Customer Reviews: Body Outlaws: Rewriting the Rules of Beauty and Body Image (Live Girls)
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on January 17, 2005
I read a lot of "woman-centric" books, and, while this is certainly a worthy project as well as a generally interesting book, it doesn't quite measure up to essay collections such as The Bitch in the House or Old Wives' Tales. (I would like to be able to give it three and a half stars, but rounded it up to four.) The authors of these essays are extremely diverse racially, ethnically and in their backgrounds and lifestyles. For this reason alone, it is an important read, because it provides valuable cultural insight into the "beauty myths" surrounding demographics other than middle-class white women.

One of the essays I enjoyed most was "The Butt: Its Politics, Its Profanity, Its Power" by Erin J. Aubry, a funny and articulate examination of the important and often culturally-loaded role of the butt in African-American (and "white" American) culture. There are, however, a wealth of other essays, that, as another reviewer pointed out, seem to repeat themselves--women hating their bodies from childhood and the ensuing struggles. The variation of this theme becomes less powerful after reading it over and over again. This concept is one that is almost "played out", to a certain extent, in that it has already been discussed and dealt with, even in mainstream media. While undoubtedly a real problem with negative consequences, if you are familiar with these themes, it doesn't make for groundbreaking reading.

Additionally, while there are a few essays (such as the very interesting "Strip" by Diana Courvant) that allow for necessary complexity and, to a certain extent, uncertainty regarding the issue of body image, there are a few that I found a bit too judgmental in the opposite direction. That is, there isn't always an acceptance of *choice*--an admission that it's okay for women to want to wear make-up or high heels if they want to, just because they like the way it looks, not because it's dictated to them by society. In other words, whether a woman wears sweatpants or haute couture, her attitude towards herself could be reverent or ashamed, or an awkward space in between; a woman has a right to define her identity as she sees fit for herself, not as EITHER a painted, smooth, hairless Barbie OR a barefaced, unadorned, utilitarian womyn.
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on June 16, 1999
This is a collection of articulate, very personal, first-person accounts of some (diverse!) young women and their bodies: their hair, their skin, their muscle, their fat, their immune get the idea. My favorites include a black woman on the suspicions her "healthy" diet raises, a nice mile-long trek in the shoes of a woman with severe allergies, and the "Klaus Barbie" essay, which may be worth the price of the whole thing. I thought all the contributions were enlightening, though some are funny, some angry, some sober, and some pretty devasting. Cheers to the girls, though: they always come out on top. Obviously not the sociological, serious stuff here, but we need the straight-up story-telling as well. You'll find something in here you relate to--and probably where you don't expect it.
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on December 11, 2000
"Ophira Edut is one of those renaissance kinda gals who causes you to wonder what you've been doing with all your spare time. The founding publisher of HUES (Hear Us Emerging Sisters) magazine, a web designer, illustrator, writer and lecturer, she has been creating public space for women and girls to raise their voices and be heard for years. All this, and she's still in her 20s. With Body Outlaws, Edut has brought together 26 different women's voices to collectively challenge unrealistic mainstream mythologies of beauty and body image. Body Outlaws is a republication of Edut's first book Adios Barbie, with the addition of two new chapters and a slightly revised introduction...
I don't think that I would be amiss in surmising that as women/girls, we each have body image issues. Obsessions that evolve out of our own human body's failure to measure up to unrealistic lifestyles and standards of beauty that surround us. The articles in Body Outlaws deal with all these insecurities and misgivings with a refreshingly honest approach. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the articles that Edut has collected, is the spectrum of body issues that they address. Not focusing on the traditional obsession with weight alone, Edut's contributors speak on skin, noses, hair, lips, butts and the like.
...The writers in Body Outlaws are unabashedly frank, willing to reveal their own complicated "-isms" in their privileging of qualities of "the other" over their own. The book is worth the investment for Nomy Lamm's piece alone. Her honest and witty style always charm the pants off me. Here she addresses the issue of actively engaging in beauty and enjoying and celebrating your own sense of style and artifice rather than pretending that looks don't matter. The two new articles -- one by Christy Damio on losing her eyesight at age 13, and the other on being a plus-sized model, by Kate Dillon - are excellent additions to the anthology.
Body Outlaws is up there on the list of books that I wish someone had given me when I was 13 years old to help me deconstruct all of the negativity that I was beginning to stockpile about my relationship to my body. To that end, it is a book I intend to pass on to every young woman I encounter. As a woman in her mid-twenties, its strength is not lost on me and it is a welcome addition to my library. So head to your favourite neighbourhood bookstore or online vendor and get yourself a copy. With the variety of voices and perspectives represented within this collection you will be sure to find something that resonates." --Emira Mears can be found at Soapbox Girls.
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on April 7, 2016
I've been pretty happy with this book. It's a little too edgy for my liking-- almost like it's trying too hard to get people who are on the fringes of society. I have slowly been reading through most of the essays, and as I sit here right now the two that stand out as stellar in my mind are:

