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More than Just a Pretty Face: How Feminist Young Adult Literature Redefines Beauty in Contemporary American Society

Year: 
2011
Researcher(s): 
Merrill Miller
Institution: 
Ohio Northern University
Discipline: 
Sociology

Based on the data compiled about eating disorders in the United States today, we know that these diseases can be deadly and primarily affect preteen and teenage girls. We also know that society, primarily through the media, pressures girls and women to achieve slender bodies, often at the risk of their health. By applying perspectives of feminist theorists from Simone deBeauvoir to Susan Bordo, we can understand why society and the media put this pressure on girls and women. We can also understand how feminist theories are being used by authors of contemporary young adult literature to combat the media’s definition of beauty as having a thin body. Many authors of young adult literature, particularly novelist and short story writer Francesca Lia Block, are redefining beauty for a new generation of teenagers by teaching them that beauty consists of confidence and a healthy body image, not of conforming to images of beauty presented in the media. By examining the messages concerning beauty presented to girls in young adult literature such as Block’s short story “Tiny” and her novels Witch Baby and Missing Angel Juan, we can understand how feminist theories are giving girls a healthier understanding of beauty.   

North Central Sociological Association; Cleveland, OH