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BODY IMAGE IN OUR TIME FROM A FEMINIST PERSPECTIVE Copyright © National Centre for Eating Disorders Body image is the subjective sense we have of our appearance and our body. Unlike what others see when they look at us, our body image is often different from the objective size and shape of our body. Both mean and women sometimes feel dissatisfied with their body and its parts. Who hasn’t met the man who would not like larger biceps or the woman who would not like longer legs. However more women than men report consistently disliking their bodies. The emphasis on women’s experience isn’t meant to imply that body image problems among men are less important than among women - simply less prevalent Consider the following: By the age of 10, most girls are afraid of becoming fat. Many more adolescent schoolgirls than boys diet. Among college students a larger percentage of women than men report feeling unhappy about their looks. Women in the general population report more negative attitudes about their physical appearance than do men. Sadly, negative body image often begins when girls are young and extends far into adulthood. For some women it lasts their entire lives Obsessive concern about body shape and weight has become so common among western women of all ages that it is now the norm. Moreover, results of a large survey indicate that body image problems are more common in the USA than in any other nation. When British women are asked what they want to change about their body they respond without hesitation, when asked what they like about their body their response requires considerably more thought. WEIGHT AS A MEASURE OF SELF WORTH In our society, the “thin is beautiful and beautiful is good” belief prevails. Consequently women often use weight as a yardstick with which to measure self worth and attractiveness. It is common for women to enter a room and immediately determine their status by assessing which women are thinner and which are fatter than they are. As a result, being female often means feeling fat and inadequate. A feminist understanding of negative body image views socio- cultural issues as the underpinning for body loathing among women. For example girls are socialised more than boys to focus on external aspects of themselves, such as their appearance. Learning to do their hair, polish their nails and paint their faces is virtually a rite of passage into woman hood in our culture. Boys, on the other hand are typically socialised to concentrate on their athletic abilities rather than their looks. In addition attractiveness is not the prerequisite for masculinity as it is for femininity in our culture. Attractive men as described as
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This note was uploaded on 05/04/2008 for the course WOMST 101 taught by Professor Prasad during the Spring '08 term at Skidmore.

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