Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
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The premise of the book is interesting but in the discussion of the cultural and evolutionary history of the female body the author fails to live up to the expectations created by the title (or at least my expectations). Every chapter is devoted to a different anatomical part of the woman, which is considered first from an evolutionary standpoint and subsequently from the perspective of its cultural significance. I do not have the knowledge to question the evolutionary aspect: I merely point out that at times the author seems to pass hypotheses as facts, a praxis that is not exactly orthodox even in pop science books. The cultural history part is full of juicy anecdotes: unfortunately most of them lack a reference and seem to have been gathered from word of mouth: (for instance: "it is well known that in many traditions a woman with a unibrow is thought to be a vampire" ; "In Italy a young woman cannot walk on a crowded street without her butt being pinched"). But the worst aspect is the superficiality of this cultural investigation, which fails to answer what in my opinion the most interesting questions are when we talk about the female body: why is every part of it so intensely sexualized? What are the cultural dynamics of veiling and unveiling (for instance why are bare breasts unacceptable unless you're breastfeeding, or why do certain cultures obsessively cover certain body parts?)What are the deep symbolic associations behind the fetishization of certain parts of the female body over others? But to answer these questions I should have probably read another book.
Elaine said on Apr 28, 2012, 13:37