Essay about 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
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However, Wolf explains that "the anorexic may begin her journey defiant, but from the point of view of a male dominated society, she ends up as the perfect woman. She is weak, sexless, and voiceless, and can only with difficulty focus on a world beyond her plate" (Wolf, 197). overall, most feminists agree that the female ideal of beauty and sexuality has a detrimental effect on many women that can result in body image distortion and eating disorders.


Mary Briody Mahowald recognizes that many feminists believe that eating disorders among women stems from a "rebellion against patriarchy through rejection of one's own sexuality" ( Mahowald, 299). However, she also points out theories that focus more on sexism and class discrimination.

Some liberal feminists believe that sexism causes anorexia and other eating disorders. In other words, gender stereotyping creates an "unequal burden on women" to maintain an ideal feminine appearance or behavior. The fitness and diet industry makes millions of dollars a year selling such an ideal to women. Radical feminists believe that women are being exploited because men profit from the thin ideal. Thus, feminists want to resist the thin ideal. As Susie Orbach mentions in her book Fat is a Feminist Issue, a new ideal
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