Body Image: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice

By Thomas F. Cash; Thomas Pruzinsky | Go to book overview

7
Feminist Perspectives
and Objectified Body Consciousness

NITA MARY MCKINLEY

Feminist social critique has historically pointed out how the body has served as a locus of control in women's lives. Current feminist theory contends that women's normative body dissatisfaction is not a function of individual pathology but a systematic social phenomenon. In this chapter, I review this feminist theory, outline the use of this theory to develop a measure of women's body experience, report empirical evidence supporting this theory, and make suggestions for future research and prevention of negative body experience.


FEMINIST PERSPECTIVES:
THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF THE BODY

Feminist theorists have found the social construction perspective useful in understanding women's body experience and its relationship to gendered power relations. This perspective focuses on how societies create meaning. For example, Western societies construct a duality between mind and body, and women are associated with the body and men with the mind. This allocation presumably occurs because of women's reproductive function, a "truth" that ignores the fact that many men are also reproductive and not all women are. Western societies also define men's bodies as the standard against which women's bodies are judged, and women's bodies are constructed as deviant in comparison. This meaning can be observed by exam

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