In Search of Perfection; Play Looks at Women's Obsession with Body Image

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 22, 2005 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

In Search of Perfection; Play Looks at Women's Obsession with Body Image


On one end of the spectrum, you have the pneumatic dimensions of Pamela Anderson. On the other are uber-thin Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie and Cameron Diaz. Is it any wonder the average American teenage girl thinks the ideal body type is a Q-tip with a D cup?

According to sociologist Joan Jacobs Brumberg, 53 percent of all 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies. By age 17, that number increases to 78 percent.

Age does not necessarily bring body wisdom. A recent poll in Ladies' Home Journal found that most women would rather be hit by a truck than gain weight. Other findings revealed that 75 percent were more afraid of spending a day at the beach in a thong than having a root canal.

Why modern American females hate their bodies and strive to conform to impossible standards of perfection is the subject of the new play "The Body Project," based on Miss Brumberg's 1998 book of the same name. Written and directed by Leslie Jacobson and Vanessa Thomas, the play examines through seven characters of all shapes and sizes how body image has become an obsession for most women, who try to minimize or "perfect" themselves through extreme makeovers, plastic surgery, constant dieting, and bingeing and purging.

"As a woman, I am both fascinated and distressed by the phenomenon of 'lookism,' where everything depends on how a person looks and how much they weigh," Miss Jacobson says. "Everyone seems to be dissatisfied with their bodies - everyone, no matter what their age or size."

She saw it with her own daughters, now ages 16 and 22, who measured themselves against the media image of how young girls should look and decided they were inadequate despite their mother's efforts to raise them in a body-positive home.

"My older daughter had a weight problem, and my 16-year-old is naturally thin, but she is no happier with her body than her sister. I find that heartbreaking," Miss Jacobson says, noting that she, too, is not immune to those feelings.

"I am a participant in the struggle, since I have worn a size 6 and a size 18 and everything in-between," Miss Jacobson adds.

"But when I was at my slimmest, there was a period where the word 'sandwich' was not a part of my vocabulary and I had to diet constantly and be vigilant in order to stay a certain size. I began to question that - why, as women gain more power and position in society, there is more pressure for them to take up less space."

Female movers and shakers are practically required to be a size 0 in today's business and entertainment worlds. "There is even a size 00 now, which I guess is even smaller than a 0. What is size zero? It means you are not there," Miss Jacobson says.

Of course, the ideal for some body parts today would make Marilyn Monroe a candidate for a Wonderbra. "The big thing now for sweet 16 and high school graduation gifts is breast implants," Miss Jacobson says.

"When I asked some of these mothers about the reasoning behind this, they said, 'I want my daughter to have more confidence in college.' As if bigger breasts give you real confidence. This pressure for young girls to be sex objects all the time is very disturbing."

When writing the play, Miss Jacobson and Miss Thomas went to college campuses and conducted improvisational sessions with young women about body image.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

In Search of Perfection; Play Looks at Women's Obsession with Body Image


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?