like this.’ The body then, as materialized action, is necessarily precarious. We cannot know what affect the relationship between the person and hir body will produce. Does a thin body reflect and affect fitness, or does it reflect and affect poor body image and restrictive self-control? Does a fat body reflect and affect indulgence, or does it reflect and affect acceptance and pleasure? more...

The Body as Materialized Action Part I

This is part one of a two-part post in which I delineate a language with which we can think about the body as technology, and in particular, politicized technology. We can do so, I argue, with Ernst Schraube’s conceptualization of technology as materialized action. In part one I lay out the theoretical framework of technology as materialized action. In part two, I apply this conceptualization to the body, and focus on the case of body size. more...

Politics of Beauty and Pleasure

As Langdon Winner aptly points out, artifacts have politics. They have politics built into them, are used with political intention, and interpreted through political lenses. Often times, however, the politics of an artifact are hidden from view, disguised, or misleading.  Here at Cyborgology we often deconstruct the political meanings and implications of different kinds of artifacts. Today, I want to deconstruct two artifacts that operate with the potential for, and under the guise of, technologically facilitated feminist liberation. Specifically, I look at the Fuck Skinny Bitches internet memes, and the now vastly present and prevalent female-coded masturbation devices (i.e. vibrators and dildos)[i]. I argue that these artifacts, rather than dissolving hierarchical gendered boundaries of bodily control and sexual pleasure, surreptitiously trace over these boundaries with invisible ink, only to be revealed under the light of critical sociological analysis.

Recently, we have seen in influx of internet memes that attempt to provide a feminist rejection of hegemonic standards of the beautiful body. These memes contrast images of curvaceous women to very slender women and include text that preferences the larger body/bodies. These are portrayed as the feminist answer to the unrealistic body sizes showcased and revered on runways, red carpets, and the annually released  Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. I call these Fuck Skinny Bitches memes. A couple of examples are pictured below. more...