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Examining the relationship between female body image and culture: A literature review

25 July 2003


Women's pursuit of beauty represents a global epidemic that spans many centuries. While the characteristics that define beauty vary across time and culture, a common thread prevails in which a female's body serves as the canvas upon which her beauty will be judged. As such, women strive towards conforming their bodies to the ideal image of beauty in the hopes of reaping its associated societal benefits. Today's perfect body symbolizes control, hard work, ambition, and desire, from which is expected success, happiness, and fulfillment (Brownell, 1991). Thus, it comes as no surprise that women in Western culture strive to conform their bodies to the culture's ideal image. As efforts meet with failure, women face potential threats to their body satisfaction, body image, and self-esteem. Examination of other cultures illustrates alternative images that more loosely define beauty in terms of body. The question that arises involves the extent to which culture influences women's body image and body satisfaction. The following literature review is devoted to examining the impact of culture on women's body image and body satisfaction. By exploring cultures where women enjoy more positive body image regardless of their shape or size, it is hoped that variables will be identified that may serve as models in cultures showing women more vulnerable to poorer body image and less body satisfaction.


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