Beauty and the Beast

Topics: Female body shape, Physical attractiveness, Body shape Pages: 15 (5599 words) Published: September 17, 2009
Elayne A. Saltzberg and Joan C. Chrisler
Beauty Is the Beast: Psychological Effects of the Pursuit of the Perfect Female Body Women: A Feminist Perspective edited by Jo Freeman. Fifth Edition. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1995. 306-315.

Elayne Saltzberg (Daniels) was a postdoctoral clinical psychology fellow at Yale University School of Medicine. Her major interests include body image and eating disorders. She is an eating disorder specialist with a practice in Massachusetts.

Joan C. Chrisler is Professor of Psychology at Connecticut College. She is the author of From Menarche to Menopause: The Female Body in Feminist Therapy (2004) and co-editor of Arming Athena: Career Strategies for Women in Academe (1998) and Charting a New Course for Feminist Psychology (2002).

Saltzberg and Chrisler discuss the ideal of the perfect female body, one that varies across cultures; changes over time; and is impacted by racism, class prejudice, and ableism. Because it is a fluctuating ideal that women strive for and few are able to attain, failure and disappointment are inevitable. Striving to attain the ideal takes its toil on women in the form of physical pain, health problems, medical procedures, costs of beauty products, time and effort, and damaging psychological effects. They argue that there are detrimental consequences for women who fail to reach the ideal: being punished for social transgressions, fired from jobs for being too old and unattractive, and discrimination in hiring and promotion. Saltzberg and Chrisler advocate that women become more aware of the effects on their bodies and their lives of pursuing ideals of the perfect female body.

Ambrose Bierce (1958) once wrote, “To men a man is but a mind. Who cares what face he carries or what he wears? But woman’s body is the woman.” Despite the societal changes achieved since Bierce’s time, his statement remains true. Since the height of the feminist movement in the early 1970s, women have spent more money than ever before on products and treatments designed to make them beautiful. Cosmetic sales have increased annually to reach $18 billion in 1987 (“Ignoring the economy. . . ,” 1989), sales of women’s clothing averaged $103 billion per month in 1990 (personal communication, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, 1992), dieting has become a $30-billion-per-year industry (Stoffel, 1989), and women spent $1.2 billion on cosmetic surgery in 1990 (personal communication, American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, 1992). The importance of beauty has apparently increased even as women are reaching for personal freedoms and economic rights undreamed of by our grandmothers. The emphasis on beauty may be a way to hold onto a feminine image while shedding feminine roles. Attractiveness is prerequisite for femininity but not for masculinity (Freedman, 1986). The word beauty always refers to the female body. Attractive male bodies are described as “handsome,” a word derived from “hand” that refers as much to action as appearance (Freedman, 1986). Qualities of achievement and strength accompany the term handsome; such attributes are rarely employed in the description of attractive women and certainly do not accompany the term beauty, which refers only to a decorative quality. Men are instrumental; women are ornamental. Beauty is a most elusive commodity. Ideas of what is beautiful vary across cultures and change over time (Fallon, 1990). Beauty cannot be quantified or objectively measured; it is the result of the judgments of others. The concept is difficult to define, as it is equated with different, sometimes contradictory, ideas. When people are asked to define beauty, they tend to mention abstract, personal qualities rather than external, quantifiable ones (Freedman, 1986; Hatfield & Sprecher, 1986).The beholder’s perceptions and cognitions influence the degree of attractiveness at least as much as do the qualities of the beheld....

