The Body – Session 2

This session built upon what we touched on last week and was a much more in depth lecture. However, this weeks session focused on how the body is controlled.

Based on a reading of the Panopticon from Foucault we examined how visibility is a trap. This builds on the idea of controlling bodies which may impact differently on different sexes.

Overt and Covert forms of control. If we look at the Western culture it has the sense of freedom – but in truth are controlled from technology to society and organisation. For example glasses control our ability to see etc.

In the past the body was controlled by Religion and the concept of Heaven and Hell. It suppressed peoples appetites such as for sex as Religion said that it was wrong and if you were to succumb to your appetite you would not be allowed in Heaven. As can be seen within many pieces of art, Heaven was perceived as a wonderful and glorious place, whereas Hell was perceived in the opposite way.

Going back to the Panopticon, it is a concept that can be applied to something. It’s background… it was a concept for a prison whereby its structure was circular with the prisoners held in cells within the circular structure – unable to see each other. There is then a central station where the guards would remain. However, the prisoners would not be able to see the guards in the central station and therefore never knew if they were being watched. It is the notion that they may or may not be watched over by the guards that would ultimately alter and control their behaviour.

He is seen, but does not see; he is the object of information, never a subject of communication.

A modern day version of this would be the selfie. Once you take a selfie you ultimately turn yourself into an object – it cannot communicate, it is therefore passive. This also explores visibility as a trap because in most situations when we are about to take a selfie, we alter our appearance – again we are controlled.

When something is Objectified:

  • It is owned.
  • It is never an owner.
  • Might contain information.
  • Cannot actively communicate.

When something is a Subject:

  • Is free.
  • Is powerful through freedom.
  • Can communicate freely.
  • Is not owned.

The idea of power over individuals is dispersed through society than in one location. This filters down and changes our behaviour – we don’t commit crimes because we fear the consequences and removal of freedom.

For example… Schools control through bells, timetabling systems and rules.We are taught from a young age to fit into a system and into society.

Time is also a factor that controls us.

Another example is that we are controlled through medicine, through mandatory inoculations, health screening, hospitalisation, health records etc.

Control Through Gender

  • Men and Women dress differently.
  • Long tradition of men dressing as women in Britain.
  • Coco Chanel pioneered sports clothes and trousers for women in the 1920s.

Women seem to have more freedom than men in expressing themselves, despite the power they have within society. It is not as widely accepted for a man to be dressed in women’s clothing. However, it is not uncommon to see a woman wearing mens clothing.

If a group of men were to wear skirts, then it would probably be accepted quicker rather than if one man were to wear it. There is power in collective rather than singular.

Although true, there are times when some men feel comfortable enough transgress the boundaries of masculinity, such as Eddie Izzard who is clearly a man dressed in women’s clothes.

Judith Butler – Gender as Performance – (Use for future reference)

i.e. we perform our femininity through our dresses and long hair etc. 

Overall, the lecture has made me think of the way our bodies are controlled by society through conforming to certain ideologies, despite being felt we are free, it is only through exploring beneath the surface that we can see how things affect our behaviour and as a result our bodies.


Author: marislathamgraphics

I am a student at Cardiff Metropolitan University studying BA Hons Graphic Communication.

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