For girls and women, life can often seem like an episode of the reality TV show America’s Next Top Model. Throughout every phase of our lives, our appearance is judged and critiqued. Our looks are compared with those of our peers, our sisters, the women in the media, or imaginary ideals. No one ever asked if we want to participate in this lifelong competition; being female automatically makes us contestants, subject to constant scrutiny….

Wanting to feel good about our bodies and our appearance is natural. Creating our own style allows us to express ourselves and to reflect our creativity and values. But there are questions most of us wrestle with: How do we nurture a positive body image while we’re constantly being judged? How do we deal with pressure to act and look sexier in order to fit in? How do we change a system that marginalizes many of us and that rewards appearances above all else? While there are many things that divide us as women, dissatisfaction with our looks and our bodies is something too many of us share. The articles in this section look at how cultural forces have encouraged us to dislike our bodies and how we each can learn to be more comfortable in our own skin.