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Critique by Lana: Pippa Brush “Metaphors of Inscription: Discipline, Plasticity and the Rhetoric of Choice�

The article discusses the idea of “free will� around shaping and sculpting the body and how power is responsible for the choices women and plastic surgeons make and how. Plastic surgeons are told that they should do research in classical art before they begin shaping faces and bodies. Bodies are described in this article and I would add quite accurately, as texts that show cultural values. Who is subscribing to them and why? Bodies in this article are metaphors of inscription that are taken to be real again, creating a disturbing socially constructed image that most believe to be true. The inscription part happens when the body is manipulated to adhere to hegemonic cultural norms about white heterosexual beauty images of women. There are three main ideas that help to explain this process and why it is so powerful:


Plasticity: There is a way of thinking about the body called the mind/body split. People are allowed to view their bodies as something separate from their minds, something they need to do something with. Bordo refers to this as “plasticity as the postmodern paradigm� (24). Which means “going some way towards making the body seem more like an object then the location of self� (26). Why would images of women’s bodies be separated from their minds? If white images beauty form from straight white men (classical art and the people who run the system today), why do manifestation of the women’s bodies appear to be dead, hollow or empty? Beyond this not so complex question of privilege vs. exploitation there is a more pressing issue that ties this to the use of power and control of a subject through their own mind. Bordo mentions bodies are something that can be literally viewed as an object that can be sculpted or shaped. ‘If the body can be sculpted, like an object, where does this leave the subjectivity-the ‘mind’? (26). This statement explains that the powers that be are exercising themselves within our minds. This is further explained in the following paragraph, which is about the second of the three main ideas.

Discipline: There is a way people are being socialized to disciple their bodies that can appear on many levels. Whether cosmetic surgery or diet and exercise there is an internalization of power that Foucault writes about called an “inspecting gaze� this is a way the individual does their own surveillance. Another way to put this would be long looks in the mirror comparing oneself to magazine pictures or weighing in. This is a way of subscribing to a belief of hegemonic beauty standards. How is hegemony consensual to dominant culture? There can be no dominant culture if people do not subscribe to hegemonic identities. They also discuss in the article how the normalizing factor can come down to a goal of being perfect, leading to the third point.

Rhetoric: To maintain this discipline there have been many rhetoric’s that have been created to make adherence to norms seem natural and necessary. First there is the rhetoric of choice- self determination. Foucault defines this as, “discipline controls on the body through the production in the disciplined subject of the desire to conform to the presented norm� (36). Bordo refers to this as “Postmodern subjectivity� (26). So then this self-determination becomes responsibility for our bodies. Not just any responsibility, responsibility to the norm. Is it a choice or free will or self-determination if it’s a responsibility like that? Also within plastic surgery the “doctors� have created rhetoric of necessity where, wrinkles sound like deformities and postmodern patriarchal capitalism sound like cultural standards.