It's a feminist issue

I read an interview in the New York Times with Susie Orbach, author of Fat is a Feminist Issue and Hunger Strike, and the newly released Bodies. Although I don't agree with her assertion that feminism will 'solve' eating disorders (as EDs are biologically based mental illnesses), I do believe that they are a feminist issue. Why? Eating disorders do affect women which makes them a feminist issue.

And I think many of her points are relevant to today's society: that corporations stand to make a lot of money when women hate their appearance. Also that a pervasive dissatisfaction with your appearance ultimately takes away from our culture. Who knows what things I might have thought if I weren't preoccupied with food and weight.

What Orbach touches on, but doesn't expressly say, is that we are equating what you look like with who you are as a person. Think about the literature on obesity. "Fat" doesn't just mean "more adipose tissue." On a cultural level, "fat" means "lazy," "no willpower," "gluttonous," "stupid," etc.

I don't agree with Orbach when she says that a striving to have the 'perfect' body causes eating disorders. Because they'd be a lot more common than they currently are, if that were the case. It also doesn't explain the existence of EDs before thin was popular. But much of her wisdom on our societal obsession with thin and with dieting is spot on.
"I wish we could treat our bodies as the place we live from, rather than regard it as a place to be worked on, as though it were a disagreeable old kitchen in need of renovation and update," Orbach says. "Now we’re all invited to believe that we can be beautiful, but accompanying that is that we must be preoccupied with how we look from the age of 6 to the age of 75. We’re expected to look like Angelina Jolie from childhood to the old-age home."

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1 comment:

Libby said...

Would you recommend Orbach's books? Seeing as I have limited reading time and all...

(Surprisingly, I've never read FIAFI)

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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