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3.6 out of 5 stars19
3.6 out of 5 stars
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 1 July 2009
Interesting to read the mainly unenthusiastic reviews about this book. I really enjoyed it and found it very relevant and thought-provoking.

The book is about the pressure in our lives today to have the 'perfect' body, to create our bodies and make them perform for us. It talks about the insecurites, confusion and hatred that we project onto our bodies and why this might be.

I can see what other reviewers mean when they talk about the jargon she uses - there is over-use of psychoanalytic language when it is not really needed. There is also a lack of structure to the book as a whole which makes it a little hard to read.

I really liked the content however and Orbach's own insights into body culture today and her own patient cases. She gives us extreme examples - the case of Andrew for example who wanted his legs amputated because they didn't feel right. It was interesting reading in its own right. Then she relates ordinary everyday examples of body hatred or alienation - from people who have surgery to those with eating disorders and those who need to sculpt their body a certain way so it becomes what they want it to be.
Overall, the sense is of people being at odds with their bodies, not living in the body and letting it express its needs. The body becomes 'a suitable, indeed an appropriate, focus for our malaise, aspiration and energy.'

This book made me wonder about the longterm implications of our body culture. It made me wonder what the body's limits are. It's human nature to want more, to fit in, to achieve. It seems that human nature, however, is getting greedier and more extreme every day.

Orbach concludes by asking 'What are bodies for?' She argues that just as Marx stated we 'enter a world not of our own making', so women in today's society 'confront a visual world not of their own making.' The idea that bodies are individual creations and not biology are causing complex difficulties from relationships to sexuality and identity issues. It is hard for us to just 'be'.

In the framework of various social, psychoanalytical and feminist theories and rationalisations, she concludes that we need to rethink the body, to stop its commercial exploitation and learn to experience it with all its real and diverse appetites and pleasures.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 1 April 2009
Bodies (Big Ideas)
I looked forward to reading this book as Susie Orbach's book "Fat is a Feminist Issue" was so engrossing and challenging. The information in Ms Orbach's book is interesting but the examples she uses of her clientele are not run of the mill and somehow seem clinical rather than passionate. I felt like this about the whole book - yes, weighty-people bashing is the demonisation and scapegoating of Reubenesque people, but where's the passion and involvement in the subject? And the summary at the end almost seemed throwaway rather than deeply engaged. It's an interesting book, has good info, but somehow comes across as clinically detached rather than emotionally involved, a bit distanced from the subject. I guess some people would like this approach, but I prefer emotional contact, a more spiritual approach, I guess, outrage at the manipulation of women's and men's bodies which is so disgusting. Sorry to be a bit negative but after the reviews maybe my expectations were a bit too high.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 27 January 2009
Bodies is a great book, finally giving an answer as to why we are so concerned by our appearance and the influence our bodies have over our state of mind. Susie Orbach uses vivid case studies to bring the text alive, and makes a clincial book easily accessible to all readers.
I'd definately recommend it.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 29 March 2009
Having read the glowing reviews and synopses of this book in the Sunday supplements - all of which eulogised the richness, uniqueness and timeliness of Susie Orbach's Bodies (2009) - I was disappointed to find it a hodgepodge of unchecked statistics, extreme examples and a meandering analysis which peters out before it gains cohesive momentum. It might be that expectations were high - Fat is a Feminist Issue (1978) is a longstanding classic and Orbach is co-originator of Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty (as well as, incidentally, having been Princess Diana's therapist). And the broadsheets were perhaps willing this to be a book of great resonance - its starting points certainly make for easy copy. And its simple, stark cover already has the pretensions of an intellectual classic: A chipped, lipsticked porcelain doll represents the imperfect body; its bald head is hung in shame and its body pushed into the corner by an overwhelming sea of blue (suggesting, I imagine, that the environment surrounding the body shapes and defines it more than the material body itself does). This is a book that doesn't need marketing schnick-schnack on the cover, it'll sell by itself.

