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Essay for 


Ways To Make 

America Better

(Villard Publishers, in conjunction with George magazine: 1999)

By Catherine Taylor and 
Lonnie Hull DuPont 
for Radiance

From Radiance Winter 2000

John F. Kennedy 250 Ways to Make America BetterJr., the late founder and editor of George magazine, loved lists. Lists of the top twenty most fascinating women in politics, the top ten government goofs, the fifty most powerful . . . With his eye on the millennium, Kennedy decided to put together an anthology of “intriguing Americans’ suggestions on improving this country.” We at Radiance were honored to be among those asked to contribute to what became the book 250 Ways to Make America Better: Great Ideas on How We Can Improve Our Country (Villard Books, 1999).

Ours is suggestion number 84, and it was written for you, Radiance readers, and for all those who need to hear the Radiance perspective. In true J.F.K. Jr. style, this book placed us in rich and contradictory company. As he describes in his introduction, it brings together a “cross section of opinion as wide as the Grand Canyon . . . from moguls to movie makers, right-wingers to rabble-rousers, cartoonists to convicts to cookbook authors . . . a convergence of ideas as diverse as the great drama of public life in America.” This was Kennedy's gift to us all: he wanted for each of us to have a voice, and he created venues that required us to acknowledge voices different from our own. We will miss you, John Kennedy. Thank you for reminding us that our opinions and actions matter in the bigger picture, and for giving us the opportunity to speak.

—Catherine Taylor



ur American culture has woven a tight fabric of rules to which women’s bodies are subjected every single day. Women and girls—no matter what our size, no matter what our economic station—find ourselves bound by it. Pressure to conform to a svelte body comes at us from television, advertising, health care professionals, even from within the political arena. We feel the pressure as we walk down the street, care for our daughters, consider whether or not to join the 88 percent of American women who will not wear a bathing suit. We feel it when the same culture that ogles the $1,000 gown worn by a ninety-pound supermodel points an accusing finger at a full-bodied woman as though she has somehow captured a disproportionate amount of the communal pie.

Over the past ten years our culture has just begun to address the consequences of the diet industry and its yo-yo message, of designer clothing only for those below a size 12, of the barrage of images showing female beauty as childishly youthful and childishly thin. As diet drugs are recalled because of safety, health watchdogs question their necessity. As eating disorders require the attention of an entire new line of health specialists, our culture at last criticizes some fashion designers for their ads. As women attain positions of greater authority and visibility, they boldly challenge the view that only those who fit the beauty mold deserve to be in the public eye.

The fabric is unraveling. Where do we go from here? What new world do we weave? Imagine this: What if we stop assessing ourselves based on current media icons and find new role models, women who look like us? What if we stop critiquing our bodies in front of our kids and make a pact to help our daughters know and love their own bodies? What if we radically redefine our conception of beauty and surround ourselves and our children with images of beauty as colorful, plentiful, and diverse as America herself?

It’s time we look at one another, and ourselves, as whole and talented people. It’s time we help that young woman gagging up calories in the toilet, losing her creative energy to self-hatred. She needs to come out of the bathroom and join her peers. It’s time we persuade the woman of size, the one who’s afraid to be seen in public, to find her place in the world, to fulfill herself personally, and to make a difference in her community. She needs to come out of the house without fear of ridicule.

Imagine children growing up loving their bodies. Imagine eating disorders declining as size loses its influence on self-esteem. Imagine the demand for quick-fix diet drugs disappearing. Imagine no more diet-related death. Imagine beautiful clothing for every shape. Tolerance for those who differ from us. Appreciation for beauty in all sizes. We could even like the way we look. Imagine that, the fabric of our new vision. ©

Catherine Taylor and Lonnie Hull DuPont wrote this essay on behalf of Radiance.

Remember, this is only a taste of what's inside the printed version of the magazine!



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