The Body Project is a great book to give you a historical understanding of how American society developed to the point where girls are obsessed with their bodies.
The story begins with how the time-line of reproductive development has changed over many years from the mid-teens to late-childhood.
The Body Project goes on to discuss menstruation, and how it was originally an extremely intimate experience that girls did not talk about. Ideally, however, 150 years ago menstruation was part of an intimate mother-daughter experience and something of a coming-of-age experience in the mid-to-late-teens. Over the years, as diets and lifestyles became healthier and women had fewer children, girls began menstruating earlier and more often (because they were not sick or pregnant as often) and male doctors became involved in the process. As doctors took over, they encouraged girls to use the new, and “cleaner” commercially sold pads rather than the rags their mothers and grandmothers used. Over time, menstruation became something that was talked about comparatively easily in the public square, or at least among girl friends, and is highly commercialized, where the majority of the conversation is about what products girls use – “What brand of pad, tampon, and cramps alever do you use?”
The book goes on to chronicle other body obsessions, including the search for perfect skin and the barbed issues around appropriate public sexuality, lack of sexual activity, and virginity. It’s a great read – and particularly poignant and meaningful for parents of daughters who are about to make the transition into puberty.