Docile body vs. Activist Protesting body

The documentary movie “Pay it No mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson” talked about Marsha Johnson’s life who was African American drag queen, a gay liberation activist, and a transgender activist in New York from 1966 to 1992. From Marsha’ friends words, we can see that her friends admired and respected about everything Marsha did and going through in her life. Marsha was a brave person because she dare to pay any price so she can live the way who she want to be. She was not only fight against those discriminated her, but she also encouraged others homosexual stand up and fight for their right too. From Marsha’s portray, her body was an example of “protesting body”. So, what is “protesting body” mean? And what is difference between a “docile body” and a “protesting body”?

First, a “protesting body” is opposite with a “docile body”. Let me recall the definition of “docile body” in order to understand a meaning of “protesting body”. Michel Foucault defined “A body is docile that may be subjected, used, transformed and improved” (p.136). Also, Foucault brought up the relationship between docile body and discipline. He argued that discipline creates “docile body” and he used soldier as an example of a docile body. You are not born to be a soldier; but a soldier could actually be made through training. If gender is a form of discipline, people need to follow and obey the gender’s rule. For example, a female body should act feminism and male body should act masculine. Come back with Marsha’s example, we can easily see that Marsha’ body was not obey and follow the gender’ rule. Marsha’s body was a male body; however, Marsha’s body was acting feminism way such as wearing a dress, make up. From Marsh example, a “protesting body” is a body rebel or act against social norm.

In addition, there is a difference that distinguishes between a “docile body” and a “protesting body”, is space. If a docile body was occupied in a private space, then a protesting body was act in a public space. For example, the soldiers were trained at the military bases where there is restriction with the public. In contrast, the protesting body were involved in the public space, especially on the streets, where they can easily caught community’s attention.

Through the movie, it help me realize that the relationship between power and body. Marsha had used her body to take back her power. She was the one to own her body, so she had the authority to present her body as the way she wanted, not the way society constructed. Most people’s gender identity matches their anatomy. But people who are transgender feel different from their physical appearances. From a child to adult, we were taught that what is supposed to be as men, women, boys, and girls. Instead of following what society expects for a man, Marsha rebelled and broke the gender’s rule. She did not let her body be controlled under the standard norms. Being herself, who is dressing and living as a woman, Marsha was very comfortable, happy, and enjoyed. Also, she had no fear to the public even though she got arrested so many times by the polices.

From Marsha’s experience, we learned that if we want to change the way people perceive ourselves, we must show them who we are. We have to be proud about who we are. Moreover, we could not let our body become a “docile body” under any rule or standard. We are the one to own our body, so we should present that body as the way we want.