Benefits Of Seeing Your Body As Separate

I think and write a lot about mind-body dualism, and in the past I’ve made blog posts about how dualism affects Western ideas of gender and sexuality (see part one here and part two here). In general, I tend to agree with feminist scholars about how dualism is frequently a negative force in women’s lives: when we become conceptually affiliated with the body and not the mind, we become reduced to our bodies. When we act in ways associated with masculinity, we are reviled and punished. And so on.

For these reasons, I was intrigued by Ragen’s post at Dances With Fat about seeing her body as separate – and how that became a good thing in her life. She started realizing that she wasn’t treating her body well even though it’s an essential part of her life, and so she resolved to treat her body at least as well as her car, which gets regular check-ups, maintenance, and other types of care to make sure it runs smoothly.

I think that in cases where people feel alienated from their bodies, or aren’t taking good care of themselves, or are ashamed of their bodies, then yes, consciously attempting to view their bodies as separate from their selves can be helpful. The trick is to not create a hierarchy (as so often happens in dualism), but rather to acknowledge value in this-thing-that-is-me-and-yet-not-me. Our relationships with our bodies are complex and fraught enough that I’m inclined to say that if you find something that works for you and your body image/self-esteem, go with it!

About Jeana


Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.