The body image of women is constantly evolving, starting from early childhood and continuing throughout life. Childhood is a time of great plasticity, as children themselves are constantly influenced by the world around them as they embark on the journey of finding who they are. As children grow up, ideas and views are shaped by their experiences, leaving their brains vulnerable to a wide variety of thoughts: some good, some bad. Kelly Hager’s Keywords essay on Body explains how “children’s culture reveals an overwhelming interest in describing, depicting, and reproducing images of the body” (Hager, 17). A child’s view of their body carries throughout womanhood, as they grow up with the hopes of becoming strong, confident women. The effect that society has on the body image of children and women is one that is very strong, especially in the case of sexual assault. Sexual assault in itself holds the power of completely stripping the confidence and strength of one’s body image, whether this be in a young child or a grown woman. The powerful effect that sexual assault holds on the body image is explicitly shown in many areas, two prominent examples being in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and the Me Too movement.
Body image and identity is a major theme in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. The text focuses on this theme through the molestation of Frieda, who was sexually assaulted by Mr. Henry. When Frieda was assaulted, she was soon after told that she had been “ruined”. This description shines light on the greatly undermined connection between sexual assault and the purity of one’s body. Although Frieda was subjected to an awful act of sexual violence, her emotions were quickly disregarded. Her innocent mind was left to ponder what it meant to be “ruined”, inevitably having a great effect on her view of herself and more importantly, her body. Unfortunately, this effect of sexual assault on the body image of girls and women has become of unsettling prevalence. In present day society, the emotional and psychological effects of sexual assault cases are often overlooked, as society tends to focus more on how to prevent another occurrence, rather than focusing on what already happened. Women are often too scared to speak up about what has happened to them due to their fear of how society will react, and in doing so, delay the education that society needs in order to understand how big of a problem sexual assault really is. The prevalence of sexual assault cases and the lack of confidence to speak up about them gave rise to the Me Toomovement, which began in October of 2017. The movement began as a hashtag on Twitter in an attempt to educate the general public about the prevalence of sexual assault, and give women a voice to speak up about their stories. The Me Too movement quickly gained widespread attention, as tens of thousands of people replied with their stories after the hashtag was used. The movement has been extremely successful in not only shining light on the problem of sexual assault, but also in giving women the power and confidence to speak up and gain emotional and psychological support as they recover. In hopes of protecting and supporting the body image of girls and women, it is vital to create a public discourse around sexual assault in order to create a widespread support network that will help women overcome these tragic events.