Book Review: Real Gorgeous

Book review… 1000wrds (or there abouts). written in a cram session. One sitting to read the book, one and .005 to write it. Had to include 400wrds + about a chapter/concept. Probably not the worlds greatest review but it is done.

I failed an Old Testament mini test today. That would have to be a first, come close before. Mind you they only count 3 of the 4 (or is it 4 of the 5?). I’ve passed the others… so not studying does show afterall, although I just made stupid obvious mistakes. Better do OK on the next one. Don’t mind really (kind of surprised that I don’t mind :P) might be because the subject is just plain boring.
stupid me 🙂 at least read the questions properly next time.

—————-BOOK REVIEW——————-

Cooke, K (1994). Real Gorgeous: The truth about body and beauty. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin

Introduction

Kaz Cooke’s Real Gorgeous confronts self-esteem through a humorous, relevant look at the world of beauty. Unlike the majority of unappealing, purely informational books on self-image, Kaz Cooke presents a method of action and not just theory. She gives practical advice where her experience as a columnist aids in exploring the media influenced world of beauty. Her book offers further resources and provides young women with a wealth of useful information.

Real Gorgeous

The author’s intention of, “We need the facts which will make us RELAX, not the overwrought opinions that send us fleeing to stupid diets, insane over exercising and mirror-misery.” (p.ix) sets out a pattern of breaking the mould of information influenced by advertising and presents a secular view of healthy body image to the secular world.

From topics on – ‘Body shape’, ‘What is normal’ and ‘You are not your buttocks’, chapters focus on the facts yet impart practical knowledge to the reader. Kaz Cooke provides insight into how our perceptions of ourselves are influenced by the media and culture and tackles eating disorders in a direct yet sensitive manner. Real Gorgeous defines what is ‘normal’ and what is considered normal, shows up the realities of the modeling industry, gives tips about the myths and lies of ‘lotions and potions’, and outlines advice on establishing greater understanding of yourself and doing daily battle with the ‘body police’.

You are not your buttocks

Chapter six, ‘You are not your buttocks’ draws together what has been presented through the entirety of the book and takes a closer look at self-image and self-esteem. The author identifies that, “For a long time women’s self-esteem has been tied to their feelings about physical appearance.” (p.201), although this is no new observation, the candid presentation of responses to surveys and short anecdotes in the margin of the text enforce the reality being presented. The curious use of quoting segments of graffiti found in Australian Universities regarding ‘self’ and individual reflections provides authenticity to the writing and the reader is easily able to associate. Despite the realism of the situation from a secular perspective and there is an apparent but unknowing adhesion to the Christian perspective of being, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:13-14).

In discussing the pressure to have bad body image, the author expresses her annoyance at advertisements, particularly those of the beauty industry and as she points out, “Thighs, hips and bums are not ‘stubborn’ any more than they are ‘confused’ or ‘happy. Body parts do not have personalities or feelings.” (p.203) Cooke dispels the attaining of a ‘perfect body’ as a myth and defines ‘body hatred’ as fashionable. There is immense truth in the author’s words and she has a clear perception of Australian/Western culture.

It was encouraging to find a book that considered the flipside of the ‘fat factor’ in a short segment on ‘being thin’. As the majority of books emphasise the issues that larger girls deal with. The problem of the questioning of femininity, presents again the dilemma of body shape. The author’s convinced position and contention of working with and being satisfied with what you have, does not contradict the biblical position on, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7) yet does nothing to emphasise the need to look inwardly.

“Body-image boosters” are provided with the author’s direction to, “Come back and read this section any time you feel bad about yourself.” (p.208). Proverbs 31:30-31 clearly defines beauty as fleeting and, “the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised”. Although coming from a secular position, and having neither the expectation nor requirement to focus on the spiritual/internal and despite effectively promoting tips for developing a healthy mental attitude to body image, the author completely fails to point out the actual triviality of external beauty.

The rest of Chapter Six addresses what the author calls, “the body police”, focusing on the judgments of others, the pressure upon girls and women’s physicality, their ‘figures’ and their faces. Kaz Cooke speaks about being, ‘trapped by the lies’. This greatly reflects the truth of, “man looking at the outward appearance” (1 Sam 16:7). However in combating those ‘lies’ the author presents a mental (and occasional spoken) method of giving the reader a list of comebacks to use when faced with a, ‘you’re fat’ (or similar) comment. This action although potentially helpful in principle, is questionable in its content and method. As Christians our worth needs to be found not in affirming our value in being comfortable in our body shape, but in understanding how God sees us for who we are. If we fully understand that we are created in His image, our worth will come from a deeper more secure source. Nevertheless, each method is about adapting a mental attitude and in this the author has hit on an effective means of beginning to address body-image issues.

Conclusion

Real Gorgeous has found a niche in the world of ‘self-image’ information. Accompanied by humorous cartoons and insights from ‘real women’, this book is easy to read, informative yet practical. Kaz Cooke’s intention of writing not just another book of theory but one about action appeals and is effective for its audience. Despite the need for Christians to find their initial worth in God and their ‘being comfortable with themselves’ as a byproduct, this is the presentation of truth from a secular author in a media choked society of lies and in that you cannot go far wrong.

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