The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls

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Vintage Books, 1998 - Family & Relationships - 267 pages
"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

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User Review  - wanda2 - LibraryThing

The attitude towards subjects from haircuts, make-up, clothing, social status, ethnic/color, pimples, dieting and exercising to girls losing their virginity is no longer taboo in the 21st century. It ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - patrish11 - LibraryThing

I liked it. Good study of girls maturing all the way from the Victorian age to the present. Brumberg points out that support and protection from the unrelenting self-scrutiny that the market place and media thrive on, exacerbates self consciousness and encourages precocious sexuality (pg 197). Read full review

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About the author (1998)

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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