The Body and Being Human   /   Summer 2001   /    Bibliographic Review

A Bibliographic Essay on the Body

Jeffery D. Tatum

Margaret Hamilton standing next to the navigation software that she and her MIT team produced for the Apollo Project (1969).

SINCE THE 1970S, THERE HAS BEEN A PRECIPITOUS rise in popular interest in the body. Magazines and newspapers are filled with pictures of beautiful, thin, muscled, youthful bodies, along with products that will build “abs,” reduce weight overnight, make hair shiny, brighten teeth, and so on. Television and movies are densely pop- ulated with people who apparently use these products with spectacular results. Media stars and models set the standards for beauty and fitness, and openly enjoy the benefits of their bodies both on and off screen. Commercial media package bodily images of men and women and pro- mote them as commodities to be produced, modified, and consumed. The implicit and explicit message given is that the benefits of the desir- able body are multiple and far-reaching. They include emotional (less stress, more peace and confidence, higher self-esteem), relational (more relationships with better people), financial (beauty and fitness yield better jobs, sales, pay, and promotion), and spiritual (getting in touch with one’s “true self” or becoming who you were “meant to be”), as well as political, benefits.

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