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The Body Project by Joan Jacobs Brumberg
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The Body Project

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The Body Project by Joan Jacobs Brumberg
Paperback $18.00
Sep 01, 1998 | ISBN 9780679735298

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    Sep 01, 1998 | ISBN 9780679735298

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  • Jun 09, 2010 | ISBN 9780307755742

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“Fascinating … riveting … Women and girls should read this fine book together.” —The New York Times Book Review

The Body Project is a very informative, interesting history of how girls were raised and perceived by themselves and others. Each chapter provides a concise chronology of events and mindsets of many different issues. The events throughout this century have provided girls with increased freedom and knowledge; however, it has also brought about more risky situations and possibly even more self-consciousness about their bodies and appearance. We, as school psychologists, play an important role in helping adolescent girls (and even preadolescent females) realize that their bodies are not the most important aspect of themselves. They should learn to be proud of their accomplishments, character, and intelligence, and that external beauty is not a reflection of who they are as human beings. This may not be an easy task, but we, along with the rest of society, need to take these small steps in order to attempt to make a difference. I would recommend this book to anyone who works with girls of any and all ages as it provides good insight into not only the past and present perceptions, but implications and recommendations for the future as well.” —The School Psychologist: A Publication of the New York Association of School Psychologists

Author Essay

A Message from the Author

America’s adolescent girls are in crisis. Growing up in a female body is more difficult today than ever before because girls’ bodies have changed and so has American society. Menstruation and sexual activity begin much earlier and there is also much greater emphasis on the body as a way of defining the self. Using intimate materials drawn from the unpublished diaries of American girls, The Body Project provides a lively and engaging story of how growing up as a girl has changed over the past one hundred years, and why the pressures on girls are now so intense.

Girls today grow up believing that "good looks"–rather than "good works"–are the highest form of female perfection. In the past, greater maternal involvment and more single sex groups, such as the Girl Scouts, supported the whole girl, placing greater emphasis on internal rather than external qualities. But in the twentieth century, that "protective umbrella" disappeared, popular culture became more powerful, and expectations about physical perfection increased so that American girls came to define themselves more and more through their bodies.

Today, the body has become most girls’ primary project, creating a degree of self-consciousness and dissatisfaction that is pervasive and dangerous, leading to the social and emotional problems identified by Carol Gilligan, Mary Pipher, and Peggy Orenstein. For everyone concerned with adolescent girls–parents, teachers, librarians, physicians, nurses, and mental health professionals–The Body Project is a "must" read because it puts so many contemporary adolescent issues in historical perspective.

A fascinating photo essay comprised of photographs, advertisements and postcards shows how girls and their bodies have changed since the nineteenth century. From corsets to body piercing, the book demonstrates how the preoccupation with the body has intensified and why adolescent girls and their bodies have born the brunt of social change in the twentieth century.

Although The Body Project acknowledges a problem, it is still an entertaining read because it evokes so many memories in the lives of girls and women–particularly personal milestones such as first periods, pimples, training bras, first dates, and sexual awakening. The Body Project is perfect for generating mother-daughter dialogue, and it is remarkable for its insight about what adolescent girls have gained and lost as American women shed the corset and the ideal of virginity for a new world of dieting and body sculpting, sexual freedom and self expression.

Joan Jacobs Brumberg

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