Monday, April 6, 2015

The Body Project

The Body Project

Adult non fiction
"...Life in the world of the micro-bikini is obviously different
from life in the world of the corset, I argued, but there are still
constraints and difficulties, perhaps even greater ones. Today,
unlike in the Victorian era, commercial interests play directly to the
body angst of young girls, a marketing strategy that results in
enormous revenues for manufacturers of skin and hair products as well
as diet foods. Although elevated body angst is a great boost to
corporate profits, it saps the creativity of girls and threatens their
mental and physical health. Progress for women is obviously filled
with ambiguities."
Today we're going back into oldies but goodies turf to look at a
book that is sadly more true than when it was hot off the press. I
borrowed my daughter Amber's copy of Joan Jacobs Brumberg's The Body
Project: An Intimate History of American Girls (in which I found the
above quote) so my younger daughter Katie could use it as a research
paper source. I made the "mistake" of flipping through it. Had to
read it cover to cover before I could hand it over.
Brumberg was motivated to write her book because she wanted to
understand why girls seemed precarious in their bodies even in a time
when they enjoyed a lot more freedom and opportunity than their
corseted Victorian ancestors. Her book, based on extensive research
including the private diaries of girls written between the 1830's and
the 1990's is about how the experience of growing up female has
changed in the ensuing decades. The title comes from one of her
strongest findings. In the earlier decades girls self improvement
goals were centered around good works: studying harder or being more
helpful. These days they are focussed on good looks: body projects
such as diets and skin care strategies to get closer to an
increasingly elusive ideal body.
In addition to her use of primary (which, in itself, is
wonderful) sources, Brumberg is willing to go into the complexity of
the many ways girlhood has been effected. Let's look at just one--the
change from home made to mass produced sanitary pads. To my mother's
generation the innovation that made this possible was right up there
with sliced bread--they wouldn't have to hand wash blood out of rags.
But not all was positive. Companies began to provide schools and
youth organizations that pushed their product as well as explaining
menarche, in essence taking over a role formerly filled by mothers.
Since corporate motive is pushing product which could be achieved by
getting girls to go through as many pads as possible, anxieties about
smelling clean enough and not spotting were emphasized.
This is one of the best books I have ever read about the
changing world of girlhood. If anything, the trends Brumberg
indentified have made the lives of our daughters even more
precarious. If you can get your hands on The Body Project, make sure
to do so.
On a personal note, a couple of weeks ago was Bearfest. Dozens of
University of Maine students and I danced from 3:00 Saturday afternoon
til Sunday morning to raise money for Children's Miracle Network. The
spirit was inspiring. The music was great. And they kept us all well
fed. I don't know what the grand total was but I kicked in $127 in
A great big shout out goes out to all with whom I rocked around the
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

No comments:

Post a Comment