No more an object
Women of Substance
By Sue Jackson and Gael Wallace
Photographs by Ponch Hawkes
Allen & Unwin, 1998. 232 pp., $24.95
Review by Mary Merkenich
This is a delightful book — informative, inspiring and entertaining.
Sue Jackson and Gael Wallace are two therapists who interviewed 17 large women. The interviews explore the impact of being large on the lives, relationships, careers and self-image of these 17 women.
Many related difficult, if not traumatic, periods in their lives (often during childhood or teenage years). Their own perceptions or those of others about their attractiveness (fuelled by a very narrow definition of beauty, which a sexist and racist society has imposed on all of us) caused these difficult times.
Most of the women in this book had resolved their body image issues.
A comment by Maggie Millar, a size-acceptance activist and former actor, in my mind seems central to body image problems: "I think part of the problem for women is that the issue of the body is so overriding, instead of thinking of yourself as being looked at and judged, you need to look out and assess. It's moving away from seeing yourself as an object."
A comment by Walbira Watts, an Aboriginal activist also impressed me. She says, "No one can tell, with old people, who was a spunk and who wasn't. In the end, we all look much the same. But you can really tell the people who have led nice lives, who've had nice thoughts. You can see who was bitter and angry, in their faces, in the way they've aged. What lasts is courage, passion, including sexual passion."
These two snippets are a small indication of what the book holds. Each woman is a positive role model. A book of this kind, which is well written, detailing the lives and thoughts of real people, is always fascinating. Ponch Hawkes' photos are beautiful, helping to convey some of the vibrancy of the women.