It is well-known that contemporary Western societies fetishize thin bodies and that the commentary on anorexia often simplifies the illness to a preoccupation with food. Or in Orbach's words: "Thinness has become an aspirational issue" and "is - falsely, I believe - promoted as a health issue in which the psychological underpinnings of appetite and thinness are bypassed". It has also been well reported that alarm over obesity in the Western world has been exaggerated and overstated, especially after the publication of Paul Campos's The Obesity Myth in 2004 and J. Eric Oliver's Fat Politics: The Real Story behind America's Obesity Epidemic in 2005. Orbach repeats the findings of these books, without hardly adding anything new (repeatedly in the book, I had the impression of an overreliance on established research and newspaper cuttings).

More problematically, Orbach regurgitates statistics from newspapers in the body of her text without having verified them. For example, she quotes that the diet industry was worth 100 billion dollars in the US in 2006, but the footnote offers no substantiation, stating simply that "This figure is used extensively". With statistics that vague, unreliable and unsubtantiated, it is perhaps wiser to not use them at all (or at the very least, reference the sources and calculations behind them). Predictably, many newspapers have taken up this "statistic" again, following Orbach's cue, and are quoting it as unambiguous fact.

And, finally, there is the story of Andrew: a father in his 50s who successfully convinces doctors to amputate both of his healthy legs so that he can automatically (and without speech) engender a longed-for sympathy in the eyes of strangers. Orbach's recounting of Andrew's body distress takes up nearly all of the first chapter, which purports to tell us of 'Bodies in Our Time'. But one or two very extreme case studies cannot convincingly be the basis for hypothesizing about the general situation regarding our relationships with our bodies. Ultimately, Andrew's extreme desire to self-amputate may well have more to do with individual childhood trauma than "our bodies being in crisis".

I have a feeling that this book strains to be one of those modern intellectual texts which, with a seeming lack of effort, unfold their insights to the reader. But such books (e.g. by Alain de Botton or Adam Philips) have usually been carefully structured with their "spontaneous" philosophisings smoothed into a cohesive, logically plausible sequence. If you try and mimic this "spontaneity" without the groundwork, what you often end up with is what you find here: a frustrating mish-mash of ideas.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2012
This is a very well written book and an excellent introduction to body studies. Although written from a feminist perspective this is very accessible for anybody who has an interest in corporeality. An issue with the Kindle edition is that there is a clipping limit which means that I didn't get a load of my highlights in My Clippings file. This has been done for copyright reasons but the Kindle does not tell you that it's stopped copying to the clippings file so I did not find out until after I had finished reading the whole book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 April 2011
Orbach once again delivers a well written and to the point tale of the state this world has gotten itself into!
Very easy to read. Engages the reader with examples of different peoples stories.. and shocks too, which of course is the point of the book! We should all realise what Orbach says needs some attention, individually as well as collectively

Made me want to move away and dissassociate myself with anything in the realm of consumerism
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 13 February 2009
I had great hopes that Susie Orbach's latest book would break new ground and give us some substantial new ideas about how women look at their bodies, their acute anxiety about their appearance and the constant pressure to improve their bodies to fit some illusory ideal of female perfection. But the book mainly retreads old ground and familiar facts (the phoney obesity scare, the desire for a celebrity body etc) without adding any significant new theories or explanations. As well as overdoing the jargon (e.g. "bio-physical emotional structuring"), the text rambles and meanders without any clear sense of direction or central argument. In the end I was left baffled as to what exactly she would do to reduce this excessive "body-moulding" and the social pressures that are causing it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2012
Orbach has managed to sum up the issues regarding societies influences, body image and us in a thoroughly fascinating and readable way.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 7 July 2009
Similar to Orbach's other work but benefits from being up to date and still makes a great contribution.enjoyed reading new material.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 6 May 2010
although I recognize minor limitations: at some points she repeats herself, the book had a huge impact on me. while I was reading it I was remembering numerous instances when women in my family where talking about my body in a way that made me hate it, what she calls the transgenerational transmission of body hatred. it was very insightful and very emotionally stimulating book. I definitely recomend it to women who are struggling to accept themselves as they are
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Fat Is A Feminist Issue
Fat Is A Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach (Paperback - 5 Jan. 2006)

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Susie Orbach On Eating by Susie Orbach (Paperback - 3 Jan. 2002)


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