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Construction of Normal Body

Construction of Normal Body

Body is not just a physical thing rather there are series of attitude towards it. In today’s world of market economy and post-industralised society, body is a consumer designed model which is attributed as a normal body and people have to subscribe to these models to be a consumer of this idea of normal body. A whole industry is devoted in the production and promotion of such bodies.

According to Lennard J Davis, the hegemony of ‘Normalcy’ exists in almost all the areas of contemporary life. Everyone desires to be normal. Whether it may be height, weight, look, bodily dimension, sexual drive, physical and mental health everyone tries to range between sub-normal to above average. Children are tested in schools and colleges to determine whether they fit into the normal range of learning and intelligence. Probably there is no area in the contemporary life which is not measured on the balance of normal and average. Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word normal as “of, relating to, or characterize by average intelligence or development” or “free from mental illness: mentally sound”. If one does not range between the scale of normalcy is considered as abnormal, mad, diseased, psycho, idle, disabled and hence are tagged with different adjectives.

Lenard J. Davis mentions in his essay Constructing Normalcy; The Bell Curve, the Novel, and the Invention of the Disabled Body in the Nineteenth Century states that “Problem” is not the person with disabilities; the problem is the way that normalcy is constructed to create the “problem” of the disabled person.” (Davis 3)

Normalcy is a subjective idea. It is constructed by state or society as the acquisition over the body is the ultimate control of power. Hence, body is manufactured, it is trained and disciplined to become what Foucault mentions in Discipline and Punish, ‘a docile body’. Our body is moulded, programmed and shaped by the modern institutions to behave in a very particular way to achieve a very particular goal. Body is no longer about being but about becoming and this becomes possible by changing humans into a highly disciplined bodies, by controlling over their space, time and material objects.

Therefore, the concept of an ideal body is a myth. It is a construction of art and imagination that exists only in mythologies and picture editing. An ideal body is a fake reality yet ‘desired’. Following, if no-body is an ideal one, then the bodies that exists are either grotesque or disabled. Which will mean all human bodies in one way or the other are disabled. And then a structured scale of ‘normalcy’ is discursively calibrated that calculates the average population and sets a standard, and those who fail to achieve this desired benchmark suffer from stigma, anxiety, depression, and low confidence. And the Capitalist society keeps on reminding the lack one has, whether the complexion through the cosmetic culture industry or weight and bodily dimension through diet.

Binaries plays an important role in construction of an ideal or a beautiful body. In order to define what is beautiful it is important that there may be an existence of something called ‘ugly’, ‘distorted’ or ‘disabled’. Hence, just like an ideal body is a construction similarly an ugly or a distorted body is also a construction to define what ideal is, which in itself is a paradox.

Dr Deepika Tiwari

Assistant Professor

Department of English

Patna Women’s College