How Does Body Image Effect Person Identity?

In Toni Morrison’s, “The Bluest Eye,” it is apparent that the protagonists are faced with exponentially more challenges than their white peers just because of their skin color. The material body, and certain aspects of it including the darkness of their skin, become especially important to the young black girls in the novel. The novel develops the relationship between body and identity as the girls move through girlhood to adolescence. Body becomes a major sign of self-identification because it physically expresses your race, class, gender, and even sexuality. This “material frame” is easily judged, and not easily protected for vulnerable young girls.  The vulnerability of young girls’ bodies also plays a large role in the development of the girls’ identities as they go through bodily development. Toni Morrison does an excellent job of connecting body image and personal identity throughout the novel because even though identity is person, it is often heavily influence by a girl’s external image.

Children’s Literature plants the seed of the idea self image and identity in a young girl’s mind, which continues to grow throughout their life as they become more exposed to media. Possessing positive self image as a young girl can be essential to her mental well-being later on in her life. A negative self image or body image can lead to detrimental mental disorders that in many cases become all consuming as the girl reaches adolescence. Since self image starts as early as a girl is read a book by her parent, Children’s Literature authors should be cognizant of this fact. Children’s literature also plays a major role in establishing a girl’s identity, which is further influenced by factors such as, race culture, family, and environment. When a girl’s race or is underrepresented in the books that they read, it makes them feel excluded. Through the social experiment where children were asked to pick the “nice” doll, we saw how much media can play a roll in relating race to personal qualities for children. Therefore, Children’s Literature authors need to be especially conscience of how they represent race in their books because it can be seriously detrimental to a girl’s identity in the long run.The-Bluest-Eye-259x300-show-page

4 thoughts on “How Does Body Image Effect Person Identity?”

  1. When thinking about this, I didn’t realize how much Children’s Literature plants a seed of self/body-image in young children’s minds until you mentioned it. I think that this is very true as you mentioned. It starts at a young age but it also continues through adolescent. Shows like America’s Next Top Model or even commercials can give adolescents that negative body image. Can you think of any children’s TV shows or other books that may plant this seed in children besides the ones mentioned above?

  2. This was really interesting to read and reflect on. I personally did not experience insecurities about my body as a child, but more so since entering college. Our “material frames” seem to be most critically judged by those who possess the bodies themselves. It’s hard to keep up with what magazines and media portray “beautiful” to be in this day and age. New diets and workout routines are constantly being enforced, and while maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very important, putting too much of an emphasis on it can cause issues for girls even after their adolescence.

  3. I think this is a great post. It’s important to ask what responsibility a children’s literature author has to push back against a norm of middle class whiteness as the standard for characters. So often, we see white characters as heroes and protectors and full of worthiness and so often we see characters of color as evil or ‘bad’. And perhaps more commonly, when characters of color are written as a protagonist, we seem them replaced by white actors (http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/jan/16/dreamworks-scarlett-johansson-ghost-in-the-shell-whitewashing). I think there is a responsibility in media (both film and literature) to portray diversity as it exists in the real world. For example, the School of Education here has a dept. that tracks children’s books published each year and the diversity portrayed in them – last year, of 3400 published books, only 269 featured an african american main character. (http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp)

  4. In The Bluest Eye, it was interesting how sexuality was linked to identity. The idea of “ruinedness” was linked to sex. Although what it meant to be “ruined” was not explicitly defined, the girls in the story had to navigate the difficult repercussions that come along with sexuality during girlhood, and how it relates to identity development.

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