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Varieties of bodily experience Introduction Mary Douglas Natural Symbols 1970 described the human body as a microcosm of society This is not a new idea the word microcosm being derived from the Ancient Greek mikro-kosmos meaning little world a term first used by Plato Schweitzer Anchor Bible Dictionary 1992 Plato wrote of the body as a mikro-kosmos its substance representing the form of the makro-kosmos or big world or the universe Douglas however writes that the physical body can have universal meaning only as a system which responds to the social system 1970112 In this she challenges such a universal view of the body asserting that every different culture can be understood by looking at the bodily characteristics of its members and particularly its women Douglas distinguishes between two types of society with regard to the body She sees the bound body as existing in ritualistically rigidly-controlled hierarchical pietistic taboo-driven societies and the unbound body as existing in effervescent informal less structured more individualistic experience-driven societies On the surface Britain today appears to have the latter form of society Yet I believe that the bodily experiences of contemporary Britain reveal the subtle forces of control persisting within out society Evidence 1 Body ideal According to Gimlin Bodywork 2002 the average Miss America contestant is currently 58 and weighs 8 stone 5lb and the average US woman 54 and weighing 10 stone Whereas I recognise that beauty pageants play little part in British culture this discrepancy between ideal and reality is probably similar in the UK If the shop-window mannequins that advertise our clothes were real woman they would be too thin to menstruate Are we trapped in a choice between beauty and fertility 2 Bodywork This term was constructed by Gimlin to describe the processes to which individuals and mainly women subject themselves in pursuit of physical acceptability The diet and exercise industries are massive At any given
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