References: Adams, Gerald R., & Crossman, Sharyn M. (1978). Physical attractiveness: A cultural imperative. New York: Libra.
Adams, Gerald R., & Huston, Ted L. (1975). Social perception of middle-aged persons varying in physical attractiveness. Developmental Psychology, 11, 657-58.
Baker, Nancy C. (1984). The beauty trap: Exploring woman’s greatest obsession. New York: Franklin Watts.
Bell, Rudolph M. (1985). Holy anorexia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Berman, Phyllis W., O’Nan, Barbara A., & Floyd, Wayne. (1981). The double standard of aging and the social situation: Judgments of attractiveness of the middle-aged woman. Sex Roles, 7, 87-96.
Berscheid, Ellen, & Walster, Elaine. (1974). Physical attractiveness. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 7, 158-215.
Bierce, Ambrose. (1958). The devil’s dictionary. New York: Dover.
Brain, R. (1979). The decorated body. New York: Harper & Row,
Brownell, Kelly
Brumberg, Joan J. (1988). Fasting girls. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Canning, H., & Mayer, J. (1966). Obesity: An influence on high school performance. Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 20, 352-54.
Caskey, Noelle. (1986). Interpreting anorexia nervosa. In Susan R. Suleiman (Ed.), The female body in western culture (pp. 175-89). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Chapkis, Wendy. (1986). Beauty secrets: Women and the politics of appearance. Boston: South End Press.
Chrisler, Joan C. (1989). Should feminist therapists do weight loss counseling? Women & Therapy, 8(3), 31-37.
Clifford, Edward. (1971). Body satisfaction in adolescence. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 33, 119-25.
Davies, Elizabeth, & Furnham, Adrian. (1986). The dieting and body shape concerns of adolescent females. Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 21, 417-28.
Deutsch, Francine M., Zalenski, Carla M., & Clark, Mary E. (1986). Is there a double standard of aging? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 16, 771-85.
Dion, Kenneth K. (1972). Physical attractiveness and evaluation of children’s transgressions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24, 285-90.
Dion, Kenneth, Berscheid, Ellen, & Walster [Hatfield], Elaine. (1972). What is beautiful is good. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24, 285-90.
Dworkin, Sari H., & Kerr, Barbara A. (1987). Comparison of interventions for women experiencing body image problems. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 34, 136-40.
Fallon, April. (1990). Culture in the mirror: Sociocultural determinants of body image. In Thomas Cash & Thomas Pruzinsky (Eds.), Body images: Development, deviance, and change (pp. 80-109). New York: Guilford Press.
Faludi, Susan. (1991). Backlash: The undeclared war against American women. New York: Crown Publishers.
Fitzgerald, Faith T. (1981). The problem of obesity. Annual Review of Medicine, 32, 221-31.
Freedman, Rita. (1984). Reflections on beauty as it relates to health in adolescent females. In Sharon Golub (Ed.), Health care of the female adolescent (pp. 29-45). New York: Haworth Press.
Freedman, Rita. (1986). Beauty bound. Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath.
Freedman, Rita. (1988). Bodylove: Learning to like our looks -- and ourselves. New York: Harper & Row.
Greene, Beverly. (1992). Still here: A perspective on psychotherapy with African American women. In Joan C. Chrisler & Doris Howard (Eds.), New directions in feminist psychology: Practice, theory, and research (pp. 13-25). New York: Springer.
Hall, L., & Cohn, L. (1988). Bulimia: A guide to recovery Carlsbad, CA: Gurze Books.
Hamburger, A. C. (1988, May). Beauty quest. Psychology Today, 22, 28-32. Hatfield, Elaine, & Sprecher, Susan. (1986). Mirror, mirror: The importance of looks in everyday life. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Herman, Peter, & Polivy, Janet. (1983). Breaking the diet habit. New York: Basic Books.
Ignoring the economy, cosmetic firms look to growth. (1989, July 13). Standard and Poor’s Industry Surveys, 1, 37-38.
Kano, Susan. (1985). Making peace with food: A step-by-step guide to freedom from diet/weight conflict. Danbury, CT: Amity.
Karris, Lambros. (1977). Prejudice against obese renters. Journal of Social Psychology, 101, 159-60.
