Eating Disorders: A Feminist Issue

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Eating Disorders: A Feminist Issue

What is a feminist approach to understanding eating disorders? Not all feminists have the same understanding of eating disorders. There are many different theories that are prevalent in feminist literature today. This web page will explore some of the different feminist perspectives about the cause of eating disorders in our culture.

Power Control and obedience

In her book Unbearable Weight, Susan Bordo (1993) makes the argument that the fear of women's fat is actually a fear of women's power. Thus, as women gain power in society, their bodies dwindle and suffer. She states that "female hunger--for public power, for independence, for sexual gratification-- [must] be contained, and the public space that women be allowed to take up be circumscribed, limited... On the body of the anorexic woman such rules are grimly and deeply etched" (Bordo, 171).

Naomi Wolf (1991) has a similar explanation of the origin of eating disorders in her bestseller The Beauty Myth. She states: "a cultural fixation on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty but an obsession about female obedience" (Wolf, 187). Women who remain thin are being obedient; it is another way for patriarchy to control women. "If women cannot eat the same food as men, we cannot experience equal status in the community" (Wolf, 189).

Sexuality

Sexuality is another issue that feminist Naomi Wolf explores in an effort to understand the prevalence of eating disorders among women. "Fat is sexual in women. . . to ask women to become unnaturally thin is to ask them to relinquish their sexuality" (Wolf, 193). Women who develop eating disorders, especially anorexia, are denying their sexuality and natural female b...

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... disordered attitudes and behaviors. Psvchology of Women Quarteriv. 2-0, 2.

Goodman, Ellen. (1996). The skeleton look is in fashion. The Tennessean. June 1 1.

Mahowald., Mary Betody. (1995). To be or not to be a woman: anorexia nervosa, normative gender roles, and feminism. Nagging Questions. Ed. Dana E. Bushnell. Boston:

Rowman Er Littlefield. Martz, D. M., Handley, K. B. Er Eisler, R. M. (1995). The Relationship between feminine gender role stress, body image, and eating disorders. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 19, 4.

Morris, B. J. (1985). The phenomena of anorexia nervosa: a feminist perspective. Feminist Issues, 5, 2.

Orbach, Susie. (1978) Fat Is A Feminist Issue. New York: Berkeley Press.

Swartz, L. (1985). Is thin a feminist issue? Women's Studies International Forum, 8. 5.

Wolf, Naomi. (1991). The Beauty Myth. NewYork: Doubleday.

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