Writing, reading, watching, listening.

Writing, reading, watching, listening.
Life In : Recommendations, my own creations, and a place for a conversation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The body is intriguing

            The body is intriguing because it is material and it isn’t. It appears to be us, but only in part. People have distinguished between body and mind ever since the times of Plato if not earlier. The split is convincing, even tempting, because there are huge conflicts between our urges and our rational, disciplined self. We could divide them neatly:  the urges belong with the body and the rational self with the mind. But things are never that tidy. For instance: so much is going on in the brain, commands, actions and reactions as it absorbs messages, makes assumptions and adjusts and adapts and alters, making the world a comprehensive place and fitting us into it as  much as possible, it doesn't seem physical.
            And yet, as any brain surgeon will testify, the brain is a part of the body.  With its cerebral processes, it also has a concept of the body, influenced by all the messages it has ever absorbed and assimilated, accepted and resisted. 
            It is not easy to live with our bodies, because the concept of the body in closely weaved into it. Women, for instance, strive to be attractive, because otherwise, the media tells us, we become invisible. We also struggle to appear young, as most famous, aging women, our role models, set an example when they go through plastic surgeries and look eternally fresh. Else, we need to seem strong since the women who are not attractive or young, and/or those who want to make a difference, have to be steeled to face a world of preconceived feminine characteristics. Beyond that, even fun and pleasure suffer. Our sexuality needs to be of a certain kind, repressed into a mold that is hard to change.
            When I went through preemptive surgeries to prevent ovarian and breast cancer, I became aware of the contradictory feelings related to the body: guilt and shame, pleasure and pain, and changing body image. Things were set in motion as I started thinking about them. I went on and wrote an MA thesis about the female body in literature written by women.
            I admire the action of brave women who expose their body with its mastectomy scars, like  Tig Notaro or stand naked in performances like Amanda Palmer to live their vulnerability and seek provocation and change. We read about them because they are the exception, which is a shame.  The times are a changing as Bob Dylan says since 1964 in this great song, but maybe they don't change enough. However, change is constant, and the body is never dull. 


  1. I agree: I am in awe of Tig Notaro.

  2. I am late to see this. I love everything the article about her says: she puts things in her own perspective, in a sobering proportion: the mystification of the naked body, the erotization and fear from obvious ailments are almost ridiculed when we see one woman, oneindividual history, and no apologies. I wish i could say I have that courag, but at least I can appreciate it in others.