Lakoff, Robin T., & Scherr, Raquel L. (1984). Face value: The politics of beauty. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Landy, David, & Aronson, Elliot. (1969). The influence of the character of the criminal and his victim on the decisions of simulated jurors. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 5, 141-52.
Larkin, Judith, & Pines, Harvey. (1979). No fat person need apply. Sociology of Work and Occupations, 6, 312-27.
Lewis, Diane K. (1977). A response to inequality: Black women, racism, and sexism. Signs, 3(2), 339-61.
Maddox, G., & Liederman, V. (1969). Overweight as a social disability with medical implications. Journal of Medical Education, 44, 214-20.
Miller, E. (1969). Body image, physical beauty, and color among Jamaican adolescents. Social and Economic Studies, 18(1), 72-89.
Moore, M. E., Stunkard, Albert, & Srole, L. (1962). Obesity, social class, and mental illness. Journal of the American Medical Association, 181, 138-42.
Morris, Bernardine. (1988, July 26). Paris couture: Opulence lights a serious mood. New York Times, p. B8.
Neal, Angela, & Wilson, Midge. (1989). The role of skin color and features in the black community: Implications for black women and therapy. Clinical Psychology Review, 9, 323-33.
Okazawa-Rey, Margo, Robinson, Tracy, & Ward, Janie V. (1987). Black women and the politics of skin color and hair. Women & Therapy, 6(1/2), 89-102.
Pliner, Patricia, Chaiken, Shelly, & Flett, Gordon L. (1990). Gender differences in concern with body weight and physical appearance over the life span. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 16, 263-73.
Reis, Harry T., Nezlek, John, & Wheeler, Ladd. (1980). Physical attractiveness in social interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 604-17.
Rodin, Judith, Silberstein, Lisa, & Streigel-Moore, Ruth. (1985). Women and weight: A normative discontent. In Theo B. Sonderegger (Ed.), Nebraska symposium on motivation: Psychology and gender (pp. 267-307). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Rosen, James C, Saltzberg, Elayne A., & Srebnik, Debra. (1989). Cognitive behavior therapy for negative body image. Behavior Therapy, 20, 393-404.
Rosenblatt, J., & Stencel, S. (1982). Weight control: A national obsession. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly.
Rothblum, Esther D. (1992). The stigma of women’s weight: Social and economic realities. Feminism & Psychology, 2(1), 61-73.
Rothblum, Esther D., Miller, Carol, & Gorbutt, Barbara. (1988). Stereotypes of obese female job applicants. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 7, 277-83.
Saltzberg, Elayne A. (1990). Exercise participation and its correlates to body awareness and self-esteem. Unpublished master’s thesis, Connecticut College, New London, CT.
Schwartz, Hillel. (1986). Never satisfied: A cultural history of diets, fantasies, and fat. New York: Free Press.
Sorensen, Gloria, & Pechacek, Terry F. (1987). Attitudes toward smoking cessation among men and women. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 10, 129-38.
Stoffel, Jennifer. (1989, November 26). What’s new in weight control: A market mushrooms as motivations change. New York Times, p. C17.
Thompson, J. Kevin. (1986, April). Larger than life. Psychology Today, pp. 41-44.
Walker, Alice. (1990). Beauty: When the other dancer is the self. In Evelyn C. White (Ed.), The black women’s health book: Speaking for ourselves (pp. 280-87). Seattle: Seal Press.
Walster, Elaine, Aronson, Vera, Abrahams, Darcy, & Rottman, Leon. (1966). Importance of physical attractiveness in dating behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 508-16.
Wernick, Mark, & Manaster, Guy J. (1984). Age and the perception of age and attractiveness. Gerontologist, 24, 408-14.
Williams, Juanita H. (1985). Psychology of women: Behavior in a biosocial context. New York: Norton.
[ii] Statistics indicate that women are far more likely than men to be diagnosed as depressed. The ratio is at least 3:1 (Williams, 1985).
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Beauty and the Beast Research Paper
  • the beauty and the beast Essay
  • Essay about Beauty and the Beast
  • Beauty And The Beast Essay
  • The Beauty and the Beast Essay
  • Beauty and the Beast Essay
  • beauty and beast Essay
  • Beauty and the Beast (Beast POV) Essay

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free