The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg

By Joan Jacobs Brumberg

"Timely and sympathetic . . . a piece of impassioned advocacy."         --People

A hundred years in the past, ladies have been lacing themselves into corsets and instructing their daughters to do an identical. definitely the right of the day, even if, used to be internal attractiveness: a spotlight on sturdy deeds and a natural center. this day American girls have extra social offerings and private freedom than ever sooner than. yet fifty-three percentage of our women are upset with their our bodies via the age of 13, and lots of commence a trend of weight obsession and eating plan as early as 8 or 9. Why?

In The physique Project, historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg solutions this query, drawing on diary excerpts and media pictures from 1830 to the current. Tracing ladies' attitudes towards subject matters starting from breast measurement and menstruation to hair, garments, and cosmetics, she exposes the shift from the Victorian quandary with internal good looks to our glossy specialise in outward appearance--in specific, the need to be model-thin and horny. Compassionate, insightful, and gracefully written, The physique Project explores the profits and losses adolescent women have inherited on the grounds that they shed the corset and the proper of virginity for a brand new international of sexual freedom and consumerism--a international within which the physique is their fundamental project.

"Joan Brumberg's ebook bargains us an insightful and wonderful historical past at the back of the harmful mantra of the '90s--'I hate my body!'" --Katie Couric

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Extra resources for The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls

Sample text

Yet among girls in the middle and upper classes, there was concern about the size of certain body parts, such as the hands, feet, and waist. To be too large or too robust was a sign of indelicacy that suggested lower-class origins and a rough way of life. Even the exalted Victoria and her mother, the Duchess of Kent, worried about body size. Victoria’s feet were admirable because they were tiny; yet she was warned periodically by her mother against becoming too stout, and she was chided for eating too much.

Did these biological events occur at the same age in the Victorian era? Have American girls always regarded the body as their most important project? In pursuit of answers to questions like these, I culled girls’ diaries, particularly old ones, which are remarkably similar to the diaries many of us have written and stored away at the bottom of dresser drawers or in attic trunks. Unfortunately, I threw my own diary away in my early twenties, in a moment of “emotional housekeeping,” but I still remember the way that red leatherette volume—with its tiny lock and key—harbored my innermost secrets and private obsessions.

Ironically, we live with a legacy of reticence even in this time of disclosure. For this reason, I have an ambitious goal for this book: The Body Project is intended to provoke the kind of intergenerational conversation about female bodies that most adult women like myself have wished for but never really had. The chapters ahead were designed to ignite memories about those awkward years and to foster conversation among mothers and daughters, women teachers and students, friends and colleagues. These memories will stimulate laughter as well as concern, but both reactions are appropriate.

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