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The 'Normal' Body

  • Date Submitted: 06/23/2011 06:43 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 42.3 
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Have social constructions of the perfect body become normalised in the North? Has the pursuit of an ideal body (while changing overtime) become a prism through which ‘other’ bodies, in particular disabled bodies and ageing bodies are measured?   If so, how?

The ideal body has become normalised through a fundamental dualist approach in Western culture. Throughout this essay I will argue that we identify our bodies through a binary categorical system of able/disabled. First I will explore how we generally classify things in society. I will then move to a more specific discussion of what we mean by ‘able’ and ‘disabled’ in our society, and will show that the able/disabled binary leads to both the idealisation of the able body and the subordination of the disabled body. Then I will investigate a post-modern classification of the ideal body, and show that the ‘complexity’ of the disabled body undermines all these classification systems.

Let’s look at how we classify things in society.

Society generally classifies subjects using a binary categorical system. Specifically, classification in society is a normative concern, that is, we determine whether or not people/things fit into the ‘normal’ group of society. This is an identification process known as the ‘self/other’ binary. The self/other process involves highlighting the disparity between original concept (individual self or collective group) and the ‘other’ object. So, this process involves creating distinction or difference between the ‘normal’ group and the ‘abnormal’ group. This dualist process, however, is not strictly limited to categorising people, but permeates the very way we approach our lives. For instance, when we determine what the colour red is, we also have in the back of our mind what red is not. It is only by determining that red is not pink, orange, amber etc. that we gain a firm grasp of what red is. This categorical system is quite simple, and indeed appropriate for straightforward...

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