This is a brief response paper I wrote for my Introduction to Philosophy class. Not likely my best work, but it earned an A! Thought it might be of interest to you all lovely folks.
She briefly addresses the intersectionality between sexism and heterosexism in her observation that "[the categories of masculinity and femininity] may account to some degree for the otherwise puzzling phenomenon of homophobia," but does not present an adequate understanding of the nuanced complexities undergirding the relationships among sexism (as enforced by the patriarchy), heterosexism, and gender binarism (Bartky 77). Bartky grants that "persons currently can be only as male or female," but does not expand her argument of patriarchal power as a disciplinary power to any understanding of gender binarism and cissexism (Bartky 77). (The patriarchy-derived constructions of masculinity and femininity must by definition contribute to gender binarism, and thus cissexism, and to standards of heteronormativity, which provides the foundation for a profoundly heterosexist society. These three forms of oppression are inextricably interwoven, as the intersectionalities among them exist both among the oppressed groups of women, the non-cisgendered, and the queer, and among the analogously privileged groups of men, the cisgendered, and the heterosexual.) For its limited scope, however, Bartky’s argument of patriarchal power as applied solely within the gender binary provides an excellent example of the ways in which hierarchies of oppression are reinforced by systemically embedded praxes of disciplinary power.
Foucault argues that the "ideal point of penalty today would be an indefinite discipline...a procedure that would be at the same time the permanent measure of a gap in relation to an inaccessible norm and the asymptotic movement that strives to meet in infinity" (Panopticon). From Bartky's argument, we see that the indefinite discipline of the construction of femininity lies in the constant subjugation of women to societal messages that reinforce and uphold the ideals of the patriarchy that separate standards of appearance, behavior, and mannerism into those acceptable for the masculine and those required for the feminine, and in the internalization of these profoundly sexist ideals by women who strive to embed them into their own daily practices and behavior. Disciplinary power is one that seeks not to punish but to shape and structure (Panopticon). In the context of socially-embedded sexism, the power attributed to the patriarchy—the system that privileges and empowers men while simultaneously disempowering, disenfranchising, and oppressing women—is one that disciplines women into constricted constructions of femininity while conditioning those same women to self-discipline and enforce upon themselves the same sexist ideals.
As Bartky argues that constructions of masculinity and femininity go beyond “the construction of personal identities” to become “critical elements in our informal social ontology,” she advances the idea that construction of identity is a fundamental aspect of construction of society. Individual and social contributions to these constructions form the hierarchies of power and privilege that oppress and marginalize, subjecting members of society to external modes of disciplinary power that enforce a sense of normativity centered on the experiences and perceptions of privileged groups. It is impossible to challenge these norms and systemic oppressions without understanding the nature and function of their power to impose on those marginalized by them. Bartky’s argument for a Foucauldian understanding provides the basis for grasping the disciplinary power exerted by those who oppress on those whom they oppress in melding a society that fits a paradigm built around the identities and norms of those with such power and privilege. This disciplinary power is essential to maintaining the status quo, and while those who are oppressed participate as self-enforces of their own oppression, social structures like the patriarchy will remain in place.
Bartky, S. “Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power”
Foucault, M. “Panopticism”. Discipline and Punish. Available at http://foucault.info/documents/disciplineAndPunish/foucault.disciplineAndPunish.panOpticism.html