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?The Flesh And The Devil? By Kim Chernin Essay, Research Paper

Today young women are greatly influenced by the pressures to have

the ideal body type. In “The Flesh and the Devil” Kim Chernin discusses

how American cultural values and the concept of the ideal body type

influence women. Chernin’s attitude towards this is negative, she

believes the thin body types shown in advertising and media lead

women to see themselves as not good enough. She tells how women

strive for the ideal body so much that it has a terrible impact on their

lives (366-373). This is true in many aspects of young women’s lives

today and can be seen in everyday society.

In high school is was easy seeing the huge impact our cultural values

have on young women. In the locker room while changing for gym you

can hear a lot about how the girls feel about themselves. Chernin talks

about an experience in a locker room, “The woman in the locker room

who swings out at her image in the mirror, the little girls who are afraid

of the coming of adolescence to their bodies, the woman who admires the

slenderness of the anorexic girl” (368). In the locker room I would hear

conversations where they would say how they thought they were so fat

and ugly and how they were so unhappy about their bodies. Some girls

didn’t even want to change in front of the others because they were so

embarrassed of their bodies. Also, they would talk about how they

wanted so desperately to have a body like a certain actress or model.

Another place at school where I saw young women suffering

themselves all because of the need to be thin was at lunch. At lunch

there were girls who would hardly eat a thing and others that didn’t eat

at all. When asked why they weren’t eating they would say it’s because

they aren’t hungry and some just told the truth and told us they were

trying to lose weight. There were poor girls who starved themselves

everyday just because they felt the need to look the “right” way. There

were a few that were known to be anorexic and bulimic. We saw them

everyday in school destroying their bodies, and for what reason? Just

because of the pressure society put on them to have the ideal body.

The effects of the cultural values of the ultimate body type can

somewhat be seen just by looking out the window of my own house.

Everyday there is an innumerable amount of people walking and

running in the streets. It seems as if everyday there are more people

passing by. Some of these people might be exercising to stay healthy, but

it can be assumed that the majority are doing it to lose weight. For

example, I am sure these two women I see out there every single day

running and sweating are doing so because they want to change their


One place where this emphasis on the thin body type can be seen a

great deal is on television. All you see on TV are skinny women who

have the ideal body. Models on commercials and other things are a main

example of this. Women see these models everywhere and want to look

like they do because they feel that is the only way to be accepted in

society. If women with all different body types were models and

depicted on TV as beautiful as well, then maybe there wouldn’t be such a

problem with young women not liking themselves the way they are.

Also on television, are all the exercise equipment and videos being

advertised. This shows how being thin is such a factor in peoples lives.

Women see these commercials and the people make it seem like having a

perfect body is so important in being happy in life and that being

overweight is wrong. Plus, convienatly all the people in the commercials

promoting the product have the ideal body type.

In conclusion, it is clear that the way the ideal female body type is

pushed on young women extremely influences their lives. It causes

them to dislike their own bodies so much they do just about anything to

change themselves. This ideal body type leads women to hurt

themselves trying to obtain it, and it seems the problem in this country

is growing with time. This tremendous problem is recognized by so

many people, so why are we not doing something to try and stop the

pressures put on young women to have perfect bodies?

Chernin, Kim. “The Flesh and the Devil.” The New Millenium Reader. 2nd

ed. Ed. Hirschberg, Stuart and Terry Hirschberg. New Jersey:

Prentice Hall, 2000. 366-373.

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