The Body in Society – Regulating Bodies, Power, Control and Why Men Don’t Wear Skirts

As human beings, we imagine we are free but we are actually subject to many rules which control us and our bodies. This can be anything from the way that we dress, to how we travel.

In the past, religion played a big part in controlling people. By suppressing both actual and sexual appetites, and the belief that too much of either was a sin as well as the concept that a ‘poor life’ would lead to rewards in heaven kept the poor from revolting.

Bentham’s Panoptican created a fear of being constantly watched into prisoners, even though there was no way possible that the guard could be watching every single inmate at once. It created an illusion, so they had to behave at all times. The same effect was hoped to have happened with CCTV, but people still commit crimes in front of them, so perhaps this idea does not work as well as it was originally thought.

Foucault argued that the idea of power over individuals is dispersed throughout society rather than in one location. These can be found in places like schools (bells between lessons, timetables, rules and uniform) and in healthcare (innoculations, screenings, health records and hospitalisation).

In a small group, we discussed how cars affect our bodies. We found that there are two ways that cars effect us: ‘societal’ and ‘bodily’. Examples of ‘societal’ are number plates, car tax and insurance, as these are things that link our car to us, so if you are caught speeding, we are easily found on a database. Also, the type of car that you own says something about your societal status, particularly with men. For example, someone who owns an estate car is very likely to be a businessman and someone who owns a Fiat 500 is quite likely to be a young woman who comes from a wealthy background. Examples of ‘bodily’ are that we rely on cars to get us to most destinations, particularly great distances, as our bodies can’t physically travel at 70 mph. Another is how cars are driven, it is one of the only activities that involves the entire body. We sit, use our legs and arms, sight and sometimes hearing. People also have a huge reliance on the cars to work, and your day can be ruined if they break down.

Gender expectations of dress has changed over time, as there was a time when women didn’t wear trousers in public. It was Coco Chanel that pioneered the wearing of trousers for women as well as slenderness and the suntan. So why don’t men wear skirts? In some cultural contexts they do, such as kilts, which used to be worn into battle, but are now worn for ceremonial purposes. Men do not wear skirts in everyday life, even if that is what they feel more comfortable in. This may be because it is not commonly seen, and they feel they may be judged for it. It crosses the boundaries of masculinity because they are only ever normally worn in situations where they are worn for humour, like stag dos. As well as this, a lot of people aren’t comfortable with seeing men in skirts, and I think until most people don’t mind it, it will not become a common sight.

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The Body in Society – History of the body: Religion vs. Medicine

From the 5th to the 15th Century in the West, medicine was complex and based on guesswork, religion and ‘reason’, illnesses were believed to be ‘God given’ and cutting into bodies was not allowed. Medieval art often depicted a celestial woman with her child in religious scenes, with ‘normal’ people often non existent, suggesting celestial bodies were the most important.

Laqueur said that in the 18th and 19th Century, bodies were ‘ungendered’ and male bodies were the norm, and it was believed that the female sexual organs were the same as males, but internal. Bodies were a site of difference and oppression in the 19th Century, and it was thought that education would ’cause women’s wombs to wander’ and the removal of the womb was common to ‘cure’ hysteria. This was a way to control women using their bodies against them, with the threat of womb removal most likely scaring them into behaving.

From the 19th Century until now, discoveries and inventions meant there has been a massive advancement in science and medicine, with people living more than fifty years longer than those who lived in medieval times. We know a great deal more now on how to look after our bodies, making us more responsible for what we put in them and do to them because we have more control on what happens to us. But because we are living longer, does that mean that our quality of life is decreased?

Textiles has a strong relationship with the body, with many of the aspects related to the body. The most obvious one is fashion, where the whole industry is dedicated to enhancing and covering the body. Other aspects like textiles for interiors also have a relationship with the human body, for example all furniture is designed around the body and the easiest way for people to use it. Even surface pattern relates because it is designed to please the eye, a part of the body. Almost everything we touch is a type of textile, there is no getting away from it.

Botanical Stitch

After doing botanical drawing, we did free machine embroidery in the stitch workshop. I have done this before but never been taught properly, I just taught myself. I feel that after being shown how to free machine properly, my samples are much better than those I have done previously. Below I have inserted photos of two samples I stitched based on flowers that I drew.

