||In the divergent studies of women’s body politics, Michel Foucault’s notions on power/knowledge have been much appropriated to decipher the microphysics of power which operate and/or being operated on female bodies. However, Foucault’s power/knowledge frameworks in terms of body politics are usually read to be a certain kind of testimony of the patriarchal power’s maneuver and women’s unconsciously incarnation of that. As such, we usually see mainstream feminists conclude that, on the one hand, the body/beauty industry is commercially vested and patriarchally motivated, and on the other hand, the female consumers are the cultural dupes beguiled by media hypes.
However, in contrast to the mainstream feminists’ one-sided reading of female body politics, my task here is not to make a competing claim that body/beauty industry and consumption are all good or all bad. Rather, I am here to probe into a more sophisticated yet a more realistic situation: How are the female “body/beauty-builders” able to develop one’s personal body politics so as to construct their own subject and self-identity under the modern body/beauty market? How these women as consumers select, negotiate or interact in a complex structural and power relations so as to benefit and empower themselves? In short, it is not only concerned about what body/beauty systems do to the women, but more about what the women as consumers and subjects do to the systems.
Therefore, while the Spa industry is emerging as a chic body/beauty industries, opening up new aspects of thinking and acting for both beauty industries and consumers, in the thesis, the burgeoning Spa trend would be itself an unexplored yet unique case study for the body/beauty building politics. By bringing forth the Spa-related ads, literatures and promotions, I will demonstrate firstly, how the modern Spa is fashioned as an encapsulated concept of leisure, health and beauty which all in all makes Spa itself distinct from the earlier body/beauty institutions, and secondly, .how the burgeoning Spa culture/industry creates and supports a special “body-hedonism” or “body/pleasure-positive” milieu for the customers to enjoy treatments with righteousness. Additionally, by illustrating eight interviewees’ personal Spa-related bodily experiences and embodied practices, I will exemplify how the Spa practices can be a way for women to take their bodies, and mostly, their lives in hand.
Under three themes: body, subjectivity and agency which are the trajectories running through four chapters in the thesis, my observation shows: First, because Spa’s image-buildings mainly focus on the forms of “nature, purity, simplicity and back-to-basic living”, these images one the one hand offer turning points for body/beauty enterprises to advance full-scale developments and/or re-package up its enterprise figure. And on the other hand, these images afford “proper” reasons that Spa-goers could utilize to contend with conventionalists’ censorious mouths. Secondly, under Spa’s body/pleasure-positive milieu, it opens up a new mode of self-imaging, a new way of embodying and a new aspect of enjoying multiplicities of wishes, desires, sensations, pleasures and satisfactions. Lastly, the construal of Spa is the combination of body politics and life politics which offers solid and positive chances/channels for individuals to “do/make body”, “do/make pleasure” and “do/make self”.