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Making Peace with Women’s Bodies

Margo Maine, Ph.D.

1999 Hardback 322 pp.,
Print ISBN: 9780936077345
Print list price: $15.00 USD

Real Women Have Bellies…
…so why do we try to hide them?

Dr. Margo Maine is angry. Angry about the unrelenting pressures on you to value your body more than the contribution you make to your family, workplace, and community. She calls these pressures “Body Wars.”

The Body Wars keep women “in their place,” they are systematic, institutionally sanctioned, and economically driven. If you’re obsessing about your appearance, weight, or cellulite- you’re not going to have the energy to write congress- or run for it!

In the U.S. an estimated eight million girls and women and one million boys and men have an eating disorder. To help heal them and arm the rest of us, Margo Maine, Ph.D. has written, Body Wars: Making Peace with Women’s Bodies, subtitled, An Activist’s Guide. Dr. Maine, a clinical psychologist who has been treating eating disorders for over 20 years, shows women and men how to break free from the messages around them. In Body Wars, she separates reality from hype, and science from myth to clearly explain the impact of a cultural and economic system that undermines self-worth, self-acceptance and self-control.


The Politically Correct form of Prejudice: Weightism

Dr. Maine challenges common perceptions that pass as reality. Dr. Maine notes that “obesity is still considered sinful, a rejection of the highly valued ethics of self-denial and self-control, particularly for women.” She reminds us, too, “in the mass media, large women generally appear only as objects of ridicule.” Ultimately, she says, “the message is, to be more, a female is expected to weigh less. But that message is wrong and must be combated.

Strategies for Change: Start with Yourself

For each battleground in the Body Wars, Dr. Maine offers ways to bring about change, which begins with you, for example:

  • Take a personal inventory of your own weightism. Recognize the messages you pass along to children, especially if you are a parent or teacher or both.

  • Pay attention to how companies, the media, and other institutions treat fat people.

  • Ask yourself if you think negatively about a women “who doesn’t keep herself up” or distrust a woman whom you see as too attractive?

  • Learn as much as you can about your body and what you can do to keep it healthy, no matter what your size.

  • Educate yourself about the facts of obesity and teach others. Challenge the physician who focuses on weight tables.

  • Once you begin to understand what drives your attitudes and behavior, you can reach out to the larger community. The Body Wars are fought in other areas, including plastic surgery, sports, ballet, education, women’s health issues, and violence against women. Dr. Maine addresses the challenge activists’ face in each area and strategies they can follow to win the war.

Body Wars: Men Enter the Fray

The battlefield that has long engaged women is ever increasingly drawing in men. Dr. Maine estimates that today one million men have been diagnosed with an eating disorder. More men than ever dislike some part of their bodies, and they’re taking drastic measures to feel better about it. In the 1990’s, the number of men undergoing lyposuction tripled and face lifts doubled. The most telling evidence that men are seriously hurt by body insecurity, Dr. Maine notes, is the gradual increase in anorexia and bulimia: from an estimated 1 in 20 cases about 10 years ago to as many as 1 in 12 today


Body Wars: Victory Ahead?

The most radical act you can take is liking yourself. Dr. Maine’s message is clear: we each need to assess how body images around us affect our relationships with others. Once we understand the impact of Body Wars in our lives, we can begin to help others turn this long, painful war into a peace that celebrates the individuality and gifts of each person.

Following is a list of the chapters in Body Wars:

  • The Challenge: Respecting Women’s Bodies

  • Weightism: The “Politically Correct” Form of Prejudice

  • Obesity: Fact or Fiction?

  • Dieting: Deceit, Danger and Death

  • The Pursuit of Beauty: Empowering or Disempowering?

  • Advertising: Guerilla Warfare

  • Magazines: Propaganda Machines

  • Fashion: Real Women Have Bellies

  • Models and Beauty Pageants: Ugly Business

  • Plastic Surgery: Self-Improvement or Self-Harm?

  • Violence Against Women: The Deadliest Body War

  • Ageism: When Beauty, Wisdom, and Experience Get Old

  • Women’s Health Care: An Oxymoron?

  • Kids on Diets: An Early Start for Body Wars

  • Barbie Dolls & Body Image: Toys Are Us

  • Schools: A Problem or Solution?

  • Sports: Just Another War Zone?

  • Ballet: The Olympics of Body Wars

  • Men: Targets and Teammates

Body Wars contains many practical but thought-provoking resources like:

  • 25 Ways to Love Your Body

  • What Really Happens When We Diet

  • Active Advertising Acknowledgement

  • 10 Ideas to Fight Fashionism

  • How Does Violence Against Women Affect You

  • Ten Tactics for Healthy Eating

  • Twelve Strategies to Make Your Home a Refuge From Body Wars

  • When Exercise is Excess-ercise

  • Mom and Pop Sports Attitude Quiz

  • “Ten Shoulds” for Dance Teachers

  • Questions for Men Wanting to Make Peace with Their Bodies

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