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Free Machine Embroidery (and hand threads on the bobbin) on Dissolvable Fabric – I found this quite difficult to stitch because of the small flowers, but I think the detail I tried to include has worked well.
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Free Machine Embroidery (and hand threads on the bobbin) based on a drawing from our time in the National Museum of Wales – I am really pleased with this sample, I really like the change in colour on the petals, and the gold stamen are the perfect colour to go with both the pink thread and the blue fabric. I think it needs a little bit more stitch on it as there are quite a few gaps in the stitches.

Botanical Drawing

When drawing flowers, it is very important to pay attention to detail. The first exercise we did when doing botanical drawing was focusing on four different areas of the flower to increase the detail of our drawings and to focus on the technicality of the flowers.

After this, we did drawings of more flowers, adding colour to some of them. Below are a couple of the drawings I added colour to.

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Drawing With Watercolour – I am really impressed with myself on this drawing, I think it is structurally correct and I think the colour adds life to the drawing.
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Drawing With Watercolour – This drawing is not as detailed or structurally correct but I enjoyed making a little pattern with the petals around the main flower. I did this because some of the petals had fallen off some of the other flowers and wanted to include them.

Life Drawing and Stitch

Although I am not a huge fan of life drawing, I know that it is an essential part of drawing and textiles. To be able to draw the body in its most natural form is very important. The reason I don’t enjoy it is because I do not feel particularly confident while drawing literally, I prefer doodles and cartoon-like imagery. I know that I need to work on proportions, and gain more confidence, not only in life drawing but all aspects of drawing.

Below are two drawing exercises that we did at the beginning of the session.

We also did other drawing exercises such as drawing with our opposite hand. I think the exercises helped me relax my hand and draw more freely after completing them.

In the afternoon we draped fabric over the model to create more interesting drawings. My favourite drawing is pictured below.

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I am very proud of this drawing, in fact I think this is the best life drawing I have ever done, the proportions are very well done. I thought I would really struggle drawing the model with the drapes over her, and I did have to put a lot of concentration into it while I was drawing but the outcome is vastly better than I expected. In the future I think I need to continue working on proportions and drawing the hands, feet and the face.

The next day in the stitch workshop we used our life drawings to free machine embroider the model onto fabric, and ‘dress’ her using appliqué. I have previously done both of these techniques, but it had been a while since I had done appliqué. Below is a photo of one of my samples, I based it on my continuous line drawing.

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I really like the idea of this sample, but it didn’t go as well as I had hoped. The thread outlining her body is very thin and quite difficult to see because it is glittery, I would use a matte thread if I were to do it again. Also the skirt did not gather very well, I think I needed to leave more thread to pull. However, I really like how I created her hair and the pink leotard is perfect. I think I will do more samples to improve on this in the near future.

Lion Calligram

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I was inspired to create this piece by a book I found in the library, ‘Alphabets: A Miscellany of Letters’ Introduction by David Sacks. I looked through this book and found it quite interesting how many different ways letters are used in everyday life, whether for artistic purposes or writing. I like how images can be created using letters and words, so I decided to make my own. I chose to create an image of a lion because they intrigue me, they are such majestic creatures. The words I used in the image all have something to do with lions, apart from a few small details that weren’t big enough to fit entire words. I am really pleased with the outcome, and I love how clear the waves in the mane are.

Continue reading Lion Calligram

Cardiff Cultural Journey – Cardiff Market

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My first drawings are from photos I took in The Closed Market, and I have focused in on a sweet stall. This was the stall that I was most drawn to when it caught my eye because of the bright variety of colours that it was displaying. I always like using a wide range of colours in my work, and I think this is why the sweet stall was my favourite in the market. The market as a whole had an old-fashioned feel to it, but in a positive way, and I think this is true of most markets wherever they are. It is a lovely feeling to walk into a place and not be met with all the bright lights and ‘perfection’ of the modern world. It may be a little inconvenient when you can’t find a price tag on an item but it means that you actually have to interact with another human being, which is not a bad thing in an era where almost everything is done electronically or automatically. I loved the way the sweet stall was set up, with each different type of sweet sat loose in a box, so customers can decide how much they want, rather than having to pick up a predetermined packet. I also really like the little yellow signs in each box, describing the sweets and their prices per 100g. I love how they are stamped rather than typed out on a computer. It gives it a unique and random feel, especially on the signs where a smaller stamp had to be used on the last half of the word to fit it on. I would really like to go back to the market soon, because I feel that I didn’t spend enough time there originally.