Monday, September 12, 2011

Sandra Lee Bartky--Assorted Articles

I read "The Pedagogy of Shame" (1996), "Narcissism, Femininity, and Alienation" (1982), and "Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power" (1997).  While the age of these articles meant that some of their points were either outdated or now common knowledge (such as the "new" pairing of feminist and Marxist criticism), there were enough interesting points to make it worth my while.

In "The Pedagogy of Shame," I found her distinguishing between shame and guilt--shame is felt over shortcomings, while guilt is felt over actions. Shame, therefore, can be much more pervasive and attached to a social environment.  Bartky claims that shame as a "pattern of mood...that tends to characterize women more than men."  I'll grant her that.

In "Narcissism, Femininity, and Alienation," she looks at the role of women in capitalist society as having an additional layer of alienation than Marx described.  In the modern beauty industrial complex, the norms of femininity and sexual objectification mean that women become their own alienated Other on which they pass judgment.  Turning to Freud, she shows how this demonstrates narcissism, an attempt to compensate for a deficiency.  Put together, she claims that in failing to live up to societal expectations, "the female body is revealed as a task, an object in need of a transformation.  There are no ugly women, just lazy ones."

One important insight she makes is in her Marxist feminist critique is to point out that the beauty industrial complex is reinforced in ways that alienation of labor is not: “Women of all classes bury large numbers of books and magazines which teach them how to be better, that is more “feminine” women.  There is no comparable body of popular literature which teaches workers to be better workers."  She also calls on women to form a more nurturing collective Other for women to turn to: “This collective Other, while not requiring body display, will not taboo it either; it will allow and even encourage fantasy and play in self-ornamentation.  Our ideas of the beautiful will have to be expanded and so altered that we will perceive ourselves and one another very differently than we do now” (140).  She calls for a “revolutionary aesthetic of the body” (140), which I maintain third wave feminism has gone a long way toward.

In "Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power," Bartky looks at how Foucauldian ideas of discipline can inform ideas of enforced and internalized norms of femininity.  While I agree that there is certainly an internalized surveillance mechanism at work in women's conformity to gender norms, I disagree that it is a "panoptical man" which women have internalized; I argue that women are much more aware of other women as gender police. 

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