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Open Right

Lee Kofman: How our bodies shape the people we become

Session Info:

We like to say that beauty is skin deep, and that all bodies are beautiful. But my experience of having a body punctuated by numerous scars and parenting a child with albinism, as well as all the research I did both in my academic work and for my recent memoir Imperfect tells me that the way we look matters more than we like to admit.

In this talk I discuss the various ways in which I believe our bodies can shape our lives, whether by impacting opportunities available to us, choices we make, our daily behaviour and sense of self, or even our personalities. I draw on my own story and also on the stories of other people I interviewed, such as people with dwarfism or with noticeable birthmarks. I talk also about how more ‘ordinary’ appearance, as well as good looks, can have impact on how our lives unfold.

I contextualise my talk within the longstanding western view that our bodies are mirrors of our selves, deconstructing some common judgements, often made sub-consciously (for example, that larger people have no self-control).

My aim is to inspire honest conversation about appearance and body image, promote body diversity by helping my audience reflect on their ideas about appearance, and offer some realistic strategies how to live better in the bodies they have.

Topics covered:

  • my story of growing up with non-facial scars and of parenting a child with albinism
  • historical perspective of how in the west the body is viewed as the mirror of the person’s character, including examples from current popular culture
  • individual impact of our appearance on our lives
  • practical strategies for how to live well in imperfect bodies
  • examples of how we can use our imperfections to our advantage


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