Shaping new body: feminine bodies and sports in korea

Por: Burn-jang Lim e Mikyung Hwang.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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These days people appearing in the mass media are becoming thinner and many people, especially women are enthusiastic in dieting. Furthermore, those who look slim consider themselves being obese and keep diet everyday. A great number of people buy yoga videos, go to fitness center, and lose weight using various dietary treatments. Today thin and sexually attractive bodies become the ideal model of modern women. It is a social norm of every woman in different races or nations, also the institutions, practice, custom, culture, mass media of society reproduce and inscribe women’s normative beauty.
However, these discourse of body makes many women have distortion of one’s own body image. Women looking thin feel herself fat and dissatisfied with her body. 24.1% of women participating in sports have the only purpose to lose weight and shape the bodies.
In this paper, we explored how the idealization is to be inscribed, represented, and interpreted in feminine bodies based on Foucault’s theory. That is to say that the body is not formed anatomically. It is the social structure that the institutions and norms are inscribed repeatedly through continuous discipline and control. Therefore, the body is to be defined as the social form intermediated culturally. The purpose of this research is to explore the dominant discourse of body in Korean society and how women are homogenized and the process of normalization of homogenized images informed by Bordo’s theory(1993).The participants of this research are women working out regularly at age of 20s and 30s. Using typical case selection, we selected 10 women who are taking exercises in fitness centers. Data were collected via an interview with the participants and observations of practice in the field during 6 months. The results of this research were as follows:First, we explored how the discourse of body in Korean society is homogenized. Most women do not to take up a positive attitude to form one’s own body image. They adjust themselves to the body culture that is socially formed, and conform their ideal model to the social criterion. The discourse of body changes as the society changes. Also, it is not discovered the differences between private and social dimension of bodies.Second, we explored the process of normalization of homogenized images to the feminine bodies. Women are producing "useful bodies" that are disciplined and controlled conforming herself to the ideal body. They trained, managed, and controlled their bodies through everyday exercises and sports. Doing this, however, they were suffered from an obsession of exercise and every kinds of side effects like eating disorder, medicinal poisoning, mental disorder and so on were occurred occasionally.


[1]. Susan Bordo(1993). Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. University of California Press.




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