Monday, January 24, 2011

Fat is a Feminist Issue

Fat is a Feminist Issue... How to lose eight permanently-without dieting by Susie Orbach:
Verdict = interesting premise and certainly worthwhile but not totally convincing.

I want to preface this conclusion in saying that I do not have a compulsive eating disorder or suffer from weight issues. The case-studies in this book were only relatable in small ways, I think that if you read yourself on the page, this could well be life changing read - so check it out. The body image stuff however is right up everybody's street. Own it.

The main issue I had with the premise is to reduce weight-gain ENTIRELY to the social position of women in society is a little oversimplified. This is actually demonstrated frequently throughout the book when the examples have many complex psychological reasons for compulsive eating. Thus broad statements like "compulsive eating is an individual protest against the inequality of the sexes" (p.185 of my edition) in the conclusion to the book are annoying. Worse it risks demeaning the message. After a book of facing and embracing your body and your individual cause of over-eating you are batted over the head with a slogan. Sweeping political statements have no place in realistic conclusions as they risk giving an unecessary flippance. True this is a matter of personal tastes, but really!

I realise that feminist theory is pertinent to the issue of 'fat' and I agree that Susie Orbach delivers a succinct and very easily digestible account of how it relates to body image etc. and the roles of women in society. I think that starting with this works really well and leads nicely into the more practical analysis of how things are different, difficult and complicated on a personal level.

The cover of my copy (bought in 1982 by my mum) is great. The title is emblazoned and strong. The latest one is above and is less than satisfactory. Although again eye catching. Interestingly the sub-title is not there anymore so perhaps someone realised that body image was what the theory best related too? Maybe. Essentially this book encourages you to accept yourself for who you are. Every little bit including those knees you dislike and every single bit of fat. It also tells you to enjoy food. Neither of them are bad things certainly. So give it a read and see if it is pertinent to your situation. It is certainly interesting.

As a last note there was an extraordinary claim on page 71"Only in literature have women consistently had a voice and a wide audience." This is clearly bollocks. A nice idea but not true at all, isn't it? Writing is certainly a powerful medium but hardly easier for women than men and how many books ever reach a wide audience! Taken out of context that quote could lead to all sorts of feminist misunderstandings. Or misplaced celebrations. Party on Literature I say (which is totally why there is always one week in a course devoted to female authors/playwrights)!
Anyways this post is a little uncrafted and rambling but well intentioned. Now onto The Female Eunuch!