?The Flesh And The Devil? By Kim Chernin Essay, Research Paper
Today young women are greatly influenced by the pressures to have
the ideal body type. In “The Flesh and the Devil” Kim Chernin discusses
how American cultural values and the concept of the ideal body type
influence women. Chernin’s attitude towards this is negative, she
believes the thin body types shown in advertising and media lead
women to see themselves as not good enough. She tells how women
strive for the ideal body so much that it has a terrible impact on their
lives (366-373). This is true in many aspects of young women’s lives
today and can be seen in everyday society.
In high school is was easy seeing the huge impact our cultural values
have on young women. In the locker room while changing for gym you
can hear a lot about how the girls feel about themselves. Chernin talks
about an experience in a locker room, “The woman in the locker room
who swings out at her image in the mirror, the little girls who are afraid
of the coming of adolescence to their bodies, the woman who admires the
slenderness of the anorexic girl” (368). In the locker room I would hear
conversations where they would say how they thought they were so fat
and ugly and how they were so unhappy about their bodies. Some girls
didn’t even want to change in front of the others because they were so
embarrassed of their bodies. Also, they would talk about how they
wanted so desperately to have a body like a certain actress or model.
Another place at school where I saw young women suffering
themselves all because of the need to be thin was at lunch. At lunch
there were girls who would hardly eat a thing and others that didn’t eat
at all. When asked why they weren’t eating they would say it’s because
they aren’t hungry and some just told the truth and told us they were
trying to lose weight. There were poor girls who starved themselves
everyday just because they felt the need to look the “right” way. There
were a few that were known to be anorexic and bulimic. We saw them
everyday in school destroying their bodies, and for what reason? Just
because of the pressure society put on them to have the ideal body.
The effects of the cultural values of the ultimate body type can
somewhat be seen just by looking out the window of my own house.
Everyday there is an innumerable amount of people walking and
running in the streets. It seems as if everyday there are more people
passing by. Some of these people might be exercising to stay healthy, but
it can be assumed that the majority are doing it to lose weight. For
example, I am sure these two women I see out there every single day
running and sweating are doing so because they want to change their
One place where this emphasis on the thin body type can be seen a
great deal is on television. All you see on TV are skinny women who
have the ideal body. Models on commercials and other things are a main
example of this. Women see these models everywhere and want to look
like they do because they feel that is the only way to be accepted in
society. If women with all different body types were models and
depicted on TV as beautiful as well, then maybe there wouldn’t be such a
problem with young women not liking themselves the way they are.
Also on television, are all the exercise equipment and videos being
advertised. This shows how being thin is such a factor in peoples lives.
Women see these commercials and the people make it seem like having a
perfect body is so important in being happy in life and that being
overweight is wrong. Plus, convienatly all the people in the commercials
promoting the product have the ideal body type.
In conclusion, it is clear that the way the ideal female body type is
pushed on young women extremely influences their lives. It causes
them to dislike their own bodies so much they do just about anything to
change themselves. This ideal body type leads women to hurt
themselves trying to obtain it, and it seems the problem in this country
is growing with time. This tremendous problem is recognized by so
many people, so why are we not doing something to try and stop the
pressures put on young women to have perfect bodies?
Chernin, Kim. “The Flesh and the Devil.” The New Millenium Reader. 2nd
ed. Ed. Hirschberg, Stuart and Terry Hirschberg. New Jersey:
Prentice Hall, 2000. 366-373.