chapter  4
32 Pages

The Flight from the Rejected Body

In the commercial-media-soaked societies of North America,1 the body is idealized and objectified to a high degree; these cultural practices foster demands to control our bodies and to attempt to perfect them, which in turn create rejection, shame, and fear in relation to both failures to control the body and deviations from body ideals. Implied in any idealization of the body is the rejection of some kinds of bodies or some aspects of bodily life. I use the terms “rejected body” and “negative body” to refer to those aspects of bodily life (such as illness, disability, weakness, and dying), bodily appearance (usually deviations from the cultural ideals of the body), and bodily experience (including most forms of bodily suffering) that are feared, ignored, despised, and/or rejected in a society and its culture. In this chapter I discuss some forms of idealization and objectification of the body, how they affect people with and without disabilities, and how they contribute to cultural demands that we control our bodies. I then describe and criticize some influential contemporary versions of the myth that the body can be controlled.