Self-Perceptions of Older Women in the Age of the Waif

by Kate Angell

Note: The present paper is a synopsis of my college thesis, written over a seven-month period from 2005-2006. While editing the thesis for publication in RE/VISIONIST, I reflected that some of the material from this study has the potential to be outdated. As a social scientist, my immediate rationalization was to delve into articles published in the past five years and consequently update the study. However, I decided against this option, and chose to submit it to RE/VISIONIST as a historical document reflecting inhabitants of a very specific temporal and social location – New England senior women of the mid-2000s.

Attribution: “old woman” by Lauren Gledhill

Over the past couple decades, numerous psychological studies have been conducted to examine whether the exposure of girls and young women to images of thin, glamorized women in popular media, such as Glamour and Cosmopolitan magazines, results in disordered eating and/or poor self-regard. Some researchers (Champion & Furnham, 1999; Cusumano & Thompson, 1997; Martin & Kennedy, 1993) maintain that this particular relationship does not lead young women to internalize these socially imposed norms.  However, other studies have concluded the opposite, positing that exposure to such photographs can cause an increase in body dissatisfaction, depression, and low self-esteem (Morrison, Kalin, & Morrison, 2004; Pinhas, Toner, Ali, Garfinkel, & Stuckless, 1999; Turner, Hamilton, Jacobs, Angood, & Dwyer, 1997).

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Act Like A Lady, Think Like An Industry: A Critique of Self-Help(ism)

by Alexandria Linn


In the midst of deconstructing some notion regarding identity politics (or something along that matter), I received a call from my mother. Upon answering the phone I was promptly instructed to turn on the TV. Apparently, there was a “town hall” meeting for the “community” of black women in which black comedians and actors were to inform us on why we can’t land “good black brotha’s.” After turning to the program and reading the title (which read something along the lines of “Black Town Hall: Why Successful Black Women Can’t Get A Successful Black Brother”) I sighed deeply to ensure my mother that I was both thoroughly annoyed at the title and utterly exhausted with the subject in general. Continue reading

Fat Porn Breaking Beauty Ideals

by Monica Stancu


In The Desirable Body, Bound and Gagged and Sex for Sale, Jon Stratton, Laura Kipnis and Ron Weitzer offer a critical analysis of the commodification of the body, especially the female body within the capitalist American society. Thanks to the advent of mass reproduction techniques such as photography and video, the public can buy easy access to images of female sexuality. The female body has been transformed into a spectacle for the male gaze in exchange for money. Furthermore, these new technologies have served to promote and impose ideals of beauty by transforming women into docile bodies whose social and financial success depends on being able to conform to these standards.

However, pornography can also be used as a tool to cater to the people whose tastes and bodies do not reflect mainstream standards. “Fat porn” is a form of sexual expression through which non-conforming bodies are celebrated. For instance, the website http://www.porncity.net included the self-portrait of a naked chubby woman. While she may be ignored or stigmatized because her body type does not conform to contemporary ideals of beauty, in the virtual world, her body is potentially desirable. In fact, the word “fat” is not used: instead she is described in more positive terms: she is called a vixen with “naughty curves” and a “huge rack.” Moreover, the website where more of her pictures are posted is called www.mebeautiful.com. Continue reading

Kirstie Alley’s Big Life

I’ve always been fascinated with the way our culture conflates nutritional health with the shape of one’s body. This cultural myth has facilitated the proliferation of diet and weight loss products and services accompanied by popular culture and mass media’s reinforcement of the thin ideal. After reading Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, I decided to take a new approach to thinking about this issue. Kirstie Alley’s new reality TV series, “Kirstie Alley’s Big Life” will focus on her attempt to shed pounds and regain her self-esteem after she lost weight and gained it back again, appearing on “Oprah” both times to talk about the result. Far from her place as the spokeswoman of Jenny Craig, comments like “Fat ass. Turn around so I can shoot you,” from paparazzi have pushed her back into the public to serve as a spectacle and example for how people should discipline themselves. Continue reading