While much of body image is individual, there's also a large and undeniable amount of influence held by culture. Culture tells us the standards of beauty in our society, or at least held by a segment of our society, which we then individually choose to accept or reject.
In her post, "Mom jeans" and the Curse of MILF Jessica from This is Worthwhile rejects the inherent assumption in phrases like "MILF" and "mom jeans" that Mom=not hot.
In modern society mothers are discarded by the mainstream as sexy, powerful women based on the caricaturization of a few. Yes, some women wear clothing that is frumpy and ill-fitting. Yes, some women choose not to wear make-up or do their hair. But that does not mean it is a "mom look." It is that particular woman's expression of herself and she might also be a mother. It's not the mother in her that makes her dress in an unflattering way. It's the woman that she is that fuels those decisions. They are separate.
Over at Lil Snowflakes in You look great!, Sheryl observes a cultural phenomenon in which people seem to think it's okay to say just about anything to pregnant women.
As I gained weight my body changed and suddenly it became a topic of conversation for anyone that I encountered. Not a day went by without someone commenting on my body. Here are some examples: How much weight have you gained? Your face has really changed! You look like you're having a girl (code for: your face is fat!).
Mama Poekie at Authentic Parenting shares her experience examining her body image in light of Western culture and then Western African culture.
I moved to Africa three years ago and from then on, things really started to change. Over a period of six months, I had gained back all the weight I had lost through years of dieting. Our cook was trying to do a good job, which meant that his bosses needed to be well nourished, and every time I tried to explain how to cook healthy meals, he added oil or sugar when I wasn’t watching. At that time we were living in Cameroon, where really fat people are considered beautiful. This led to horrifying cultural clashes: the plumber coming over telling me Cameroon did me justice, because I had gotten so big! That’s probably the last thing you want to hear if you are living with the ‘thin is beautiful’ mindset we are raised by.
Carolyn from Breeder Brain thought she had fully explored her gender identity... until she became a mother, as she discusses in her post, Happy to Be Female.
When I was born, I was labeled female and given a female name and raised as a girl. I don’t remember ever feeling strongly about my sex or gender identity until recently. My sense of self and my perception of how my physical body and how society expected me to be meshed well enough for me to get by.”
Also be sure to check out The Skinny on Being Skinny where Melodie features some great posts about how "skinny" women view their own bodies.