-Kate Dillon's piece on life before and after becoming a plus-size model, and
-a thoughtful essay by a woman who worked for awhile as a stripper and actually felt empowered and liberated by it, as opposed to objectified as we might think

Overall, I recommend this book but think it would've been richer if some of the pieces had been left out.
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on March 9, 2000
Wow... I could not put this down. This book is a must for anyone interested in women's issues! It speaks about the pervasive image of "barbies" in our culture, and the challenges that unique women must face. There is something in this book that every woman can relate to! "Adios, Barbie!" is a lovely celebration of inner beauty and a healthy attitude!
I suggest purchasing this book now, as the title and cover will soon be changed due to a lawsuit from the Mattel Company. (Did you know that Mattel has actually patented a shade of pink as "Barbie pink" ? )
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on December 25, 1999
This is a brilliant, witty, sad, and angry book that is a must-read for any woman who has ever been unhappy, happy or indifferent about her own body. Another exciting sample of Third-Wave Feminists clever, quick-witted writing. And of course, for those who love controversy, this is also a must-read. The publishers (Seal Press Feminist Publications -- the same that brought you Listen Up!) are being sued by Mattel for their use of Barbie images!
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on May 26, 2007
I had to read this for my Intro to Women's Studies class and it's pretty good. The stories/essays come from a good mix of individuals from various classes, backgrounds, etc. who are talking about their struggles with self-esteem, body issues, etc... Still not a lot of different ethnicities and the ones that are there seem a little forced to fit the stereotype of what that race goes through i.e African-American talking about her issues with having a big butt, or hair issues. There are other things we go through as well!!

Also, the book as a whole gives a false sense of hope for it's like here's my story, how I overcame it, and life is now magically great. Even the professor commented on this aspect of the anthology and we disscussed how it should be a little more realistic on presenting the idea that these individuals magically "discover" who they are and now have claimed their place in the world. We know better. It's decent, but it is not profound enough to make me want to read it had it not been a class requirement and I'm an english lit major by the way so I love to read!
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on May 15, 1999
This is, bar none, one of the most empowering collections of essays I've ever read. I was expecting a dry anthology of pop-culture critique on Barbie, but what I got was a collection of stories that tell me that rather than changing my shape to fit the world, the world should be changing to fit my shape. Right from the first these essays are in your face; shocking, humorous, and angry, this should be essential reading for everyone, no matter the shape, size, or colour.
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on October 25, 2013
To read about the different body image struggles that other women go through was eye opening. Hearing about body image issues that I would never have thought to have myself helped me realize that there's no one unitary idea of beauty. Therefore I might as well define it for myself and run with it.
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on December 20, 2001
I have never been really into Women's Studies, but I recently saw this book and was intrigued. Like almost every woman on earth, I struggle with my feelings about my body. It's just so great to know that I'm not alone. It's inspiring to read about women who've made peace or made progress with their body images. This book definitely made me more aware of images of beauty that society considers normal. I realized that I've spent my whole life swallowing what the media tells me to and letting that form my self image. The contributors to this book are very diverse but are united as well.
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