Bodylore, as Katherine Young states in her article titled “Whose Body?: An Introduction to Bodylore,”is a way to “investigat[e] a constellation of corporeal properties in order to illuminate a cluster of theoretical properties” (3). As such, bodylore can be interpreted as a theoretical approach that lends itself to a number of other fields of inquiry, making it a viable way to explore “the notion of bodiliness, of what we invest in the body and what we get out of it” (3). As a student of the humanities and gender and sexuality studies, bodylore becomes a way to (re)imagine my own field of research, as it adds further cultural depth to these fields.
In the realms of gender and sexuality studies as well as the humanities, we are taught to practice viewing whatever we are researching by practicing reflexivity (checking in with one’s own agency and social standing) and considering intersectionality (the practice of considering the multiple aspects of personhood that overlap and influence one’s life). Bodylore then becomes a way of employing an intersectional framework by incorporating the body as a locus of experiences that directly influence one’s life in a similar fashion to one’s gender, race, class, religion, etc. A large understanding of gender and sexuality studies is acknowledging that different bodies are treated differently in society, often for arbitrary reasons, culminating in the (mis)treatment of bodies that fall outside of the “norm”– aka cisgender, heterosexual, white, male bodies and experiences. Bodylore allows us to ask why we, as a society, treat some bodies as ‘good’ and others as ‘bad,’ and to explore where these presuppositions come from on both macro (society) and micro (personal) scales.
Being a researcher invested in gender and sexuality studies and their interplay with media and popular culture studies, bodylore allows a closer examination of how bodies are defined by the media. As someone invested in portrayals of women and queer persons, bodylore studies provides me with an avenue to look at the direct effects of how bodies are curated for specific reasons that can both challenge and reify stereotypes and the effects of this representation, or lack thereof, on those that watch/read them. In my opinion, bodylore is useful because it expands the intersectional framework and provides another way of transcending the way bodies are spoken about in both public and private discourses; all useful considerations for those of us in the field of gender and sexuality studies, media and popular culture studies, and the humanities as a whole.
As an example of applying bodylore to my own field of study, I will close this post by framing my own thesis interests within the context of bodylore studies. As stated previously, my research in field of the humanities concentrates on gender and sexuality as well as media and popular culture and as such, it often centers on some form of feminist critique. Bodylore functions as one of the many intersections that I use to explore the positioning of women in society and their representation in the media. More specifically, in my research on the Wonder Woman character (particularly as an ambiguous feminist cultural icon), I can use bodylore to describe why the many renditions of Wonder Woman, as portrayed in comics, on television, and in film, has both changed and stayed the same in a plethora of ways over the course of time from her emergence. From her inception in Dr. William Moulton Marston’s 1940s Wonder Woman comics to her most recent filmic representation in Patty Jenkin’s blockbuster hit, Wonder Woman (2016), Angela Robinson’s indie biopic, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2016), and Zach Snyder’s Justice League (2017); many versions of the Wonder Woman character have existed. Who gets to portray Wonder Woman? What does she look like? How does her behavior and physical representation teach viewers about womanhood? These are just some of the questions bodylore provides researchers like myself to unpack and examine.
For more information on the topics discussed, check out these links:
What is bodylore? “Whose Body?: An Introduction to Bodylore” by Katherine Young
What is intersectionality? “What is intersectionality and, what does it have to do with me?” YW Boston Blog Post
What if we judged men’s bodies the way we judge women’s bodies? A video by ATTN:
Meghan Morris is a graduate student at Old Dominion University’s Institute for the Humanities. She has a Bachelor’s of Arts with a concentration in English Literature and Women’s Studies from Old Dominion University. She is a novice scholar interested in topics related to gender, sex and sexuality, media and pop culture, and American Studies. She enjoys coffee and (good) memes.