The Story of My Body” by Judith Ortiz Cofer, and “ Never Just Pictures” by Susan Bordo Essay Sample
Appearance is the first sign of identity and personality that a person shows. The majority of the people are used to judge by appearance instead of personality, but what happens when our personality and appearance are directly connected? Most of us would think that our body and our identity are somehow contradictory, but the reality is another. Our body and identity are both shaped by the media and influenced by some other elements of our society: friends, place, and education. We reflect what we think it is correct in the opinions of others. This idea is expanded and explained in two essays: “ The Story of My Body” written by Judith Ortiz Cofer, and “ Never Just Pictures” by Susan Bordo.
In the first essay, Cofer suggest that our body plays an essential role in our social life. The differences of race, color, and size can create many uncomfortable situations in our adolescence. She tells us the story of her body and the different situations that she experienced. One of them was the isolation that many children suffer based on their look. The media has created a “ standard beauty” in our society, and those who do not meet with the requirements are excluded. Judith also suggests that we can overcome all those erroneous judgments by showing other talents like writing. In her essay she states, “ I had brains for sure and some talent in writing. These facts were a constant in my life. My skin color, my size, and my appearance were variables things that were judged according to my current self-image, the aesthetic values of the time, the places I was in, and the people I met”(214). All the images created by the media are variables that we can avoid.
The environment in which we live has its own definition of what beauty is. In many Latin Americans countries I have visited, a tanned girl was a lot more attractive than a white girl was. The media targets its public, finds a common ideal, and then uses it. Judith mentions that this was a disadvantage in her school were the majority were white girls. She says, “ The hierarchy for popularity was as follows: pretty white girl, pretty Jewish girl, pretty Puerto Rican girl, and pretty black girl” (212). There were favorites, and they were the “ representation” of the type of school she went. All the problems mentioned by Judith Ortiz are caused by the influence of the media. Bordo who focuses in the way women are portrayed explains all these influences.
“ Never Just Pictures” is the title of Susan Bordo’s article on which the media is criticized of manipulating our ideals concerning a women body. The majority of contemporary women models are thin, tall, and pretty. Bordo states, “ Eating disorders are also linked to the contradictions of consumer culture, which is continually encouraging us to binge on our desires at the same time as it glamorizes self-discipline and scorns fat as a symbol of laziness and lack of willpower” (238). Advertisers are always telling us to do what we want to do in order to feel comfortable, but they also tell us to restrict ourselves and stay in fashion. These contradictory ideas play with the consumer and sometimes drive them crazy. In most of the cases creates an obsession for beauty that can cause eating disorders. Anorexia and bulimia are the most popular eating disorders among young women.
However advertisers not only sell this model image, they have also created a new trend in fashion with the called “ heroin chick”, as Susan states, “ The models appear dislocated and withdrawn, with chipped black nail polish and greasy hair, staring out at the viewer in a dead like trance, seeming to be barely a person”(239). They are portraying depression and death as a way of being beautiful. Susan explains in her article that according to Freud, death is not the destruction of the self but it is a way to free all the unfulfilled anxieties. Advertisers have created many different styles of what is considered beautiful. Our self-esteem is vulnerable to the commentaries of other people and that is why many decide to change in order to fit in any of this fashions.
I consider myself one of those persons who blindly believed what the media showed me. My body has changed over the years drastically. The first years of my life, I was fat and I liked it; I felt comfortable with my image and many of my relatives felt the same way. It was a sudden change when I started school. The majority of my classmates were skinny, athletic, and even taller. I felt like an outcast the first two years of school. Eventually I joined a swimming team and took Kung Fu classes. Both helped me a lot. The image we have opens the possibility to be accepted in groups. I considered it normal, but mean; it was nothing like a choice. Nowadays I know that the body we have is not as important as our personality. I relate my experience with Judith Cofer because I felt awkward and less important than the rest during those years. I am convinced that is a matter of maturity too. Now that I am 17 years old, I accept people for what they are instead pf what they look like. I consider that image is important for first impressions, but nothing else. We should care about it for sure, but limiting ourselves. In my case, the media did not directly influence me. My friends played an important role in determining how I wanted to look like.
The process of changing my body was mostly exercise. I was six when my dad decided that swimming classes and Kung Fu would help me being healthier and happier. At the beginning, I did not have fun doing exercise. It was hard and I used to get tired easily, something unusual for kids of my age. It took me almost four weeks to get adapted, by that time I had friends who made both classes a lot more enjoyable than before. I believe that it did not have an obsession and that I did not have any eating disorder. The change of my image elevated my self-confidence, making it easier for me to interact with people. I do not consider that I have a perfect body, but neither have I thought that I am in the other extreme. I am just in the middle, and what is important is that I feel comfortable with myself.
In conclusion, media has a tremendous responsibility in their hands. Advertisers should realize this and invest some of their money with those people who have been affected. Tobacco companies are an example of what should be done. Addictions do not only carry physical diseases but also mental. They need help. Anorexia is becoming more popular. The best way to help people with eating disorders or any other kind of advertisement is to create an organization in charge of deciding what is not going to affect the population. This organization should also help people who have been affected by the media. Companies should give back some of their money to the community; a possible idea is to implement a tax in order to collect the necessary money. We need to balance the relation between the consumer and the seller.
1. Bordo, Susan. “ Never Just Images.” Seeing and Writing. Ed. Donald McQuade and Christine McQuade. New York, Bedford/St Martin’s, 2000. 236-240.
2. Cofer, Judith. “ The Story of My Body.” Seeing and Writing. Ed. Donald McQuade and Christine McQuade. New York, Bedford/St Martin’s, 2000. 208-214.