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The Empire of Images in Our World of Bodies”


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Caroline Patterson

ENC 1102 Section: 5967

Due: Friday, September 21, 2007
The Empire of Images in Our World of Bodies”

By: Susan Bordo

“The Empire of Images in Our World of Bodies” is an article in which Susan Bordo expresses her concern with the emphasis placed upon looks in today’s society. Bordo reveals that although people may believe the media plays no role in altering their self-image, quite the contrary is true. She captivates the reader’s attention by establishing relationships between today’s most famous celebrities and trends and the significance of maintaining the ideal body image. Bordo proves her theory that the media heavily influences perspectives of body image by discussing dramatic increases in cosmetic surgery, eating disorders, and gender stereotyping.

Firstly, Bordo clarifies that the idea of maintaining a youthful look when entering one’s middle ages is not as easy as portrayed by the media. For example, today’s celebrities such as Goldie Hawn and Greta Van Susteren may look remarkable for their age, but what the media fails to harp on is the fact that their natural, youthful appearance is ,in fact, not natural at all. Cosmetic surgery has been a known, yet hushed, secret of celebrities for years. However, Bordo explains that cosmetic procedures are becoming a normalcy for non-celebrities today wishing to prolong or create flawless looks. In addition to being accepted by the media, feminists view cosmetic surgery in a positive light as well. Bordo begrudgingly states that the feministic approach to cosmetic procedures is that it allows women to change themselves for the better, in a way to make them feel more secure and confident.

In addition to cosmetic surgery, the stress of having the perfect body caused by the media has led to an increase in the number of women with eating disorders. For example, Bordo reports that after people in Fiji were introduced to American and British television programs, over 60% of women began dieting in some shape or form. In today’s popular entertainment magazines, actresses, singers, and even non-celebrities are digitally retouched when placed on the covers. Although readers acknowledge that much of what they see is not completely real, the same message is still conveyed—it is imperative to posses the perfect body. Bordo stresses that teens in today’s world are paying special attention to the petite, nearly nothing sizes of celebrities’ bodies. In an attempt to look like their idols, teenagers are not only eating less but exercising more, arguing that as long as they exercise, they are staying healthy. In reality, these girls are deteriorating their figures and decreasing their level of health.

Finally, Bordo conveys her disapproval of the media influencing and promoting gender stereotyping. She substantiates her concern by giving an example of a television talk show episode during which mothers sent their tomboyish daughters to receive a complete makeover. These makeovers transformed the children into what society has labeled the “proper girl”. Bordo was appalled by the ecstatic reactions from the mothers and audience. She could not comprehend what would motivate these people to want to change these girls and rid them of their individuality. In the article, Bordo shares how she has raised her 4-year-old daughter, Cassie, in a way such that she does not look at super models and other skinny celebrities as idols. Instead, Cassie, having a passion for sports, idolizes athletes who have strong, healthy bodies, even if they do not fit the stereotype of a girly girl. Bordo discovers that gender stereotyping is also evident in magazines. While viewing samples of children’s rooms for her daughter in a Pottery Barn magazine, she notices that the girls’ rooms are painted with pastel colors, while the boys’ rooms are sporty. Bordo expresses her frustration with the lack of flexibility in the decorated rooms. She feels as though boys and girls are forced to fit their respected mold.



Bordo’s article enlightens readers of the enormous impact that the media has on women of all ages today. Whether or not people realize it, the media portrays particular images of women’s bodies that those at home feel they must emulate. This craze has led to an increase in cosmetic surgery, eating disorders, and gender stereotyping. Although Bordo does admit she has seen some improvement from certain magazines and other types of media trying to praise all body types, she recognizes that there is still a long way until this issue is resolved. Bordo hopes that readers will appreciate that the media should play no role on how they view their bodies, and hopefully, one day, respect themselves for who they are as unique and beautiful individuals.


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