Re: more on bigorexia

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Wed 11 May 2005 - 10:19:30 GMT

  • Next message: Kate Distin: "Re: more on bigorexia"

    --- Kate Distin <> wrote:

    > Scott Chase wrote:
    > >
    > > --- Bill Spight <> wrote:
    > >
    > >
    > >>Dear Scott,
    > >>
    > >>
    > >>>In
    > >>>a memetic sense, perhaps women have developed an
    > >>>"immunity" to this targeting of messages preying
    > >>
    > >>upon
    > >>
    > >>>perceived inadaquacies, where due to taboos
    > >>
    > >>against
    > >>
    > >>>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.
    On pages 60-1 Pope, Phillips and Olivardia say (The Adonis Complex_): "Women, in contrast, have learned in recent years to be more candid about their body image concerns- and they've grown stronger in their ability to reject societal messages that appearance is all-important". Flipping back to the endnotes I don't see any citations to back their claim, but one of the authors Katharine Phillips is a woman, so this notion apparently didn't strike her as too odd to make it into the book. Earlier in the book they stress that women have more awareness of the isue and there are some safety nets for them to sekk support and professional help.

    I think I ran with the ball a little. One point I had considered was the impact of feminism on womens' views about social pressures. Are feminists, in general, less susceptible to body image concerns than the rest of the female population?

    The authors of this book speculate OTOH about the impact of feminism and the strides women have made during the 20th century on male pride and whether this parallels the rise of the Adonis complex and body image concerns in men. Again one of the authors is female, so this speculation must have passed muster with her, but I'm not too sure there's a causal connection as they imply. Could the ascent of women into formerly male dominated careers have led to preoccupation with biceps and bench press as the last vestige of male dominance? That's where the authors seem to be leading the reader. Maybe its not a blame feminism or blame womens liberation message, but one needs to be careful, especially if certain types of political demagogues get a hold of this stuff for propaganda purposes.

    I'm not sure if the authors account for the phenomenon of female bodybuilding in this book, because there are some women who have physiques that are off the charts in comparison to the typical male. True that women will probably not outsize or outlift competitive men, but some have surpassed average men in stature. That's a body image thing (mesomorphic females) that might be interesting to address.

    The authors do engage in a little he-man evolutionary advantage speculating in this book too. That should be expected I suppose (eg- "being better able to wield ancient weapons" or "a large body and broad chest may still signify survival skill and strength in today's world"- page 50).
      At first glance their comparison of GI Joe dolls on page 41 was rather amusing, but other visual comparisons on subsequent pages are far more compelling, especially the way the Han Solo and Luke Skywalker dolls have changed over the years, a very timely topic given how the new Star Wars film is about to be released and I've noticed some marketing spillovers into video gaming and other stuff. Movie crossovers into fast food advertizing are what usually ticks me off.

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