Monday, 14 July 2014

"AM I THIN ENOUGH YET?": THE CULT OF THE THINNESS & THE COMMERCIALIZATION - SHARLENE HESSE-BIBER

Below shows quotes and extracts taken from the book listed below. It was taken out of the library before summer to begin secondary research on my chosen topic and theme for my dissertation/practical element. I feel this book could prove beneficial in terms of research and sources, as well as quotations and facts/figures.

"Am I thin enough yet?": The Commericalization of Identity by Sharlene Hesse-Biber (Oxford University Press, 1996)

Synopsis:

Whether they are rich or poor, tall or short, liberal or conservative, most young American women have one thing in common--they want to be thin. And they are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to get that way, even to the point of starving themselves. Why are America's women so preoccupied with weight? What has caused record numbers of young women--even before they reach their teenage years--to suffer from anorexia and bulimia? In Am I Thin Enough Yet?, Sharlene Hesse-Biber answers these questions and more, as she goes beyond traditional psychological explanations of eating disorders to level a powerful indictment against the social, political, and economic pressures women face in a weight-obsessed society.
Hesse-Biber highlights the various ways in which American families, schools, popular culture, and the health and fitness industry all undermine young women's self-confidence as they inculcate the notions that thinness is beauty and that a woman's body is more important than her mind. We are introduced to women (and men) from different cultures who themselves have acquired eating disorders in pursuit of the American standard of physical perfection. And we learn of the often tragic consequences of this obsession with thinness. The book concludes with Hesse-Biber's prescriptions on how women can overcome their low self-image through therapy, spiritualism, and grass-root efforts to empower themselves against a society obsessed with beauty and thinness.


Impact on Children and Teenagers

"Cult of thinness" - p.6

"[Anorexia can be seen as] a single-minded pursuit of thinness and beauty has many parallels to a religious cult" - p.9

"The object of worship is the 'perfect body'" - p.10

"Thin is sacred. Thin is beautiful and healthy, thin will get you a husband. Salvation awaits those who attain the ideal" - p.11

"Fat is profane. To be fat is to be ugly, weak, and slovenly; to have lost control, be lazy, and have no ambition" - p.11 
- The idea of powerlessness.

"The rituals surrounding anorexia, bulimia and exercise addiction carry the rise of emotional and physical damage, or even death" - p.11
- Eating disorders are often seen as a 'tool' for accomplishing goals.

"A women's sense of worth in our culture is still greatly determined by her ability to attract a man" - p.13

Theories of Eating Disorders

"Individualistic explanations" - p.14

"One theory assumes that an eating disorder is a reflection of a woman's psycho-sexual development. Women with eating disorders are said to fear impregnation and reject their sexuality" - p.14
- Gaining and keeping/maintaining control within adolescents
- Psychotherapy given as treatment

"Another focused on biological causes. This views eating disorders with depression, which may be caused by a chemical or metabolic defect" - p.15
- Drugs - hormones given as treatment
- This is mainly seen in women

"Relatively recent thinking sees an eating disorder as the result of family dynamics" - p.14
- Family treatment/therapy
- People with conflicts, not conflicts within

"[Women] are judged almost entirely in terms of her appearance, her attractiveness to men and her ability to keep the species going" - p.17

Ideal:

"Being overweight is one way to say "no" to feeling powerless" - p.29

"Being fat challenges, in Orbach's words, 'the ability of culture to turn women into mere products'" - p.29

Body Business:

"The concept of a mirror gives us an analogy for how society fosters women's obsession within their weight and body image" - p.31

"Who benefits from women's excessive concern with business? How is this obsession created, promoted and perpetuated?" - p.32

"In creating women's concept of the ideal body image, the culture mirror is more influential than the mirror reflecting [perceptions and attitudes]" - p.32

"Capitalism and patriarchy most often use the media to project the culturally desirable body to women ... [magazines] offer to 'help' to women, while presenting a standard clearly impossible to maintain" - p.32

- Women see their worth due to their reflection in the mirror.
- Societal influences act as rewards or punishments to urge women's bodies toward thinness.

Social psychologist George Herbert Mead - We experience ourselves as both subjects and objects.
"The individual experiences himself as such, not directly, but only indirectly, from the particular standpoints of other individual members of the same group or from the generalised standpoint of the social group as a whole to which he belongs" 
- "Looking-glass" self theory
- Significant others act as the mirrors that reflect us. What others value in us provides the basic building blocks of self-hood.

- Constant need for gratification, self-assurance, satisfaction, happiness and perfection.

- Physical appearance is always visible to others unlike personality and values.

- Female body is central in daily life and judgements, i.e. clothing, hair, makeup, etc.

Good and Bad

- Culture associates beauty with good and ugliness with the bad.

"Research suggests social consequences of looking good begin as early as infancy" - p.59

"An attractive child who commits a harmful act will be perceived as less likely to exhibit chronically antisocial behaviour than an unattractive child, primarily when an offence is severe" - p.59
- Rehabilitated attractive child, less likely to commit again (transgression) than an unattractive one.
- Attractiveness/unattractiveness also is said to reflect intellectual potential (400 5th grade teachers - postcard research).

Rewards of the 'right body'

- Helps with continuation to follow societal standards of the ideal body.
- Cultural acceptance, self-confidence, power, control.

Comparison and Competition

- Perception of others as being more attractive than themselves.
- Beauty pageants - fuelling competition.
- Evolving through college brings another set of beauty expectations.

Men

- All important indication than a woman has the culturally correct body-image is attention she gets from men.

Cultural Context of Anorexia and Bulimia

"It's your duty to be beautiful" - Keep Young and Beautiful, Annie Lenox
Keep young and beautiful,
It's your duty to be beautiful,
Keep young and beautiful,
If you want to be loved...

- The American Anorexia/Bulimia Association, estimates 10% of those diagnosed may die.
- UK - 1/5 if untreated.

- Bulimia said to be 4/5 x more common than anorexia - no external change signalling illness.

- Emotional Toll: Despair, self-loathing, guilt, depression, low-self esteem and in inability to conduct normal relationships.

- The Obsession by Kim Chenin.

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