Bodily Knowledge: Learning about Equity and Justice with Adolescent Girls

Bodily Knowledge: Learning about Equity and Justice with Adolescent Girls

Bodily Knowledge: Learning about Equity and Justice with Adolescent Girls

Bodily Knowledge: Learning about Equity and Justice with Adolescent Girls

Synopsis

"Bodily Knowledge is a story of how four adolescent girls constructed the meanings of their bodies. It is a story of oppression and resistance, voice and silence. It is a story of how our culture shapes girls' desires and distracts girls from becoming healthy people who pursue significant goals. Lastly, it is an expression of the girls' hopefulness - of their collective belief in the value of efforts to create a better world in which all children might have opportunities to grow up healthy and respected. Bodily Knowledge tells these stories in terms of the girls' analyses of fashion, their desires to be noticed and accepted by others, their concerns about issues of race and racism, and our own commitments to nurturing critique and agency through curriculum and activist research." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Sitting with my 13-year-old girlfriends under the patio at James Monroe Junior High School, in my little blue knickers and my white, blue, and yellow pinstriped blouse, I opened my lunch and took out a lemon yogurt and a half of grapefruit. Lunchtime in junior high took on a new meaning that autumn day, for that was the day dieting became part of my world. My friends and I sat together that day chatting about how much weight we needed to lose and how we should go about reaching our goals. Even now that conversation remains vivid in my memory. At the time I probably weighed no more than 90 pounds, but somehow dieting seemed compelling as a topic of conversation and as a practice through which we could strengthen the bonds we'd begun to forge. My friends were important to me; if they thought they were “fat, ” then I must be, too.

A few years later, I experienced a different group of friends. Our weight loss practices were more severe. To aid in our spurts of starvation, some of us would take diet pills and exercise many times a day. Others just took periodic trips to the restroom to vomit. I guess I was one of the more fortunate ones. I had always had an embodied fear of throwing up, so it never became a weight loss strategy for me, even though at the time I wished it were.

Throughout high school our bodies were often the center of attention, both for us and for others. My friends and I spent hours together and alone engaging in activities we hoped would make us look better. Yet there always seemed to be something wrong with what our bodies looked like—something that we ultimately interpreted as a fundamental flaw in who we were as people. Boys gawked in the name of “fun” and teased us about various body parts. We girls, on the other hand, did not directly tease, but rather we critiqued and criticized other girls' bodies. We snickered about so-and-so's big legs, or so-and-so's fat butt. While we were . . .

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