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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