I hate tracking because it feels like the panopticon to me. I wrote about that a long while ago when we first started this blog. See my post here. The panopticon is a prison design that social-political philosopher Jeremy Bentham came up with in the 19th Century. The thing of it is, prisoners never know when they’re being watched. So they start to engage in self-surveillance and self-monitoring. They become so good at it that guards are hardly necessary.
Feminist philosophers have used this same idea to talk about the way normative feminity works. Always conscious of the possibility that we are being watched and monitored, we women begin to do it ourselves. It’s basically the idea of keeping ourselves in line with rules imposed from the outside by internalizing those rules. Tracking feels like that to me.
But a new study that came out recently takes the panopticon metaphor to a whole new level, indeed, no longer even a metaphor. Maybe you’ve already heard. If you read the blog regularly you definitely have already heard because–and this is the beauty of having a team of feminists working together to respond to the latest research that does a disservice to women–Catherine blogged about it on Sunday. See her “Mirror, Mirror” post.
If you want to eat less “bad” food (even though food is beyond good and evil), hang a mirror in the kitchen. Yes. You read that right. You can read more about the story in this story from The Washington Post and this one from The National Post.
Apparently, watching ourselves eat food that we perceive to be bad, evil, or wrong to eat makes us feel crappy. We look for a reason and blame it on the chocolate cake.
This is just not something I can get behind. First of all, if you’re going to eat the cake, don’t you want to enjoy it? Do we really need to find further ways to feel shitty about ourselves?
Second, as if incessant tracking isn’t bad enough, now we are supposed to watch ourselves in the mirror too? It just feels so messed up.
Third, there’s the panopticon. It’s a bad thing, all that self-monitoring and self-surveillance to make sure we all into line with standards of behaviour that external norms impose on us. The panopticon is a prison design for Pete’s sake. Its purpose in to promote compliance.
No, no, no. So please, let’s try to enjoy our food. Yes, let’s make choices. I’m all for thinking about how I may use food for all sorts of reasons that have little to do with keeping myself physically fed and nourished. Having some awareness is a good thing. But when we kick that to the level of self-surveillance and literally keeping an eye on ourselves so we behave, that’s a disturbing prospect worth resisting more than a piece of chocolate cake.