Imago Feminae: Image of Woman


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Body Image, Religion, and Culture: A Survey of Centuries

The Fall from Grace, 1508-1512, Sistene Chapel

Women's roles in American society have changed drastically over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Women have gone from being quiet housekeepers, the ideal of the nineteenth century cult of true womanhood, to being almost whatever they want to be, the ideal of freedom of choice in the twentieth century. The changing of women's roles occured both within American society as a whole and within American Christianity in particular. Indeed, Christianity has been central to women's changing roles and status within the larger whole of society.

Despite the positive strides that women have made, many feel not good enough. Although feelings of inadequacy can occur in any area of life, one area of particular concern to women is body image. A recent survey in Shape magazine asked women several questions about eating and exercise habits, self-esteem, relationships, career, and spirituality, all in relation to body image (Shape, March 2002, 86-90). This is indicative of the interconnectedness of body image and all aspects of life.

The changing roles of women in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries had an impact on how women viewed, and still view, themselves and their bodies. Also, the teachings of Christianity have influenced the way women view their bodies. In the modern world, the roles women play in society and the teachings of the Christian religion influence women's body image within a specific cultural milieu. Read all about it in the following sections.

Let's Rock the Boat

Body Image in Religion

Body Image in Culture