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UVM Theses and Dissertations

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Format:
Print
Author:
Dean, Kimberly Michelle
Dept./Program:
DEPARTMENT HERE
Year:
2018
Degree:
MA
Abstract:
This thesis project is centered on the female body, specifically body image, in relation to Western, cultural images of women. This is a problem that has been around, essentially, since the beginning of Western art. While different scholars argue whether or not this problem has become worse, it is nonetheless problematic that we are still, in 2018, fighting patriarchy’s control of our bodies via body image. Grounding my project in Susan Bordo’s 1993 text Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body, this thesis explores Bordo’s argument that the female body is culturally produced through the lens of Jean Baudrillard’s theory of simulation and simulacra. Reading Bordo via Baudrillard allows us to explore this age-old problem at a new angle, giving us new reasons that explain why we are still stuck in patriarchy’s chains. Through this lens, I demonstrate how and why Third-wave feminist activism (I focus specifically on the Body Positive Movement) is failing in their attempts to reclaim the female body: the issue lies within Third-wave activism’s desire to portray othered bodies as beautiful and desirable. This becomes problematic in the era of simulacra: abject bodies do not resemble the (un)real ideal so they become “unreal” in the eyes of society. This attempt to represent abject bodies (obese, racialized, trans, disabled) as beautiful results in stigmatization and disgust towards said bodies, and thus the Body Positive Movement leaves out abject bodies because these abject bodies cannot be seen as beautiful in a society that deems them unreal. I argue that in order to reclaim the female body, we must first reclaim the mind side of the mind/body dualism before we can successfully reclaim our bodies. To demonstrate how this is possible, I use Margaret Atwood’s novel Lady Oracle as a case study that not only shows how the female body is culturally produced in the era of simulacra, but also allows us to see how reclaiming the mind side of the binary does allow the protagonist, Joan, to reclaim her past and body as her own, without shame. It is through fiction that reality is represented, and I conclude my thesis with my own personal anecdotes, showing how resistance via fiction can transcend into real life and point to a new, hopeful future.