Your post is interesting for posing questions about body relations in academia without coming to conclusions on them. Yet, in the post, and in what I just quoted in particular, you seem to conclude implicitly that it is somehow negative for academics to wear dowdy clothing and to ignore their bodies. Why is that? I do not understand why you deplore the "casually ugly wardrobe." I actually think that it is a liberating aspect of the profession. In most fields, there is a rather strict dress code and in the business world you have to dress to sell, especially if you are going out and meeting people, as a realtor or something. But since academia is about the mind, the body can be underrated, it is *permitted* to be sloppy, weak, and poorly dressed. I am not sure why you are so intent to judge academics who are less interested in clothing than you are. In doing that, you seem to imply that there is an ideal way for academics to be dressing and thinking about their bodies, which in turn implies that your way of weight-loss and exercising is the right way, or at least a better way compared to the sloppy academics you "deplore." I don't understand why the body has to figure into a field that is devoted to the mind. Why are you so discontent? Why would you even want to discuss "working out" with academics? I am sure that a number of academics believes that working out is a symptom of and a ritual for our image-obsessed age, a construction to encourage bodily insecurity and body hierarchies, and so since they view the gym not as a place to relax but as a stifling cultural apparatus, they would feel uncomfortable discussing it with your or anybody else.The commenter raises some important points, and ones that I myself have been grappling with. I'm not sure if this reader is familiar with my whole process here, but I've only been exercising in earnest since May, and I've been trying to think through my responses as I've had them. I think if you look through some of my posts, you'll see that I'm not as consistently judgmental about bodies as I may appear in parts of that particular post.
That said, there are some blind spots that crop up, some of which I am not always vigilant about working through.
Here is what I will say: I do my academic work on bodies in performance, I've taught classes on the culture and politics of food, and I am deeply aware of the biases the commenter points out. While I do not want to reinforce these body hierarchies (which sometimes in these posts I do occasionally and inadvertently reinforce), I do resist the notion that academia is only "about the mind," for several reasons.
1) The mind is part of the body, and the way we construct our identity (which is both intentional and beyond the grasp of intention) operates in both discursive (mental/intellectual) and physical(embodied) ways. I think to say that this is a mind-only profession sometimes simply moves the hierarchies to different grounds.
2) My point here is to note the contradiction between the use of embodied (and masculinist) metaphors while actual bodies are being hidden, which sometimes seems a rhetorical strategy to sublimate masculinist discourse while maintaining its hegemony. So I think that reinforcing this "about the mind and not about the body" divide is actually disguising some real issues in the discourse of gender in academia.
3) Our bodies are part of our work, especially if we teach. The body is a signifier, and while I am interested in resisting normative notions of bodies, I do think that ignoring the body altogether is an ineffective and potentially counter-productive rhetorical strategy.
Also, I am, for reasons that I can only barely defend, annoyed by colleagues who don't consider their appearance in the classroom, and these are reasons that could likely be linked to bourgeois values and the like: I want to be taken seriously, and as a professional. When I see my colleagues presenting themselves in "casually ugly" ways, I read it as signifying a disrespect for the work of the classroom, a view I recognize as probably way out of date and maybe even classist. And yet, I cannot shake the idea that not bothering to present myself as a professional sends a message to my students that I don't respect them or the work we undertake together. I invite people to help me undo that reasoning, but right now, that's how it functions for me.
I will say, though, that the commenter seems to conflate my general (and again, perhaps only barely defensible) annoyance (ok, so "deplore" is an overstatement) for certain kinds of sartorial choices with a distaste for certain kinds of bodies and exercise regimes, something that I will say is uncategorically not the case, both about the way I feel, or the way I think this post is constructed. My only point about many (though not nearly all) colleagues being unwilling to talking about exercise is the way that this is merely a flipping of the binary at work in the rest of the culture-- while the dominant discourse seems intent on enforcing the exact kinds of hierarchies that the commenter wants to avoid, I think that looking sideways at anyone who even wants to address the issue suggests that for an academic, thinking about the body is as bad as how dominant discourse works to alienate those who don't subscribe to an ideal body image.
Now, on this last point I'll concede: it is difficult in this cultural climate to opt out of the body culture and, at the same time, not feel judged by anyone who wants to discuss bodies at all. Entirely understandable. I simply wish that we could talk about body culture in ways that don't necessarily alienate our own bodies from our discussions, no matter what the shape of the body in question may be. Utopian, perhaps.
The point is, just as the obsession with bodies (and the shape of that obsession) in the dominant discourse carries all sorts of demeaning and disciplining messages, our obsession with ignoring our bodies and the embodiedness of our profession can be similarly demeaning and disciplining, and can mask hierarchies and power structures that are no less in operation than those featured in Cosmo and in Muscle and Fitness.