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The World Has Curves: The Global Quest for the Perfect Body Hardcover – September 15, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books (September 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605299383
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605299389
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,839,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

JULIA SAVACOOL is the articles director for Fitness magazine and has previously held editorial positions at Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, and Self. Her award-winning stories and articles have appeared in the New York Times, Redbook, Glamour, and many other publications. She lives in New York City.

From The Washington Post

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Reviewed by Lisa Bonos bonosl@washpost.com When journalist Julia Savacool asked women from around the world to describe their ideal body, diverging portraits emerged -- from a curvy, Coca-Cola bottle silhouette in Jamaica to a linear, kimono shape in Japan. But universally, she found, women's bodies are economic and social indicators. Physiques have different meanings depending on the cultural backdrop: While thinness typically signals wealth in overweight America, it's synonymous with sickness and poverty in AIDS-ravaged South Africa. And Western physical "ideals" are constantly being exported by way of beauty products and the images of slim American TV stars. For example, as China's trade policies have loosened in the past few decades, strict communist dress codes have given way to a culture in which cosmetic surgery is one of the fastest-growing industries. Some of the sharpest cultural snapshots come to life when Savacool steps aside and lets her sources speak in short monologues. We meet a naturally thin Jamaican woman who chugs large amounts of milk daily in pursuit of a rounder bottom and an Afghan woman who describes the burqa as "culturally comfortable, a feeling of safety in an unsafe country." The American "paradox" -- we keep getting fatter despite our desire to be thin -- is not a new plot line. Savacool pushes the domestic conversation forward by asking how the U.S. recession might affect our waistlines. But her conclusion that tomorrow's ideal will ultimately prize fitness over thinness seems stale. Surely, that obsession with fitness has already arrived.
Copyright 2009, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brian Finn on June 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
How do we define beauty?

The beauty ideal is not constant, it varies across cultures and changes over time. Today's supermodels bear little resemblence to the pale, full figured women idealized during the middle ages, but both were considered "beautiful" during their respective times. In the world has curves, Savacool uses both time series and cross sectional reasearch to illuminate consistent themes underlying various beauty ideals and gains valuable insight into cultural idenity and economics in the process.

The cross cultural research takes the form of interviews with women around the world. These interviews are my favorite part of the book. Savacool assembled a widely diverse group and asked them insightful, probing questions. The book is an excellent read for anyone curious about how we decide what makes a woman beautiful and makes excellent reading for a college economics or women's study class.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By F. Stoneback on May 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This a well researched and well written volume on the female human ideal. Historical perspective, good choice of illustrations, encased in a breezy - easy to read style. If you are in the beauty biz, or just interested - this book will make that plane ride from New York to LA melt away. Julia is magazine industry vet with a great popular touch. Let's hope she steps up to the plate again.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Big butts are beautiful. From the perspective of mainstream American culture, one may as well say "boogers are beautiful." After all, drooping, jiggling cellulite-pocked backsides do not make the cover of Cosmo. Instead, we idealize the impossible dream: a vacuum handle-sized waist disproportionately accompanied by tiny, but peach-like bottoms and mammoth jiggling coconut breasts. Breasts can jiggle, of course, but butts cannot. Didn't you get the memo? Such lithe bodily images get crammed into our neural networks, often surreptitiously. But Americans continue to take on more and more bulge, almost in defiance of this ideal. Collectively, we're ballooning as though some rampant fungus has come to immobilize us. Yet we dream of attaining a body fat ratio somewhere near starvation level. "The World Has Curves" explores this paradox while trying to ascertain why such unattainable ideals persist. A short history lesson and a partial world tour help illuminate these questions. Indeed, places do exist where big butts are beautiful, very beautiful.

Now hold on, wait a second. Haven't we already answered such questions? Don't ideals simply bubble up from vicious patriarchy or media mind control? Don't women want to attain the thickness of a grain stalk simply to attract big burly men who spew pheromones like Niagara spews water? Or, better, don't our genes want us to propagate ourselves and don't our beauty aspirations merely reflect these needs? Skinny equals healthy equals fit to reproduce! So bring on the funky music! Q.E.D. This book eschews such answers. After an examination of various cultures, no consistent ideal predominated. Americans of course like skinny skinny and more skinny. So do the Chinese and Japanese, but with some variations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By BekahJo on August 15, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's very refreshing to find a book that goes against the mainstream ideal that all women have to be super model thin. Or, that it is even healthy to be that thin. This book examines the historical and cultural climates that caused our shift in what we consider beautiful.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Susan Tournour on December 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Based on the title, I thought this would be an interesting book chosen by a book club member. I was so disappointed! The writing was terrible, her thought process uninteresting. The best part of the book was the oral histories contained in the chapters. I wish she had let all the women speak for themselves without her ill advised interpretations. I was anxious to rid this book from my library shelf.
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