Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Summary Post: "Our Bodies, Ourselves," Steinem, and "Body Projects"

"Our Bodies, Ourselves"

The Boston Women's Health Book Collective started as a group of women learning about their bodies. They found that learning about themselves and the way their bodies functioned was empowering. They endeavored to share this information with more women so that they could have the same enlightening experience. They began by talking to doctors but also spoke with one another about their own personal experiences. They became a group that was able to create political and social change. By creating and spreading the newfound knowledge women were liberated in many ways. One example was that by controlling their pregnancies, women were happier with the children they had and enjoyed their pregnancies more because they chose them. This feeling of choice and the access to the information to make good choices was a huge change in the way women viewed life. The revealing of the mysteries of the body allowed women to love themselves more and thus love others.

"Sex, Lies & Advertising" Steinem

Steinem describes the experience of working for MS Magazine which devoted itself to women. They refused to go about getting their funding through ads the same way other women's magazines did. They wanted their editorial content to be "free and diverse" and knew that certain products would impose regulations on them. They had to go around convincing businesses that they could produce a new market to sell to. Many businesses were extremely skeptical. To name a few, car companies, credit card companies and cigarette companies. Even companies that were geared towards women, like Estee Lauder, refused to print ads in the magazines because Lauder said that MS was not the typical wearer of the product they sold (even though the research indicated the exact opposite). One part I found particularly interesting was that MS readers were essentially the trendsetters of the future. They were the women on the front lines making change. Steinem says that "whatever they are doing today, a third to a half of American women will be doing three to five years from now." Why wouldn't someone want a piece of that advertising? Steinem depicts a typical struggle of trying to get taken seriously in a man's world.

"Body Projects"

In this age, the body is the "ultimate expression of the self." It has drastically changed the way women and ever younger girls think about their bodies. The image of the perfect body has changed over the years, and ladies have changed to obsess about the new cultural obsessions. The flapper era brought with it the trend of being skinny and flat chested with a bob haircut. This bob signified freedom and mobility like no other hairstyle previously had. It was boyish and required little maintenance which was not typical of previous styles. She also mentions that the new hair styles made a distinction between young and old that had previously not been so obvious. In the 1920's, bodies because less private and more public and girls started to think of themselves as "decorative objects."This attitude was only heightened by the mass production and trend of bras. Interestingly enough, the health professionals helped establish this trend. They said that it was in a girls best interest to support her breasts so they don't sag. This in some ways, reminds me of the way that doctors who do designer vaginas preach that it has benefits and thus normalize it to the population. The rise of the mass produced bra also created standardize sizing where girls were now expected to fit a certain size and if they didn't, were abnormal. This is in contrast to clothes that were generally made at home to fit the girl rather than the clothing being made that the girl had to fit into. Breasts became the new "it" body part. It mattered less how skinny you were as long as you had big boobs. This meant that girls were sexualized earlier which certainly had implications on how early girls are sexualized in todays culture. I think it also had an effect on the dieting phenomenon. Some companies gave out booklets on calorie counting with each purchase of a bra. The emphasis on thinness returned and it has been a constant struggle for girls ever since. Doctors have called it a "normative obsession" of women. They just can't stop thinking about it. There was also a shift towards being fit rather than only thin in the 1970's and an emphasis on the lower body and thighs. This was partially due to the new fashions which often showed off the belly and thighs. Lastly, piercings came into popularity in the 1990's. This was the "latest form of self-expression." The most interesting part of this section, I thought, was that girls were piercing more and more private places because more of their bodies were becoming public. I think it's definitely something to consider. What does it say that girls are piercing their vaginas so that they can have some part of their body be a private place that only their boyfriend knows about?

1 comment:

  1. I have to agree with Tira in here summary of the articles. "Our Bodies, Ourselves" discusses in four parts what it is important that women need to know about their bodies. For example, menstruation, masturbation, sexual diseases, and pregnancies. By giving personal experiences you are helping other women who are scared or embarrassed learn what is okay about their bodies.

    Tira talks about how advertising are directed at women to get them to buy their products. I agree with this, I also believe that advertising determines what is the fashion trend to wear and what not to wear. We base our styles off advertising whether we want to admit it or not. We don't want to follow what everyone else is doing but we like the trend because other people like them. It is a vicious circle that it hard to get out of.

    I also found the body piercing section interesting as well in "Body Projects". I think we could add tattoos to this as well. Many more women are getting tattoos then ever before and they can also hide them if they get them in certain areas so that it can be private or somewhere on their body that everyone can see.