Blog Post 3: Containment and Self-surveillance

Given the Rupi Kaur example, I wanted to begin this post by looking at menstruation, and how the way it is coded in culture works to perpetuate a hierarchy of bodies. In our discussions of somatophobia and cartesianism in class, we explored the way the mind body split carries with it gendered connotations where the (rational/ordered) mind is masculine and the (irrational/chaotic) body is feminine. Shauna M. Macdonald writes of the way Immanuel Kant constructs the masculine ideal of the ‘closed’ body, and thus negatively positions the outward flow of bodily fluids as feminine and because of it’s threat to a rational, closed order are in need of being contained and controlled. (345). Macdonald then goes on to propose that menstrual leaks are powerful as a mode of resisting the masculine ordering of bodies and space. I find the concept of flow and it’s equation with femininity interesting, especially in relation to online spaces, because the internet requires us to enact a form of irrational, chaotic flow in order to participate in it and navigate it. However despite this, online spaces still remain hostile towards ‘leaky bodies’.
Just as public order laws are not explicit in singling out sexual minorities (Valentine, 266), the Instagram terms of use do not explicitly reveal the ways restrictions are designed for images of non-normative bodies. The language is purposefully vague, and so the apparatus of Instagram relies on the repetitive performances of users to define and perpetuate “a host of assumptions about what constitutes ‘proper’ behaviour/dress in everyday spaces” which congeal over time to produce the appearance of ‘proper’ space.” (Valentine 265) In this way, and also through self-surveillance and co-surveillance, the space of Instagram is co-produced by the corporate body that designed and maintains it, and the individual users of the site – or, representations of space and spatial practices.
In an article on censorship and women’s bodies, Karley Sciortino recently wrote, ““Instagram have appointed themselves the body police…social media sites are sending a clear message: women’s bodies exist solely to be sexually stimulating, and if they are not serving that purpose then they should be removed from sight.” Women are expected to perform very limited and narrow ideas of gender and sexuality, with an emphasis on containment and passivity in order to maintain the masculine ordering of space. However because of the proliferation of self portraits, selfies, and practices of self-representation on Instagram, there is a simultaneous contestation of these regulatory practices taking place and it is working to create differential spaces on Instagram. There have been some amazing examples already posted on the blog, and I’d like to add to that by attaching this image Miranda July posted a few days ago. While it is not apart of a formal body of work on Instagram, I thought the post was relevant due to the way the practice of self-surveillance is subtly interrogated. July captured and posted a few photos while her vision was blurred at the opthamologists. I think that posting photos to Instagram without viewing them first would be an interesting project to take further in order to answer the question of whether it takes away the agency in self-representation or if it would be liberating to bypass the process of surveilling oneself, and to what extent that is even possible.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 9.58.14 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 9.58.25 PMBy Maddy Fenton

MacDonald, Shauna M. “Leaky Performances: The Transformative Potential Of Menstrual Leaks.” Women’s Studies In Communication 30.3 (2007): 340-357. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.

Sciortino, Karley. “Art, Periods and Censorship on Social Media.” Slutever,

Valentine, Gil. (2005). “(Re)Negotiating the Heterosexual Street: Lesbian Production of Space.” InThe Urban Geography Reader. (263-269). London: Routledge.


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