Re: more on bigorexia

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Wed 11 May 2005 - 07:42:50 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: more on bigorexia"

    Scott Chase wrote:
    > --- Bill Spight <> wrote:
    >>Dear Scott,
    >>>a memetic sense, perhaps women have developed an
    >>>"immunity" to this targeting of messages preying
    >>>perceived inadaquacies, where due to taboos
    >>>being open with such things men are highly
    >>>susceptible...I dunno.
    >>I don't know whether women have developed an
    >>immunity, but they
    >>certainly seem to be bombarded with messages
    >>carrying such implications,
    >>don't they?
    > Well since women have been targeted for so long with
    > the fashionn, diet and beauty aid stuff some of them
    > might have developed some counter measures that allow
    > them not to be taken in by the prevailing tendencies
    > towards certain idealizations. This was suggested in
    > the _Adonis Complex_ book far better than I can
    > address it, but suffice it to say that self-help
    > groups or plain conversation between women that
    > punctures the stuff they are inundated with might
    > help, where it seems OTOH men aren't comfortable
    > talking to each other yet about how this media image
    > frenzy is making them feel insecure. The feminist
    > stance is an antipode to the objectifying treatment
    > women receive in ads or institutions like the Miss
    > America pageant.

    I guess what you've been talking about wrt men is the extreme version of capitulating to body-image pressures. But wrt women in general I don't know how you can even begin to think that there is a sort of group immunity to these pressures. I'd say the opposite is the case. No, more than that, I'd say that the sort of conversations that most women have actually contribute towards these pressures. How many women do you know who do not wear make-up, depilate the bits of their body dictated by their particular culture, buy fashionable clothes, diet . . . ? There may be only a minority who take these things to extremes and suffer from body-image distortion disorders, but there is a vast majority who buy into the more general cultural messages about body-image acceptability.

    Obviously this is partly due to a biological drive: in my culture being attractive is defined in these ways, so I'd better be like that or I won't get a mate. But there is a huge cultural element too. You asked below about friends, parents, etc. An illuminating anecdote: as part of a module on Islam that I was teaching to a class of 11 year olds, we were discussing the reasons why someone might voluntarily go through the hardships of fasting during Ramadan - and the first suggestion of both boys and girls at this young age was "to lose weight". This cultural stuff kicks in much earlier than we realise.

    Secondly, I think that for women the biggest influence on the extent to which they buy into the dieting/makeup/fashion/etc. pressures is their mother. Biggest influence *by far*. From mother we learn what it means to be a woman. The *only* women I know who don't care about fashion or makeup are those whose mothers didn't either. The *only* women I know who don't diet have non-dieting mothers. And these women are in a tiny minority. By contrast those women whose mothers are more conventional in their enjoyment of fashion, etc. may not grow up with the same tastes in these things as their mother (the particular shape of their tastes in clothes, makeup, body image is probably more influenced by their age peers than their parent) - but they will largely grow up with the same level of interest in them.

    The implication is that we get a level-of-interest in these aspects of body-image, as part of the family-script package. This is maybe a sort of immunity-level: it dictates to what extent we will later be susceptible to the fashion/body-image memes that abound in the culture we find beyond the family. Women who have learnt from mother that these things matter a great deal will have low immunity, whereas those whose mothers don't care will have higher immunity.

    What this can tell us about women who take any of this to extremes I don't know.


    > But for memetics the things that I've read in various
    > studies would bring the focus on means of transmitting
    > body image ideals and ways of changing body appearance
    > into play. How important are parents, friends,
    > schoolmates, and media in the cultural equation? And
    > how can changes in the ideals over time for society
    > and for individuals be quantified? In a sense this
    > takes us away from the linguistic bias this list has
    > suffered. How can we steer away from words and towards
    > images as a way of looking at cultural change?
    > Measuring the shifting proportions of GI Joe over the
    > decades?

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