Susan Sontag Women Identity

Decent Essays

The social sciences became so pervasive in the twentieth century they not only produced new additions to medical discourse, but completely shifted the means of enforcing power. The emergence of individualism and the importance that was placed on one's essential and core identity made it so power that was once externally imposed by physical punishment only, began to enforce itself by way of the individual. The internalization of surveillance, domination, and discipline created a society of self policing individuals. This self policing behavior is most evident among women, and unlike the bodily protest against domestic expectations and other inequalities; it is the internalization of these oppressions, however ultimately manifesting as illness …show more content…

For example: Female suffering became an identifying factor in what it meant to be a woman in the nineteenth century, specifically a desired women, this suffrage became incorporated into the structure of the women herself. Understandably so; when one's worth is defined solely by desirability this desirability is crucial to identity. Even if that identity is of suffrage and victimhood, it allowed for mastery of self, during a time when women were not often afforded the ability to master much of anything.
“Susan Sontag has described the heyday of a “nihilistic and sentimental” nineteenth- century logic that found appeal in female suffering: “Sadness made one ‘interesting.’ It was a mark of refinement, of sensibility, to be sad. That is, to be powerless.” This appeal mapped largely onto illness: “Sadness and tuberculosis became synonymous,” she writes, and both were coveted. Sadness was interesting and sickness was its handmaiden, providing not only cause but also symptoms. “The melancholy character was a superior one: sensitive, creative, a being apart,” she writes. Sickness was “a becoming frailty … symbolized an appealing vulnerability, a superior sensitivity, [and] became more and more the ideal look for women.”” (Jamison,

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