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MA students' blog posts

The Body - Zsuzsanna Eszes

16 Oct 2017
Zsuzsanna Eszes

Zsuzsanna takes the body as the subject of her blog post.

The body is the physical manifestation of the personality. Again this is a topic which seems inexhaustible: the sex-gender relations and the social-cultural influences that shape one's gender determine a certain “gender performativity” (Judith Butler). The body determines, through our gestures, mimicry, walking styles, dress, and speech patterns how we interact with others, and the very meaning of the gender we identify ourselves with. I agree with Judith Butler that from the first moment a human is born, her/his gender begins the process of construction. Throughout a whole lifetime. This feminist theory lecture is by Dr. Emma Bidwell, who invites us to look at the body closely: are there really any differences between male and female bodies? Certainly biology provides the dichotomy of sexual organs in corporeality, and those differences are observable, but the body is in change continuously through aging, hormonal systems, hormonal medication, exercise, eating habits, gaining or losing weight, surgeries, etc… So an originally female body can look masculine, or vice versa. So the boundaries of the visible features between being a woman or man seem to be getting diffuse.

I do not find anything problematic about this idea. How one “uses” her/his body is their own business in so far as they do not harm others. I personally enjoy the freedom that my body can give me in taking part in pleasurable activities. Feeling contented in a body does not really mean that feeling is gendered, that the sense of a certain gender should be there in every single action we undertake. Society is constantly in the process of creating ideal gender norms, and it can feel an unbearable pressure to live up to this expectation. Especially when someone cannot confirm her/his gender through their performance. I believe everyone wishes to live their lives freely with the right of authentic self expression, and it makes me enraged when people who do not act according to their gender norms get harassment, bullying, mocking, even threats of violence.

The lecturer asked us: 1, to watch people in our close social circles, how they perform their gender; 2, to contemplate what the body means to us, our gendered selves.

1: Watching people around me is fun, I have always enjoyed it. Of course I can recognise the obvious patterns in female/male behaviours, but for some reason I have no skills to notice “otherness”. I see everyone as unique, and do not care about their sexual orientations as I respect their privacy. However I am a good listener and interested in humans, so people often share their most private stories about their sexual lives with me. And I appreciate their trust in me.

2: I usually enjoy using my body when engaged in various actions, like long-distance cycling and running, dancing and exercising. I am a restless person. How gendered are those activities, though? Anyone can go running or cycling; dancing can be a little bit tricky: some types of dance are pursued only by women. Once a week, every Tuesday, I have belly-dance class and we are all women. Coincidentally, my most recent belly-dance class started with meditation as usual, but the teacher guided us into a meditative state with a high body-awareness using the music to move our bodies, and focusing on which movements felt the best. Beautiful experience!

Of course doing exercises is mostly gendered as well. Depending on the purposes one wants to achieve (losing weight, building muscles, shaping, etc...), women tend to do ‘feminine’ exercises. For girls like me, who feel uncomfortable exercising in a public gym, lots of different trainings, experts and advice are available online, especially created for women.

I do not think using our senses can be sexed; what we notice in our environment, what we listen to with pleasure, what tastes good to us, describe personality rather than gender. However what perfume we pick, or which scent is appealing for someone, can depend on gender again. Out of the 5 love-languages, physical touch is the number one for me, but this fact has nothing to do with my sex either. I have been applying make-up since my very early teenage years because I see myself as ugly and I believe it helps to make me a little bit prettier – for my own sake. Do men find themselves ugly? Do they think about this? There is a growing tendency in male society to look after appearance better: hairstyles, shaving or being unshaven, wearing fashionable cloths and shoes, applying cosmetics, etc... I presume all of us want to look the best version of ourselves no matter what gender we are! Still, lots of men seem to believe that looking after themselves can mean losing out on their masculinity. Instead of trying to measure up to the ideal gendered norms, we could just enjoy the freedom to create ourselves as we please with all the available thesaurus of beatifying.

Eckhardt Tolle, who I admire, says the body reacts to the thoughts the mind thinks, that is how emotions are felt in the body. So if we want to experience positive feelings we must choose our thoughts accordingly. We have the freedom to do so, though it is not easy sometimes.

Women's Studies

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