Body Image

Body image is always with us. We are too flat-chested, too hairy, too fat, too wrinkled,… and the list goes on for men as well as women. 

Last week one news story was that Miriam O’Reilly won her age discrimination case against the BBC. At 53, Miriam had been fired because she had passed her sell-by-date. Granted television is a visual medium, but… is there no place on TV for a woman over 50?

I cringe every time I see Judy Woodruff’s neck on PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. It is not her neck per se; rather, it is her naturally aged neck in contrast to her taut face. She is an excellent newsperson. Are her professional skills not enough? Does the medium require that she slap a 35-year-old face on a 60-year-old neck? Her neck is creepy – so is the culture that leads to such drastic action.

This week a small article that caught my eye concerned English breasts which are ever larger. A couple of years ago, manufacturers went to a double K cup; however, they are now meeting the demands of larger women who need an L cup. Mercy! And there I am with my modest B cup. Apparently I am some sort of freak.

I’m thinking of bodies mostly because yesterday Jo Shapcott won the 2010 Costa prize  for her book of poems, Of Mutability. Many of the poems touch on her battle against breast cancer in 2003.

I especially like the first lines of “Hairless.” Can the bald lie? The nature of skin says not; / it’s newborn-pale, erection-tender stuff, / every thought visible, – pure knowledge, / mind in action – shining through the skull.”

What lovely stuff! You should read the whole poem. Go to and read and/or listen to four of her poems in their entirety.

  • Brainstorm image issues.
  • Write a piece in which your main character has an image issue.
  • Or your character has a procedure: a hair transplant, a boob-job, a little bit of Botox, or liposuction. Perhaps the procedure does not go as planned.
  • Or… write an essay that addresses our image-obsessed culture.


Personally, I am offended by the sexualization of young girls. Why exactly does a six-year-old need a padded bra?

This picture was taken in the children’s department of a major department store. In the children’s department… a padded bra?

Color me old-fashioned, but I find this totally unacceptable.

Do I even need a bra? Perhaps I should burn it. Which… should I go to Somalia will serve me well. In October of ’09, Al-Shabaab (a hard-line Islamist group) began stopping women at gun point and asking them to shake their breasts. Those women who were wearing bras were whipped because bras were “deceptive” and thought to violate Al-Shabaab’s interpretation of Sharia law.

When in Somalia…

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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