Linda Hogan and Hanan al-Shaykh present differing views of the body. Linda Hogan views her body as a vessel through which life flows in and out of. It connects her to the rest of the Earth through the air she breathes, the food she eats, and the way she lives her life with respect for other creatures. Its shape, size, and skin coloring have no bearing on her life.
Al-Shaykh, on the other hand, presents a view of her body that is much more familiar to me. Her body is something that constricts her and will not bend to her will. Because it is not the acceptable size or shape for her culture, she is constantly self-conscious and feels as though she needs to separate herself from the outside world to escape ridicule.
Although al-Shaykh’s ideal body is plump and the ideal body in our culture is thin, both cultures affix a woman’s ideal body type to the men’s preferences. Al-Shaykh’s entire piece centered around problems she has with her body type, as do many of the pieces we have previously read, such as Lucy Grealy’s and Patricia Stevens’. However, it is noticeable to me that in Linda Hogan’s entire essay about her body, she did not mention size or shape even once.
I think this may be because Hogan is more connected to her body than al-Shaykh or Grealy or Stevens or me. Instead of using the lived body experience as a theory with which to see gendered situations, she actually uses it as a lens through which to see her world. Her mindset is that she is living as a part of her body instead of trapped inside of it. Perhaps this, also, leads to the fact that she doesn’t feel the need to control her body or change it to bend society’s will. Because she believes it is serving a greater purpose, she is not preoccupied with who it might attract.
Our discourse has involved the lived body for the entirety of the quarter, but Hogan’s is the first essay that really opened my mind to the fact that the lived body is not just a theory but also a way of thinking. It can be so liberating to women (including myself, and probably most woman) who suffer from body image issues. It can also serve to connect us with ourselves, remembering that our body is a co-dependent part of a larger universe.