The Differentiation Of People According To Their Social & Economical Roles
The body has for generations enjoyed a status of an absent presence in the dominant discourses largely ignored as insignificant due to the secondary or lesser importance accorded to it in the mind /body Cartesian dichotomy which clearly privileges the mind over the body or problematic due to the peculiar positioning of the body in the .between nature and culture . Body has come to be regarded as a site of political , cultural and geographical inscription ,production or institution existing in a space that is natural and cultural, physical and social, genetically determined as well as culturally drawn posing thereby a problematic for all discussions around the body .
However for the past three decades there has been a noticeable prevalence granted to the body in the political ,religious ,social as well as feminist ,post feminist,and psychoanalytic discourses. Yet the body,as such,has been regarded in a variety of ways .It is considered variously as a physical object ,as a living organism ,as a cultural artifact ,as a scientific or biological entity and as an expressive subject ,among many other descriptions thus accounting for the contradictory theories of the body.
At the heart of all traditional Western thought, there has been drawn the separation of mind and body, forming a hierarchy. As in the case of all oppositional or binary divisions ,here too one term gets historically privileged at the expense of the other. Descartes to whom is ascribed the concept of dualism places mind and the body in two distinct and mutually exclusive territories divorced from one another. Grosz has pointed out that according to Descartes only the latter could be considered part of nature, governed by its physical laws. The mind, soul or consciousness is not part of the natural world but is placed above the natural order. This becomes the basis for the elevation of the soul or consciousness above corporeality.
The body is viewed merely as a receptacle for the mind with consciousness and hence is identified as a tool/ a vehicle or an instrument in the control of consciousness/mind . This understanding of the body places the mind and all that is associated with the mind in a hierarchical position of superiority. Elizabeth Grosz in her Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism (1994) elaborates on this idea:
Feminists and philosophers seem to share a common view of the human subject as a being made up of two dichotomously opposed characteristics: mind and body. Dichotomous thinking necessarily hierarchizes and ranks the two polarized terms so that one becomes the privileged term and the other its suppressed,subordinated, negative counterpart. the primary term defines itself by expelling its other. Body is thus what is not mind,what is distinct from and other than the privileged term. (Grosz1994: 3)
This privileged term, the mind, is majorly associated with the male, and the other, the body, is linked to the female The body, traditionally associated with the female rather than the male, was considered antithetical to thinking and writing which are designated as pure intellectual and creative activities of the mind and was perceived to be in need of control and regulation of the mental faculty. Man is mind and represents culture: the rational, unified, thinking subject; woman is body and represents nature: irrational, emotional and driven by instinct and physical need. Thus the body gets coded in terms that are traditionally devalued and comes to stand for a “brute givenness” connected with animality and nature that needs transcendence.
The inherent misogyny in patriarchal thought finds self-justification for relegating women to a secondary social position by identifying women with the body It is possible to argue that the discipline of philosophy has also contributed significantly to the representational alignment between man and mind and woman and body. Since Philosophy has always been concerned primarily with mental concepts and ideas, reason and judgement and has marginalized all forms of materiality and corporeality, woman, relegated to the realm of the body and associated with corporeality and consequently with lack of reason and judgement has always been excluded and marginalized by philosophical thinking. The history of philosophy makes us aware of the profound somatophobia inherent in philosophical thought from the time of its inception as a separate discipline in ancient Greece. Platonic philosophy had identified the body as antithetical to reason and as a prison house of the soul. Plato felt that it was imperative that the body and its unruly and irrational appetites be controlled and ruled over by reason/ Mind/soul. Aristotle who inherited this philosophic notion is seen to continue this tradition.
According to Grosz,Aristotle went on to designate the maternal body as a mere receptacle for reproduction, a provider of formless, passive, shapeless matter which through the father attains shape, form, contour and specific features and attributes (5). She seems to view this as the basis of the binarization of the sexes and the dichotomization of the world. She is considered feeble and passive, literally a receptacle for the desires of the male4 and incubator for his offspring; a creature driven by emotion and instinct; a slave to her reproductive organs/hormones. The Christian tradition also comes to endorse the hierarchical nature of the mind/ body divide as the mind or soul is associated with the immortal and the God-given and the body becomes the embodiment of mortality, lust and carnality and hence inferior . Body is believed to constitute the lower or mundane order and the activities, experiences, sensations and appetites of the body are seen to belong to a lower order (8)
Woman’s association with body/nature is further strengthened by biological essentialist and determinist paradigms which define woman according to her reproductive physiology. While man may be able to transcend his biological materiality, woman is entrenched in her physicality – “a thing sunk deeply in its own immanence.” (de Beauvoir op. cit., p.189). The male, associated with the mind, delegates woman to the sphere of the body as is evident in the patriarchal philosophies where the body is seen as an instrument or tool to be possessed and mastered, conditioned, disciplined and trained and the universal male appropriation of female bodies is seen as natural The female body is represented or constructed as imperfect,leaky , unruly and subject to various external intrusions which are beyond its control. Men possess an autonomous and active form of corporeal specificity whereas women are seen as different and naturally unequal. Woman has been measured and judged against the norm of man, the essential human subject, “the active, strong and moral half of a human whole” (Bailey 1993, p.99).
Biological deviation from the male standard marks women as biologically (and therefore ‘naturally’) inferior; as “victims of a pathological physiology” (Balsamo 1996, p.42). Aristotle regarded the female as being “afflicted with natural defectiveness”, St Thomas Aquinas saw woman as ‘imperfect man’ (de Beauvoir 1988, p.16) and a ‘misbegotten male’ (Tseëlon, 1995, p.11). Women are the ‘other half’; necessary evils for reproduction (Bailey op. cit. p.99) and the opposite against which the male can compare himself favourably. The ‘one’ requires the category of the ‘other’ in order to be the ‘one’. Woman’s social and economic roles are subordinated to the biological and woman is seen as a creature controlled by biological, psychological and endocrinological constraints. These ideas seem to be based on a kind of essentialism or naturalism. While essentialism postulates a fixed essence, unchanged by historical or cultural factors, naturalism invokes the concept of a nature (God-given, biological and natural) to project its versions of universality. Biologism or biological essentialism confers on women, a biological universality unchanged by historical or cultural factors.
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