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The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girlsby Joan Jacobs Brumberg
Synopses & Reviews
"Timely and sympathetic . . . a work of impassioned advocacy." --People
A hundred years ago, women were lacing themselves into corsets and teaching their daughters to do the same. The ideal of the day, however, was inner beauty: a focus on good deeds and a pure heart. Today American women have more social choices and personal freedom than ever before. But fifty-three percent of our girls are dissatisfied with their bodies by the age of thirteen, and many begin a pattern of weight obsession and dieting as early as eight or nine. Why?
In The Body Project, historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg answers this question, drawing on diary excerpts and media images from 1830 to the present. Tracing girls' attitudes toward topics ranging from breast size and menstruation to hair, clothing, and cosmetics, she exposes the shift from the Victorian concern with inner beauty to our modern focus on outward appearance--in particular, the desire to be model-thin and sexy. Compassionate, insightful, and gracefully written, The Body Project explores the gains and losses adolescent girls have inherited since they shed the corset and the ideal of virginity for a new world of sexual freedom and consumerism--a world in which the body is their primary project.
"Joan Brumberg's book offers us an insightful and entertaining history behind the destructive mantra of the '90s--'I hate my body!'" --Katie Couric
"Timely and sympathetic... a work of impassioned advocacy." People
"Joan Brumberg's book offers us an insightful and entertaining history behind the destructive mantra of the '90s — 'I hate my body!'" Katie Couric
"Brumberg doesn't just revive Ophelia — she drags her into the ladies' room to quiz her on her preferred method of sanitary protection. She's kind of an academic Judy Blume." Entertainment Weekly
"Brumberg concludes with a call for women to participate actively in girls' coming of age.... perhaps, as a beginning, women and girls should read this fine book together." Peggy Orenstein, The New York Times Book Review
"A brief but moving picture of how adolescent girls may have jumped from the frying pan of Victorian constraint into the fire of an era in which anything goes, as long as you don't have thunder thighs." Kirkus Reviews
Girls behave badly. If they're not obscenity-shouting, drink-swigging ladettes, they're narcissistic, living dolls floating around in a cloud of self-obsession, far too busy twerking to care. And this is news.
In this witty and wonderful book, Carol Dyhouse shows that where there's a social scandal or a wave of moral outrage, you can bet a girl is to blame. Whether it be stories of 'brazen flappers' staying out and up all night in the 1920s, inappropriate places for Mars bars in the 1960s or Courtney Love's mere existence in the 1990s, bad girls have been a mass-media staple for more than a century. And yet, despite the continued obsession with their perceived faults and blatant disobedience, girls are infinitely better off today than they were a century ago.
This is the story of the challenges and opportunities faced by young women growing up in the swirl of the twentieth century, and the pop-hysteria that continues to accompany their progress.
Since the suffrage movement, young women’s actions have been analyzed and decried exhaustively by mass media. Each new bad behavior—bobbing one’s hair, protesting politics, drinking, swearing, or twerking, among other things—is held up as yet another example of moral decline in women. Without fail, any departure from the socially dictated persona of the angelic, passive woman gets slapped with the label of “bad girl.”
Social historian Carol Dyhouse studies this phenomenon in Girl Trouble, an expansive account of its realities throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Dyhouse looks closely at interviews, news pieces, and articles to show the clear perpetuation of this trend and the very real effects that it has had—and continues to have—on the girlhood experience. She brilliantly demonstrates the value of feminism and other liberating cultural shifts and their necessity in expanding girls’ aspirations and opportunities in spite of the controversy that has accompanied these freedoms.
Girl Trouble is the dynamic story of the challenges and opportunities faced by young women growing up in the swirl of the twentieth century and the vocal critics who continue to scrutinize their progress.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 215-250) and index.
About the Author
The author of Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa, Joan Jacobs Brumberg is a Stephen H. Weiss Professor at Cornell University, where she holds a unique appointment teaching in the fields of history, human development, and women's studies. Her research and sensitive writing about American women and girls have been recognized by the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the MacDowell Colony. She lives in Ithaca, New York.
Awards Brumberg has received include the Berkshire Book Prize for the best book by a woman historian, given by the Berkshire Women's History Conference (1988); the John Hope Franklin Prize for the best book in American Studies, given by the American Studies Association (1989); the Eileen Basker Memorial Prize for the best book in the area of gender and mental health, given by the Society for Medical Anthropology (1989); and the Watson Davis Prize for the best book in translating ideas for the public, given by the History of Science Society (1989).
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