Our body image is the mental picture we have of our own physical appearance. It is based on how we feel about our body and what we see in the mirror. The culture and time in which we live determines not only how we appear but also how we expect to appear. If we feel that we don’t fit the ‘normal’ body image expected by society we generally try to change it. However, the technologies and economy of where and when we live are a major influence on what is seen as normal, and on our ability to attain this. This topic looks at three aspects of body image and the attempts that are made to change them. First, the increasing problem of people being overweight in the West; second, the ways that people adorn their bodies; and third, the methods by which the body can be modified.
Images and ideals of the slender body contrast ironically with heavier and heavier realities. Sedentary life styles and cheaper food during the twentieth century have made it easier to pile on the pounds. The contradiction between image and reality has caused much unhappiness. > more
Piercings, tattoos and adornments may shock or beautify. For thousands of years they have also indicated social status. However individual they seek to make the wearer and bizarre they appear, they reflect broader social and cultural trends. > more
Modifying the body itself to fit in with social expectations has a long tradition. Some modifications, like orthodontics, are intended to make people look 'normal'. Others, like cosmetic surgery, are conducted in search of outstanding beauty. > more
Christian thought has dominated European beliefs about humanity and difference. From the enlightenment, deviation from the ideal through gender, race or looking different, meant being classified as different. > more