home what'snew resources ask amy news activism antiviolence events marketplace aboutus
Women-Owned Business Directory
Job Postings
How to Advertise
W O M E N - O W N E D * B U S I N E S S E S

Go back to main Women-Owned Business Directory page

The College Woman's Handbook

by Rachel Dobkin and Shana Sippy

Reviews Excerpt

Book Reviews

"Dobkin and Sippy have compiled a real dynamo of informational tools, resources and common sense advice that will prove invaluable to any woman seeking a hand through the daunting, chaotic maze we know as college.... If you're going into debt to your eyeballs anyway, The College Woman's Handbook could be the best 15 bucks you ever spend." - Link: The College Magazine

"... easy-to-read, first-hand experiences, quotations, statistics, advice, resources, questions and answers, making it the most comprehensive college survival guide book on the market today. And its contents are helpful for both men and women, despite the title." - Bronco Buzz: SCU's Electronic Student Paper

The following is an excerpt from The College Woman's Handbook by Rachel Dobkin and Shana Sippy ($14.95; Workman Publishing; ISBN 1-56305-559-7). All rights reserved by Workman Publishing.

The College Woman's Handbook


Although women of all different ages and from all different environments and backgrounds are dissatisfied with their appearance, body image problems are most prevalent in women 25 and under-an age group including a large segment of the college population. In an oft-quoted study of college women, three-quarters of those surveyed felt they were overweight when, by medical definition, less than one-quarter of them actually were. Clearly, the reality of how college women look has little to do with how they believe they look. This may be related to a number of factors that are specific to both our age and situation:

  • During college we are taught to analyze and scrutinize everything we read and see, and we apply our newly honed skills to ourselves.
  • Looking inside ourselves and dealing with difficult issues is often rewarding and helpful but is also very hard work-sometimes it's easier to focus on how we look than what's within.
  • Not only are women in their late teens and twenties the target population for most fashion magazines, but the vast majority of models also fall into this age range. When the media messages and images are aimed directly at us, they can be pretty hard to ignore.
  • Because college is one of the first opportunities that we have to "reinvent" ourselves more or less independently of the baggage of our past, we look to ideals for guidance about who and what we should be.
  • For many of us, the college years serve as our transition into adulthood. It's up to us to 'forge our destiny." It seems as if every decision we make now will directly and permanently affect our future happiness and prosperity, and that we can control every aspect of our lives. This can make even the most mellow and confident person feel stressed and edgy.
  • Though most would agree that perfectionism is problematic, being a perfectionist is not only socially acceptable, it's socially desirable.
  • Body- and self-criticism are well-practiced rituals for a large number of college women. We bond over dieting together, comparing pinched inches of fat and putting ourselves and our appearance down. In this way, we reinforce each other's insecurities about our bodies.
  • We continually find ourselves in situations in which appearance is partic-, ularly important: We're making first impressions, rushing sororities, interviewing for jobs and internships, trying to impress professors and mentors, and lookin' for love.


"I got to college and I never saw so many beautiful girls in my life.... I never had much of a problem with my looks, but suddenly, there were all these tall, thin, blond girls with perfect figures everywhere I looked, and I totally felt short, fat, and ugly." -UCLA, '96

Considering the importance placed on appearance, the benefits that come with "beauty," and the prevalence of women with distorted body images, it's no surprise that so many of us spend so much time trying to change the way we look. We minimize and maximize, tuck and bind. Some of us even turn to surgical remedies for those 'problems" that we can't get rid of ourselves. And we diet. A lot. In 1993, the diet industry took in $37 billion pushing its products, programs, and promises into the shopping carts and belief systems of American women (and occasionally men). The diet companies rarely tout a message of the health benefits of getting and staying fit. (Perhaps this is because many of the pills, formulas, and diet plans are unhealthy and sometimes dangerous, even when used as directed.) Instead, they entice us with promises of happier, more fulfilling lives, implying that being thin is the answer to all our problems.

Even though we know the facts (and we do know the facts), we all too often ignore them. We know that crash diets don't work-not only do they make us miserable, but the weight almost always comes back. This happens because when we suddenly reduce our food and calorie intake to a trickle, our bodies go into starvation mode, lowering metabolism (and thus causing calories to burn more slowly) and using energy stored in muscle, not fat. So even though we can finally fit into that itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny yellow polka-dot bikini at the end of a two-week-long monogamous relationship with lettuce, we still have all the fat we started with-and we're less able to lose it. Thus, when we eat normally again, we end up weighing more than when we started the diet.

"Think about how much - time, energy, aggravation, and money we spend on ways to change the way we look. Instead of being pissed and disgusted that our thighs bulge, we should be pissed and disgusted that we get pissed and disgusted-our thighs are supposed to bulge!" -AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, '97

If you go on diets that feel like "die with a t" and expect that you'll magically be transformed into the person you've always wanted to be, you're almost guaranteed to end up gaining even more weight than you lost and feeling lousy and disappointed with yourself to boot. On the other hand, eating well, enjoying food, and taking the time to exercise are excellent ways to make you and your body happy. Establishing healthy eating patterns is different from dieting -- a basic part of taking care of yourself. Regardless of your weight, it's important to eat nutritionally balanced meals, a variety of foods, and foods that are both physically and emotionally satisfying.

"Somewhere along the way, so many women's priorities have become screwed up. Instead of doing what it takes to make us healthy, taking care of our bodies, and doing everything possible to make us feel good about ourselves, it's like we're doing everything in our power to make ourselves feel lousy about the way we look and guilty about missing one aerobics class." - WELLESLEY COLLEGE, '92

It is not bad to care about what you look like or to feel good about looking good, and trying to get your body in shape can be a positive thing. Being clinically overweight can put you at risk for a number of serious disorders (such as diabetes, heart attack, high blood pressure, and back pain), and becoming physically fit can do wonderful things for your health, energy, mood, and self-esteem. But feeling inadequate, unsexy, embarrassed, self-conscious, or uncomfortable because you fail to resemble an unattainable social ideal is time poorly spent. There is never a good reason to hate or feel ashamed of your body, and your weight is not a measure of your success or worthiness. Making a decision to lose weight should come out of caring for your body.

This is an excerpt from The College Woman's Handbook by Rachel Dobkin and Shana Sippy ($14.95; Workman Publishing; ISBN 1-56305-559-7). All rights reserved by Workman Publishing. You can order this book at your local bookstore or online bookstores. To request a review copy, contact Deborah DeLosa 212/614-7705. Thank you.


home | what's new | resources | ask amy | news | activism | anti-violence
events | marketplace | about us | e-mail us | join our mailing list

©1995-2002 Feminist.com All rights reserved.