Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Next Time, I'm Going With the Sausage Calzone (and an extra order of fries)

*This is not an assigned blog post, but a spontaneously generated anecdotal reaction to Bordo's piece, which I found fascinating. 

Last week at at a research meeting, I was having lunch with three other students (one male, two female) and my male Professor. When it came time to order, one of the girls passed because she was "getting over a stomach bug" and another ordered nothing but salad and coffee. For some reason, I ended up being the only girl actually eating a sandwich, along with the other male student, who also ordered a sandwich, and my Professor, who went with a Calzone. 

Bordo talks about the enormous pressure, often through advertising, on females to be thin, to forgo food, and to exert self-control and daintiness when they are eating. While men are allowed to have "hearty appetites" and eat as much as they want to, for women to do so is often associated with a kind of revulsion and fundamental wrong-ness. As is often depicted, men eat, but women deny themselves in order to nurture others through preparing or giving food, deriving joy and pleasure from such an experience. In contrast to men, women's "indulgences" in food are often private and closeted.

Reading Bordo's piece suddenly made me realize how many of the women that I have known and continue to know talk and act in a way that reflects their worries about weight and eating come mealtime. I've always linked problems and pressures associated with eating to the extreme of having an "eating disorder," but Bordo draws attention to the fact that the gendered ideology behind food and eating can also manifest itself in much more subtle and ingrained ways. 

On that note, I've only ever briefly come into contact with one woman who suffered from bulimia. But many females that I have considered friends past and present have done things (not all the time but often enough), like eating nothing but a salad for a meal, purposefully forgoing eating because they're "not hungry," or consciously limiting their intake of food in front of others. Instead of hearing, "I'm hungry and I'm going to eat until I'm full," I more often hear things like, "I shouldn't eat so much" or "I need to go on a diet." While none of these women have what you would call a medically prescribed, "eating disorder," they are all extremely conscious of how much they're eating and the perceived effects on their bodies, as well as how they might be viewed by others when they're eating.

Bordo's points are creepily relevant - how hard is it not to feel just a little bit self-conscious, especially as a woman, about shoveling mounds of cheese-covered fries in your mouth or ordering the super burrito and tucking it away in five minutes flat? And even for some of those women who do eat as much as they want without worrying about it, it always seems to be tied up in discourse either about a lack of self control or about others being "jealous" that someone "can eat so much and still stay so skinny." 

As Professor Retzinger mentioned, this obsession with eating and body image and how it is framed and subsequently internalized by women can be thought of as a kind of control over women - to make them smaller (both literally and figuratively) and to discount them. How much brainpower and energy could be expended on other things if women were less consumed with the desire to be skinnier, to eat less, to lose more? 


  1. This is one of my favorite topics! I personally find media and body image an incredibly relevant topic, and I found the Bordo reading really interesting too. Here is the trailer of a documentar called Killing Us Softly - I highly recommend it!


  2. I also felt like this topic was something very relevant and intriguing. I'm in a sorority and once a year we have a health worker come in and talk to us about health, eating disorders, and body image following with a group discussion on these subjects. A look at this site makes it clear that this problem isn't made up and that raising awareness is necessary: http://fitness-bitch.tumblr.com/

  3. For me this topic of image and food is a very sensitive subject. Being in a sport where weight is important, many of my close friends have dealt with eating disorders. Coaches, judges, parents alike are constantly commenting on the weight of ice skaters. Weigh ins in front of coaches aren't uncommon and skaters turn to laxatives in order to keep the weight off. People look at their fellow competitors and compare themselves to them as well to see if they are skinnier then them. Sometimes, parents and coaches would keep the athlete on such a strict diet that the skater would hide in the bathroom stall eating candy or chocolate and then throw it up after. Yes, it was really hard for the skater dealing with the eating disorder, but it was equally as hard watching my friends struggling and not being able to do anything. So when I was growing up, body image and weight was extremely important.

  4. Sophia, I told you this in class, but I love the title of this blog post! Anecdotal evidence can sometimes be the most rewarding, as your experience and Laney's both demonstrate. I think as the nation as a whole grows increasingly aware of childhood obesity issues and the rise of Type 2 diabetes, more and more attention will be paid to not only advertising and habits of consumption perpetuated by the media, but more fundamentally even the structure of our food system (mass-produced, highly processed, with prices that don't really reflect the costs of such a system).