Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Becoming Women

Becoming Women: The Embodied Self in Image Culture

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 408
  • Book Info
    Becoming Women
    Book Description:

    BecomingWomenoffers a thoughtful examination of the search for identity in an image-oriented world. That search is told through the experiences of a group of women who came of age in the wake of second and third wave feminism, featuring voices from marginalized and misrepresented groups.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8540-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Psychology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction: Searching for Identity in Image Culture
    (pp. 3-30)

    For girls coming of age in consumerist, individualist, and media-driven cultures, the body has become an important identity project. A key medium of self-making, many girls and women also experience their body as a significant obstacle and a source of distress. Studies conducted in wealthy nations show how girls as young as six already express dissatisfaction with their bodies (Irving, 2000; Ricciardelli & McCabe, 2001). More and more adolescents in the Western world suffer from eating problems, including 27 per cent of Canadian middle-school girls who report disordered eating (Jones, Bennett, Olmsted, Lawson, & Rodin, 2001) and 60 per cent...

  6. Chapter One In the Shadow of Difference
    (pp. 31-60)

    Most people assume that sex is a biological feature of bodies whereas gender is a psychic feature of selves interacting with societies. Yet the “becoming of woman” is a complex cultural story. To tell it, this chapter offers a cultural mini-narrative of how “woman” was created in Western history through processes of othering as well as through sexing and gendering bodies.

    Julia Kristeva, a French feminist philosopher, calls the abject the “twisted braid” (1982, p. 3) of fear and fascination that people feel when they encounter bodily fluids, serious illness, open wounds, and even corpses. According to Kristeva, these things...

  7. Chapter Two In a Girl’s Body
    (pp. 61-95)

    When recalling early memories, most women in this study described how bodies were vehicles for their active exploration of the world. While all remembered playing with gender, they also related the serious work of coming to know their gendered selves. For many, the spontaneity and freedom-to-be (captured in figures 2.1 and 2.2) were eclipsed, even in childhood, by messages about the type of girl they could be. This chapter relies on women’s accounts to make visible something that seems so natural most people don’t call it into question: how the social process ofbecoming genderedenlists girls to act on...

  8. Chapter Three Invisible in Full View
    (pp. 96-120)

    There are many misconceptions about and few positive portrayals of women and men living with physical differences and disabilities. From the disabled victim or disfigured villain in popular films to stark photographs in medical textbooks, what exists outside the norm is often seen as lacking in value (Walters & Griffis, n.d.). In Canada, an estimated 14.3 per cent of people live with a disability, including 3.4 per cent of children and 17 per cent of adult women (Bélair & Statistics Canada, 2007). Despite growing dialogue about diversity, public discourse still centres on disability as something to be shunned or overcome....

  9. Chapter Four The Student Body
    (pp. 121-158)

    This chapter attends to “school lessons” about size and race, by shedding light on how schooling experiences influenced the meanings women in this study gave to their physicalities, which in turn informed their sense of identity. The messages they received about race and weight from the early 1970s to the early 1990s reveal a body curriculum, the formal learning and informal exchanges that were integral to shaping participants’ understanding and assessments of their own and others’ bodies at home and, especially, at school (Rice, 2007). Researchers refer to this curriculum as “biopedagogy” or “body pedagogies” – the loose collection of information,...

  10. Chapter Five Puberty as Sexual Spectacle
    (pp. 159-185)

    When is one a girl? When is one a woman? What roles do biology and society play in the transition from girlhood to womanhood? Contrary to conventional wisdom, what makes a girl a woman is not puberty, or the development of sex characteristics like genitals and breasts – girls become women through the social reading of their pubertal bodies as womanly. What makes this process fraught is not the raging hormones said to trigger emotional and physical turmoil. Nor is it girls’ too-early development, alleged to amplify their sexual danger. Instead, sexual maturation is psychologically and socially difficult because the meanings...

  11. Chapter Six A Body That Looks, and Feels, Like a Woman
    (pp. 186-233)

    In North American society, puberty is understood primarily as a biological process in which a child’s body undergoes physical changes to become an adult woman or man capable of reproduction. Yet, as we saw in chapter 5, the experience is profoundly social and cultural. As their bodies undergo the physical changes of pubescence – developing breasts and body fat, growing body hair, and getting their periods – girls are viewed as moving from the androgynous body of childhood to a body culturally coded as womanly. Many look forward to the expanded possibilities they associate with becoming women but girls also encounter contradictory...

  12. Chapter Seven In the Mirror of Beauty Culture
    (pp. 234-266)

    For most of us, mirrors are the oldest and most ubiquitous image-making technology in our day-to-day lives.¹ When reflecting surfaces became a staple of stores and homes in the late nineteenth century, images of their bodies for the first time became accessible to women and girls (Brumberg, 1997). Before the Victorian period only the wealthy could afford mirrors. In the sixteenth century, for example, a small glass mirror framed in precious metals and jewels cost the equivalent of a luxury car in today’s currency (Melchior-Bonnet, 2001). Technological advancements in the nineteenth century saw massive increases in mirror production and installation...

  13. Conclusion: Out of the Shadows
    (pp. 267-288)

    This book tells the story of becoming woman in image culture. I have explored the ways that the first generation coming of age against an onslaught of images have responded to the messages they received and constructed a sense of body and self through and against the images handed to them. I now turn to survey opportunities and barriers for making change individually, socially, and symbolically, through culture.

    Feminists since the 1970s have advocated consciousness raising as a key strategy for challenging beauty codes that inhibit women’s freedom and confidence. During the second wave, many argued that developing a critical...

  14. Appendix A: Participant Profiles
    (pp. 289-308)
  15. Appendix B: Interview Guide and Advertising Flyer
    (pp. 309-314)
  16. References
    (pp. 315-366)
  17. Index
    (pp. 367-396)