Body Image: Looks aren’t everything…

The keyword essay on “body” explains that in children’s literature the body is often turned into a material frame for the child. The body becomes a material thing that children focus on. Society sexualizes children’s bodies and represents there innocence and vulnerability as being “sexy”. Body image is a very central aspect of a young girls’ development and comes about when the girl begins to think of her body as a material thing. As culture continually sexualizes the child body and tells young girls particularity what is a beautiful or even sexy, young girls begin to develop ideas around their own body and how they view themselves. In Toni Morrison’s, The Bluest Eye, we can observe the keyword essay on “body” to be acting in multiple ways. First, the girls in The Bluest Eye seem to connect their body and sexuality in an odd idea of being able to ruin your body with the loss of virginity. In addition, Pecola has a very negative view of her body and is always longing to look like Shirley Temple on her cup and have blue eyes. Third, Penola’s body is sexualized throughout the novel by the start of her period and rape of her father who sexually longed for this young girl. Her innocence was appealing and even sexy to him. At the conclusion of the novel, Pecola convinces herself that she has blue eyes as a way to cope with her longing to be different and the severe hardship she has faced in life. Pecola has a distorted body image because she longs for a body that society tells her is beautiful.

Body image is a similar struggle for all developing girls throughout multiple time periods. In model Cameron Russell’s TED talk about body image, she shares that the body and how people view you is a very powerful thing. She highlights how society constructs the idea of what is worthy and girls are prompted or forced to conform to the ideal standard of beauty. Body image would not be as big of an issue for girls if society and media did not construct what the beautiful and ideal body is. Cameron also speaks to the fact that her whiteness is valued and seen as beautiful and sexy in her industry. Cameron remarks that, “For the past two centuries we have defined beauty not just as health, youth and symmetry that we are programmed to admire. But also as tall slender figures and femininity and white skin.” In 2007 models on the runway were counted and less that 4% were not white. Our culture has created a legacy of what beauty is and constructed the idea that our outward body is extremely important to who we are. Lastly, Cameron speaks to the reality that young girls are very often sexualized in the modeling industry and society in general. She was taking racy photos for magazines before her first period or even boyfriend. 

Both Pecola’s views of beauty in The Bluest Eye and Cameron Russell’s talk on body image as a model, show that the sexualization and materialization of children’s bodies lead to distinct messages that children and young girls have about their bodies. The image that girls hold about there body is a powerful part of their development.


3 thoughts on “Body Image: Looks aren’t everything…”

  1. I had seen this TED talk before as well and found it particularly interesting that she talked about the racy photographs she modeled for at a young age and the promotion of sexuality in young girls. Seeing this again for a second time reminded me of European ads that featured incredibly young girls, all who were under the age of 12, posing and dressed in an over-sexualized manner. This is somehow acceptable and not questioned more often than not. Another example of over-sexualization is pageants. Just watching one episode of Toddlers in Tiaras you will see incredibly young girls wearing a ton of make up and adult clothing. It’s disturbing to me that people passively accept this and allow young girls to learn that they are an object of sexuality, rather than a human being, from a very young age.

  2. This connection between Cameron Russell and Pecola regarding body image is very interesting and true. Iconic images in popular culture such as Shirley Temple and famous models heavily influence the way girls see themselves. Many long to be tall, slender, have this color of eyes, this type of hair, etc. because the public sees this as the ideal body image for girls. It can have very negative consequences for girls who don’t like the way they are – from plastic surgery to eating disorders. This idea of “the perfect body” is destroying girls’ sense of self-worth, and it’s hazardous to their health.

  3. I think a lot of girls look for confirmation in their beauty and that’s why they seek to change their appearance. We all want to know that someone else views us as attractive. In today’s society, the media portrays having a bigger butt is what all women should strive to achieve. I think its very sad to see the lengths people would go through to achieve such standards of beauty. It is important that while girls are growing through the stage of transforming into womanhood, to accept who they are and find their own beauty. Therefore, I feel like the media should diversify it’s image portrayal to represent the everyday girls instead of the always photo-finished girls.

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