Le Corps Des Femmes

Women’s bodies… sexual object, public property, commercial item. Let’s review:


Buzz… Wrong answer: to contribute voluntarily to an oppressive system (the patriarchy) does not make the system any less oppressive. Upgrading somewhat one’s dominated status compared to others in the dominated category in the field of power (that would be women who no longer have their virginity to sell or those who could but won’t sell it) does not make one join the dominant category.

Do go read the entire post over at Montclair SocioBlog though (although I could do without evopsych in general and David Buss in particular).


Indeed it is interesting that one family (which shall remain nameless since they’re such famewhores and make money out of turning the wife / mother’s uterus into a clown car in the name of religion) can have 17 (or is it 18 already?) children and get a show on TLC whereas another get scrutinized for her moral character, mental fitness or what have you. She is summoned to explain herself regarding the number of children she wanted and ended up having. Moral judgment is passed as to how she will support them (with the usual scolds stating that she should not receive welfare, damn it!), etc.

Can anyone think of any other contexts and circumstances where society, through the media, allow itself to intervene so heavily into private matters? What other social circumstances involving men do we examine so closely?


Good grief, where to start? Now, we already know Berlusconi is a sexist, misogynistic idiot and proud of it. We already know what the Catholic Church’s position is (they should be made to pay for the health care expenses related to maintaining these irreversible comatose women alive and to support families with multiple births too… the Church can afford it).

Now, of course, this will remind everybody of the Terri Schiavo case. An alien from Mars visiting earth would think, based on these stories, that only women fall into irreversible comas and that doing so annihilates their wishes expressed before said coma.

In all these stories, the common element is the status of women ‘s bodies, their social value and function. All these stories have to do with women’s reproductive capacities, which men, through patriarchal institutional structures such as the government or the Catholic Church, have to control since they do not have such capacities.

Hence, there is a shock value when a woman decides to push the patriarchal logic and puts her virginity on the market. Hence the outrage with "irresponsible" fertility (what constitutes responsible fertility and parenthood is also a patriarchal matter). Hence the need for the government to step in to "save" the comatose fertile woman irrespective of her expressed wishes.

As I have mentioned repeatedly, one of the marks of social privilege is to NOT have one’s behavior examined and scrutinized especially in the context of the surveillance / transparent society. Conversely, the mark of social disadvantage is to have one’s (especially reproductive) behavior exposed for all to see and judge.

2 thoughts on “Le Corps Des Femmes

  1. What put California Woman in the news is that she had octuplets — eight at once. And they all lived. If she had had eight kids with the births coming one or two at a time and spaced out over five or six years, she wouldn’t have been in the news. I’m sure that there are hundreds, thousands, of women in the US who have 14 or more kids and never get any media attention.

    The media wanted to find out more about her just as they would with any ordinary person who does something extraordinary. They started with basic demographic data: age, occupation, family (including other children), marital status, etc.

    Big media stories like this get framed as moral issues. People use these stories and the people in them as a kind of Nautilus machine for exercising their moral judgment. Michael Phelps and the bong, Spitzer, “Sully,” Brad-Jennifer-Angelina, Dick Cheney, Madoff, et. al. And California Woman.

    • “Michael Phelps and the bong, Spitzer, “Sully,” Brad-Jennifer-Angelina, Dick Cheney, Madoff, et. al. And California Woman.

      See, the difference here is that you list a whole bunch of celebrity, for whom media attention is expected if not always welcome. There is a whole industry devoted to it.

      What I found more interesting was the shift in the media from going gaga over the “miracle” births to “She better not expect us to support her… and why did she have all these kids anyway?” kind of treatment.

      I am more interested in the social factors that caused the shifts from “miracle births” (focus on the babies” to “irresponsible mother” (focus on the woman) and what it reveals (in a very durkheimian way) in terms of reproductive norms

      • when and how women are “allowed” to have 8 or 14 kids… sequentially is ok, all at once kinda, not so much)
      • married is ok, single, not so much
      • for religious motives is ok (the Quiverfull), just wanting a lot of kids, not so much

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>