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Body Image Essay, Research Paper

BEAUTY has always preoccupied women.

But over the past two centuries, as women

have gained more rights, the association of

self-worth and appearance has intensified.

“There has been this enormous change from girls

being principally concerned with good works to now

being concerned with good looks as a measure of their

self-worth,” says Joan Jacobs Brumberg, author of “The

Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls”

and “Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa.”

Brumberg attributes the

transformation in girls’

behaviors to changes in

technology, the coming

of mirrors, modern

hygiene, the rise of

consumerism and

popular culture.

Attitudes towards

attractiveness and

ideals of beauty “have

changed drastically

over the past

centuries,” she says.

This timeline traces

many of the body

trends leading up to

today’s ultra-thin



Black magazines like Ebony

preach the advantages of lighter


Training bras and girdles become


Marilyn Monroe epitomizes

shifting beauty standards, with a

change in focus from weight to

large breasts.

1959: Phentermine (Phen), an

appetite suppressant that

increases the body’s metabolism,

is approved by the Federal Drug

Administration to help speed weight loss.


Skirt hems rise and pants become acceptable for


Dieting becomes popular. Weight Watchers is founded

in 1963, recruits 500,000 members and grosses $5.5

million in revenues.

Doctors prescribe amphetamines to

women seeking weight loss.

1963: “The Feminine Mystique” by

Betty Friedan ignites the modern

American women’s movement.

1965: The average fashion model

weighs eight percent less than the average American


The National Organization for

Women, advocating women’s

rights, is founded in America.

1967: British fashion model

Twiggy arrives in America

weighing 91 pounds on a

5-foot-7-inch frame, triggering a

shift in average sizes for fashion


1968: Feminists burn bras, make up and high heels

to protest the Miss America beauty pageant.


The toned look becomes popular, contrasting the

former thin ideal. The trend continues into the 1980s

with exercise tapes promoting fitness.

1971: The First serious look at images of females in

advertising found four stereotypes:

woman’s place is in the home

women do not make important decisions or do

important things

women are dependent on men and need their


men regard women as sex objects

1973: “Our Bodies,

Ourselves,” is published by

the Boston Women’s Health

Collective, encouraging

women to take charge of their

bodies and their health.

Fenfluarmine (Fen), which

suppresses appetite by

lowering levels of the brain

chemical serotonin, is

approved by the FDA.

1977: Liquid-protein diets

are banned temporarily after three deaths are reported

during the decade.

Jane Fonda’s “Workout Book” epitomizes the fitness


Liposuction is imported from France and approved in

America. Twenty deaths are reported during its first six

years in America.

1981:”Fat is a Feminist

Issue,” by Susie Orbach

argues that food and fat are

tied up with gender and


1983: Singer Karen

Carpenter dies at age 32 from

anorexia nervosa, bringing

eating disorders to America’s



Radiance, a magazine for larger

women, is started.

1987: The average model

weighs 23 percent less than the

average American woman.


Five million American women suffer from eating


1991: “The Beauty Myth: How

Images of Beauty are Used Against

Women,” by Naomi Wolf, is a


1995: The U.S. Centers for

Disease Control estimates 11 million

women have eating disorders.

1996: The diet drug Redux is approved by the FDA

as an appetite suppressant for obese individuals.

1997: Diet drugs Redux and fenfluramine are

voluntarily taken off the market at the request of the

FDA, citing studies reporting heart valve disorders.

Mode, a glossy fashion magazine for women “size 12

and above”, wins Ad Week’s Start-up of the Year award

for business performance and innovation.

1999: Cellansene, a herbal remedy made of

gingko, biloba, sweet clover and grapeseed extracts,

claimed to reduce cellulite, comes to America from


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