In her foreword to Minding the Body, an impressive collection of writings by women about the female body, Foster recalls her grandmother, a miner's wife in the '30s, telling her, ``When I asked my doctor for some form of birth control after the exhaustion of 12 pregnancies he said impatiently, `You're a woman, Mrs. Baxter. That's what women are made for.' '' That was then; today the demands for bodily perfection, a prime socioeconomic asset, have given rise to another kind of oppression—an oppression of shame. As Nancy Mairs writes, ``The female population of the US suffers from the shame of falling short of an unattainable standard, the ideal woman'' as defined by the advertising, television, and movie industries. Have women advanced economically only to be restricted by the cult of physical perfection? In response, Foster has gathered writings in which writers explore their relationships to their bodies. The result is a collection of vivid portraits by 20 writers, including well-known writers like Margaret Atwood, Janet Burroway, Doris Grumbach, Naomi Wolf, Joyce Winer, Judith Hopper, and other lesser-known writers. (Six of the pieces are published here for the first time.) They describe the day-to-day business of dealing with cancer and chemotherapy, pregnancy and infertility, anorexia, aging, multiple sclerosis. They give the facts about diets and plastic surgery. They describe what it is like to live as a minority woman in a culture obsessed with Calvin Klein jeans and fashion statements that peculiarly objectify Third World women. It provides a wealth of information about the realities this generation of women have to deal with. Though depressing at times, Minding the Body is an inspiring testimony to the female spirit. It offers examples of women who have mapped their own roads, who, as Linda Hogan says, lead lives that demonstrate the connection between the love for one's body as it is and the love one feels for the natural earth.
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