Re: more on bigorexia

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Wed 11 May 2005 - 12:55:09 GMT

  • Next message: Kate Distin: "Species concepts"

    Scott Chase wrote:
    > --- Kate Distin <> wrote:
    >>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.

    Well, to be fair I didn't back my claims with any citations either, so I can't really criticize them for that. Re-reading my last message just now I was surprised to see how cross I sounded - not my intention, so sorry about that.

    To a certain extent I agree that there's been a societal shift: for example, away from finding it acceptable to comment on the appearance of a newsreader/politician/academic just because she's a woman. It's the extent to which this impacts upon most women most of the time that I'd question.

    > 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?

    Hmmm. Feminism is one of those odd words that can mean lots of different things depending on who hears it (an interesting memetic conundrum in itself), so I suspect the only accurate answer is: I don't know.

    > 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.

    Very good memetically, though. How long will the Burger King ban last in our household? Parental willpower vs the power of the dark side. Watch this space.


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