Foucault presents the evolution of power in human context as a progression from the strong authority of the highly visible sovereign few to the pervasive and always present power of surveillance complimenting the growth of a definition and demand for normalcy resulting in discipline inspired by a consciousness of the all seeing eye resulting in self-discipline. This transition resulted in the evolution of the concept of the human individual, individualized and unique human bodies that had to be observed, documented, tracked, and analyzed in order to assess normalcy and deviation. The goal of this progression seems to be the desire to implement the most efficient relationship between power and subjection for the function of entities such as the penal institution, hospital, school, and workshop/manufactory.
Foucault consistently refers to bodies, a word that objectifies the human organism and strips is of certain attributes such as personality, gender, sex, intellect, ability, desire, etc. The beginning of the reading shows how the objects, i.e. bodies, are part of a machinery causing the military, for instance, to function efficiently as one whole rather than a group of cooperative individuals. However, as time goes by, the need to keep records of the individual participants develops because specific abilities and aptitudes become needed for more precisely contained functions within the organizational machine. Also the need to keep track of the presence of presence or absence of each body becomes important.
Foucault’s writing style is deliberate and careful. I do not read French anymore, but understand that Sheridan has done a good job of accurate translation, preserving Foucault’s intentions and nuances of meaning, particularly his precise choice of words. Foucault’s words referring to bodies such as soldier, individual, troops, children, old people, citizens do not in themselves as written in the late twentieth century, denote gender. However, Foucault does use the male pronoun to refer to the early soldiers and master to refer to the authority figure in schools. The gender specific reference is consistent with the time periods he is discussing and also with the use of language in the 1970s. My sense is that Foucault was literally referring to humans as objects– bodies– not persons. In the history of the evolution of power, many of the specific times an contexts he considers did not specifically recognize women. If women had been part of it, Foucault would have still used the objective, featureless, homogenizing term, body. I suspect that he would have been aware of where women were part of the population being considered and he would have deliberately included them as bodies. I am not sure that for his project for what it is that it matters, though I think that his analysis of modern power and the advent of the definition and identifications of individuals, he could have specified female and feminine as a necessary part of what ought to be recorded. I agree with Bartky. There certainly was room for him to recognize and address female bodies. Intentional omission or not, Foucault makes his points about the transition and development of modern power, normalcy, examination, and self-surveillance and regulation and surveillance in the particular contexts of the penitentiary, school, hospital, and workplace.
Especially since Foucault wrote Discipline and Punish, the power of surveillance and the demand for normalcy has escalated. The optical eye is everywhere, emanating from a central control that digitally records and analyzes huge gobs of data. There are cameras and other electronic sensors everywhere: in stores, at intersections, over checkouts, and in transportation terminals. The internet has opened up much of our lives to whomever is motivated to hack in — even to those who don’t hack but know how to searcg obsure details effectively. New media and social networking has had a tremendous influence on privacy. The government has access to practically everything. There is very little hidden from the gaze of those who are not the individual being scrutinized. Maybe, as George Orwell says in his novel, 1984, Big Brother is watching. But just in case, individuals, feeling the unseen eye upon them, must monitor themselves, must conform to certain degrees of normalcy so as not to stand out and attract the attention of those power holders who might interfere in their lives. This is particularly true In this patriarchal, male dominated world where women are still considered subservient and deviant.