Feminist Perspectives of the Body

Philosophers, such as Aristotle (384-322 BCE), Plato (428-328 BCE), and Descartes (1596-1650), have been fascinated with the body since ancient times. And while many have studied the human body as a whole, the female body, in particular, has been the subject of much scholarship. Feminist Theories of the Body is a topic that continues to capture the attention of scholars and has been a source of interdisciplinary scholarship linking philosophy, sociology, feminism, and queer studies. Much of the scholarship reinforces that the female body as a site of control in our patriarchal society. In reviewing the scholarship on feminist perspectives of the body, several themes have emerged, including the phenomenology of the body as a lived experience, mind-body dualism, the female body as a site of control, size matters (fat, thin, maternal and athletic bodies) and intersectionality across race and all abilities. The theme that cuts across all of these works is that body matters. Research on the body has played a significant role within women’s studies and women’s history since the 1970s, resulting in important research that has informed our understandings of genders, theories of the body and fat studies. This bibliographic essay looks at the scholarship on the topic of feminist perspectives of the body without endeavoring to be all-inclusive. The organization of this essay reflects some of the major categories of past and current scholarly inquiry; however, many works may fall into more than one category but are mentioned only once for the sake of brevity.