Reflections and reactions to Wells   3 comments

Reading Wells has reminded me of all the interest I’ve had in distributed authorship, the knowledge communities of women and embodiment issues. I had never thought of these concepts in terms of medical rhetoric before, since my interest has long been focused on online identity and community, but the connections Wells makes are clearly along those same lines and I think could similarly illuminate women’s collaborative spaces online. That, however, may have to be a research paper for another time.

In Chapter 4, I was interested in the discussions about connecting women intimately with their own bodies and thought that there was an interesting balance that had to be struck between the need to present a dialogue of “women’s” health and medicine, while preserving the experiences and bodies of various different women. The need to present a “typical” body and a point of reference, while resisting the tendency to pathologize women’s bodies, particularly those showing any “atypical” signs. Page 164 relates that the triumph of the collective was in demonstrating that women and their bodies were not separate and were more powerful because of it. However, Wells points out that the “Women in Motion” chapter does not use this concept in a way that is fully in line with the individual embodied philosophy of the collective and instead offers advice in the same way that the rhetoric of advertisement does. The chapter suggested that an “embarrassing” or “clumsy” body was one that could be brought under control and in line with the mind’s wants. Something that I found to be an interesting point and one that I think could be explored. Is there a tension that Wells sees between the position that promotes women exploring and accepting the bodies, warts and all, and the position that promotes obtaining desires through the exercise of autonomy over the body?

I think that Chris brings up another important tension in Chapter 5 (Chris, I see it not as being cynical, but as being the devil’s advocate) about the need to create a new sort of health rhetoric by and for women and the desire to understand the language of health care professionals. I think that Wells really explores what efforts the collective underwent to combat medical establishment in the text, discussions of pregnancy included both medical and experiential knowledge, but I do think that it is a fundamental question whenever knowledge is being reclaimed. Can reclamation separate the knowledge from its original context? I’m not sure that it can. But part of the power of reclaiming language and terminology is about using the sameness in language to call attention to the differences in meaning and intention. That, however, is my take on what reclamation can do and I think that parts what the collective produced was able to accomplish this. I’m not sure that it always was able to do so.

On a slightly funny/interesting note, a professor of mine at NDSU was able to postpone her labor several days until the evening after she completed her obligations for the spring semester. She said that her baby must have had good timing, but after hearing about women being able to control their labor to get a particular midwife, I wonder if it didn’t have a lot more to do with her own tenacity.

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Posted October 12, 2010 by kathryndunlap in Uncategorized

3 responses to “Reflections and reactions to Wells

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  1. I relate the tension you identify, Kathryn, as a tension between a body (as an abstract, normative construct) and embodiment (as radically contextualized lived experience). This raises the question for me, “To what extent can texts or inscriptions capture the variability of embodiement?”

  2. In the case of OBO, it seems the extent to which it had women actually exploring their bodies in a physical way, is a testament to the ability for the
    “universalized body” rhetorically captured to actually inspire women to recognize their own bodies in the representation and act on their own embodiment.

    This reminds me of Bodies in Code, by Mark Hansen since he seemed to address the idea that once we identify others embodied practices, it is easier to consider our bodies potential for action.

  3. The other book on OBOS, by Kathy Davis, is really rich in information about how the basic approach of the collective enabled collaboration within a global women’s health movement–Tibetan nuns translating the book without birth control information, and women in the Islamic world making really difficult choices, but stitching everything together with the enormously effective narrative of the female reproductive life cycle.

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