My body my ‘self’: Aging and the lived experience of embodied womanhood

Marie L McCormick, Fordham University


Using phenomenological methodology this project illuminates the meaning of the food-body-eating-self phenomenon in the lifeworld of the older woman. During a ten month period, over the course of sixty interviews, fifteen working poor women—African American, Latina and White; ages 62-to-91; members of a large urban senior center—articulated the uses of food and eating to shape their body/'self' throughout their lives. Each woman spoke about her body through un-'self'-consciously describing occasions of pain, trauma, loss, resilience, endurance and belief. The narratives described the notion of the body-for-self and body-for-others, revealing the complexities of the body as a private domain for the 'self' that is at the same time a public domain, subjecting the 'self' to the scrutiny of others and through others, the world. In the narratives, each woman's conversation flowed smoothly from body-talk, to 'self' reflection, to the lived experience of embodied womanhood. Transitioning from dieting, clothes, and appearance to the substance of her life; her choices, accomplishments, challenges, compromises, hopes and disappointments, was a seamless process. Analysis of the interviews revealed the invariant meaning of the food-body-eating-self phenomenon: Embodied Womanhood. Ten Core Themes emerged as dimensions of the four Invariant Constituents of Embodied Womanhood: Acceptance, 'Self' Continuity, Resilience, and 'Self' Determination. The construct of embodied womanhood, contextualized by the lived experience of aging, illuminates the particular struggles of women whose embodied 'self'(s) are continually challenged as healthy and whole by appearance-based cultural standards that dismiss and devalue aging bodies. The knowledge generated from this study contributes to reshaping the cultural discourse about women aging. It draws attention to the fact that the 'self' is an embodied 'self' throughout the lifecourse, and supports the development of programs and services that are humanizing rather than objectifying.

Subject Area

Gerontology|Social work|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

McCormick, Marie L, "My body my ‘self’: Aging and the lived experience of embodied womanhood" (2008). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3309584.