Iris Marlon Young was a feminist and a philosopher that wrote an essay titled “throwing like a girl” which was published in 1980, “We often experience our bodies as a fragile encumbrance, rather than the media for the enactment of our aims. We feel as though we must have our attention directed upon our bodies to make sure they are doing what we wish them to do, rather than paying attention to what we want to do through our bodies” (146-7). She is making a generalisation about western women as a whole, she’s makes it clear that there are exceptions to her claim but in her words I could see myself.
So often growing up I mistrusted the ability of my body to do things. “Oh, I can’t lift that, I’m not strong enough”, or “I won’t be able to get the ball in the net”, or “I might get hurt”, or “What if | look stupid doing that? “. A self-imposed “I cannot”, is how Young describes it. These are information that society teaches women about their bodies she gives example such as, “sit with your knees together”, “that sport is for boys”, and making “you throw/ run like a girl” into a negative light as it should be seen as an insult. These rules and ideas about what’s suitable and unsuitable for the female body have implications.
Iris Marion Young argues that when we look at the way men and women “embody” their bodies the way they live in them, move them, sit in them, understand them, how they take up space, etc. – We can get some perceptions into the way gender is different in society “Typically, the feminine body underuses its real capacity, both as the potentiality of its physical size and strength and as the real skills and coordination that are available to it” (148).
From this quote The quote above is one that, on first reading ten years ago, I underlined and asterisked. Yes! “, I realised, “this is how I live my body”. In fact, it is only in recent years that I have begun to truly appreciate and make the most of the capacities of my body. In 2008 I trained for and completed a half-marathon, which was something I never even dreamed I’d be able to do. I was a complete non-runner before I began. I hated sport and anything resembling exercise, largely because I mistrusted my body’s abilities. So it was quite a revelation to discover that, in fact, my body could run, and with training, it could run long distances.
Similarly, by attending “Body Pump” classes, where I lift weights on a barbell to music, I have noticed myself feeling stronger and more confident in my body’s abilities. From reading her essay | came upon one of her key arguments that women are trained into fragility and self-consciousness because they are objectified. “the fact that the woman lives her body as object as well as subject. The source of this is that patriarchal society defines woman as object, as a mere body, and that in sexist society women are in fact frequently regarded by others as objects and mere bodies.
An essential part of the situation of being a woman is that of living the ever-present possibility that one will be gazed upon as a mere body, as shape and flesh that presents itself as the potential object of another subject’s intentions and manipulations, rather than as a living manifestation of action and intention. The source of this objectified bodily existence is in the attitude of others regarding her, but the woman herself often actively takes up her body as a mere thing.
She gazes at it in the mirror, worries about how it looks to others, prunes it, shapes it, moulds and decorates it. This objectified bodily existence accounts for the self-consciousness of the feminine relation to her body and resulting distance she takes from her body” (155) She goes further than this to suggest that women in modern society go through a constant tension and contradiction between their prejudice and their existence as a inactive bodily object, an object of the gaze, a sexual object.
Here she is discussing philosophical ideas of immanence (being-in-itself) and transcendence (being-for-itself), and drawing upon Simone de Beauvoir’s discussion of these terms. For Young, the way women move – the way they throw a ball – can be explained with reference to the “tension between transcendence and immanence, between subjectivity and being a mere object” (144) that women experience. Young also points out that as well as the threat of objectification that women live with, “she also lives the threat of invasion of her body space.
The most extreme form of such spatial bodily invasion is the threat of rape. But we daily are subject to the possibility of bodily invasion in many far more subtle ways as well. It is acceptable, for example, for women to be touched in ways and under circumstances that it is not acceptable for men to be touched, and by persons – j. e. , men – whom it is not acceptable for them to touch. I would suggest that the enclosed space that has been described as a modality of feminine spatiality is in part a defence against such invasion” (155