In this compelling book, Joan C. Chrisler and Ingrid Johnston-Robledo examine how women relate to their bodies and how attitudes toward the body affect women's sense of self.

In particular, they document the disturbing, never-ending barrage of standards used to judge women's bodies. For example, women are taught that their bodies should be beautiful (but not as a result of too much effort), sexy (but not "slutty"), pure (but not prudish), slender (but curvy in the right places), youthful (if they are adults), mature (if they are adolescents), feminine, healthy, and able-bodied.

These impossible standards prompt women to pursue life-long body improvement projects — which leads to self-objectification or a negative embodied self.

The authors review the research on these phenomena and analyze them through the lens of various psychological theories, including objectification theory, stigma theory, terror management theory, and stereotype embodiment theory.

They then suggest ways to help women and girls achieve a positive embodied self, which includes challenging and resisting pressures to alter and discipline their bodies in unhealthy ways.

Table of Contents

Series Foreword
Linda J. Beckman and Mary Wyer

  1. Woman's Embodied Self: An Introduction
  2. Theorizing the Body
  3. The (Un)Attractive Body
  4. The Sexual Body
  5. The Reproductive Body
  6. The (Un)Healthy Body
  7. The Aging Body
  8. Managing and Resisting Negative Embodiment



About the Authors

Author Bios

Joan C. Chrisler, PhD, is the Class of 1943 Professor of Psychology at Connecticut College, where she teaches courses on the psychology of women, health psychology, and social psychology.

She has published dozens of articles, chapters, and books on her areas of expertise: women's health, reproductive rights, menstruation, premenstrual syndrome, body image, women and weight, and women and aging.

She is the editor of the journal Women's Reproductive Health and has held leadership roles in a number of professional associations, including APA, the Association for Women in Psychology, the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, and the American Association of University Professors.

Ingrid Johnston-Robledo, PhD, is the dean of arts, sciences, and community engagement at Castleton University in Castleton, Vermont. She was previously professor of psychology and women's studies at the State University of New York College at Fredonia, where she taught courses on the psychology of women, human sexuality, body politics, health psychology, and prejudice and discrimination.

She has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on topics related to women's reproductive and sexual health, is associate editor of the journal Women's Reproductive Health, and has held leadership roles in the Society for the Psychology of Women and the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.

Reviews & Awards

This book challenges readers to consider topics related to women's bodied beyond their medicalization...It touches upon a number of themes, such as body image, eating disorders, sexuality, puberty, infertility, pregnancy, childbirth, health, disability, and aging, that are also relevant to professionals or students in other fields of study such as sociology, medical anthropology, medicine, and gerontology.

The authors present an examination of women's embodiment that is comprehensive and insightful. Each conclusion is supported by empirical research, and a wide range of sources are cited...this text will be an invaluable resource for anyone working with women in a health or mental health setting. The writing is clear and comprehensible, offering access to information and insight to both an academic and an educated general audience.
Fat Studies

Compelling and informative examination of how women relate to their bodies and how attitudes toward the body affect women's sense of self.
Midwest Book Review

No two feminist scholar–advocates are better suited to the task of distilling decades of psychological theory and science on women's embodied lives into a readable and rousing book than Chrisler and Johnston-Robledo. These pages contain not only a treasure trove of data on such body-related topics as sexuality, reproduction, health, and aging, but also a critique of the beauty work that a sexually objectifying culture demands of women. In this way, this volume is emancipatory: promoting nothing less than girls' and women's right to their own bodies and hence their self-determination.
—Tomi-Ann Roberts, PhD
Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology, Colorado College, Colorado Springs

Chrisler and Johnston-Robledo examine a core issue in women's experience: the relationship between women and their bodies. They cover the standard aspects of embodiment with thoroughness and new insights, and they address topics that are less frequently examined, like illness, aging, and sexuality. Concerned ultimately with women's well-being, they encourage readers to resist negative embodiment experiences of shame and disempowerment by avoiding culturally accepted practices like "fat talk" and self-objectification. Examining the relation of negative embodiment as both a personal experience and as the result of systematic contributing factors, the authors argue for alternative approaches to intervention and resistance at the individual and societal levels.
—Maureen C. McHugh, PhD
Professor, Department of Psychology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA

Theoretically grounded and thoroughly feminist, this book explicates how and why women and their bodies are disproportionately vulnerable to commodification, medicalization, and exploitation. But keep reading. Chrisler and Johnston-Robledo not only demonstrate the internalized gendered logics and deleterious effects of questing for unattainable standards, they also point a way forward with models of resistance that reclaim the body as a site of power, pleasure, and possibility.
—Chris Bobel, PhD
Associate Professor of Women's & Gender Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston, and coeditor of Embodied Resistance: Challenging the Norms, Breaking the Rules