Sylvia Blood regards ‘embodiment’ as a theoretical model that binds the ‘mind’ and ‘body’ together through a dialectical interplay between these two concepts. <a href="http://www.jspsciences.org/">‘Embodiment’</a> constitutes the foundation of her critique of experimental psychology’s approach to women’s body image research. Her main thesis is that clinical psychologists have identified the cause of ‘body image problem’ as residing within women’s mind rather than as a product of wider social power relations. Instead of focusing on cognitive ‘traits’ she examines the role of social influences that shape women’s body image perception. By adopting social constructionist stance she exposes the hegemonic discourses that legitimise mainstream psychology’s research about women’s body image.
The strengths of the Blood’s work
The most important aspect of Blood’s work is the way in which she draws upon Discourse Analysis (DA) to provide alternative discourses through which women’s embodiment can be reconceptualised. It is worth mentioning here that DA is a methodology that subscribes to relativist ontology and its epistemological underpinnings are social constructionist in nature (Johnstone, 2002; Potter et al, 1990; Billing, 1985; Garfinkel, 1967; Gee, 1999). This means that DA challenges the assumption that Psychology can produce ‘scientific’ data concerning women’s bodies (Gleeson & Frith, 2006; Sloan, 2000). Drawing upon DA, Blood argued that ‘scientific’ ways of conceptualising women’s bodies can only exist through social consensus and discourse. She insisted that ‘scientific’ discourses about women’s embodiment construct ideal forms of ‘body image’ rather than representing an objective ‘truth’ about women’s bodies. Therefore, the strengths of her arguments lies on the way in which it compels experimental psychologists to regard language as a constructive tool which ‘writes’ particular versions of reality that are not ‘truth’ or ‘valid’.
The weaknesses of Blood’s arguments
Since that Blood argues that no one version of reality can be seen as ‘valid’ or ‘truth’, who is to say that her own perspective regards women’s body image is superior to those of experimental psychologists? Additionally, presenting only one of a number of interpretations is particularly problematic, given that DA challenges dominant ideologies. Moreover, by adopting discourse analytic principles, Bloods work risks culminating in a nihilistic relativism (see Raskin, 2001; Fletcher, 1996; Raskin, 2002). This is, if no reading or interpretation regarding women’s body image experience is said to be right or valid the identification of discourse in texts and language is no more than a mere academic exercise (see Dixon & Durrheim, 2000; Speer, 2001a). Or if all ‘readings’ and interpretations are equally valid Blood cannot claim that women are ‘really’ being oppressed (see Burr, 1995, Speer, 2001b). So, to this extent, on what grounds can Blood promote her own versions of ‘truth’ regarding psychological phenomena such as ‘body image dysfunction’?
Blood, S. (2005) Body Work: The Social Construction of Women’s Body Image
Topic: Discursive<a href="http://www.jspsciences.org/">Psychology</a>