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College professor discusses self-image

Meghan Price | Monday, November 2, 2009

“Bitchin’ Bodies,” written by Saint Mary’s College professor Terri Russ and published in 2008, discusses the self-image issues women cope with in our society. Russ recently called to attention the enormous role that body image plays in the lives of women.

“The problem of body dissatisfaction is one that all women struggle with at some point,” Russ said. “While we all may experience it differently and to different degrees, there still exists some commonality of experience.”

Russ’ book is centered on young women’s experiences with their bodies, and how they communicate about them. She focuses on the tension between how girls view their bodies and the ideal of the female body which society creates. In “Bitchin’ Bodies,” Russ said, she analyzes these topics in a feminist light. By writing about her experiences with students, Russ portrays how women’s self-image can affect their success in life.

“[Young women] are convinced that their ultimate success and happiness is dependant fully on the size and appearance of their bodies,” Russ said in her book.

Russ said she is not trying to criticize or even to offer advice to young women dealing with this issue.  Rather, Russ hopes her book can stimulate awareness of the problem. 

Although she acknowledges the theme of her book is not revolutionary, Russ argues it is often overlooked in our society. Russ said she wants to encourage society to acknowledge and discuss this problem.

“My goal with the book is to open an avenue of conversation that is often implied but not directly addressed,” she said. “I wanted to provide us with a vocabulary with which we can discuss these issues.” 

Russ said she had not always planned on writing a book. The idea originated from a paper Russ wrote for a graduate class.

Russ has been teaching at Saint Mary’s since 2007. She is an assistant professor in Communication Studies and is also involved with Women’s Studies.
Bitchin’ Bodies is for sale in the Sain Mary’s bookstore.