Reading Sallie Tisdale, I loved when she spoke of the skinny, chain-smoking, “caffeine-wild” women as a “pinnacle not of beauty but of will”. This brought me back to Monday’s readings, where though I thought neither Bordo or McCaughey brought a convincing enough take on the origins of anorexia, but at least hit on some very real issues that may be at least part of the problem. I think worth more than digging to find the origins of anorexia is going deeper to find why women especially in our society have an obsession with strength of will as an admirable, romanticised character trait.
I have never been overweight, or even bigger than I am at this moment any time in my life, but a thin woman I see on the street does not need to be in the least bit beautiful for me to look and marvel at (what must be in my head) her ridiculous self-control. We don’t envy thin women always for the way that they physically look, but the valuable traits we see them as possessing for them to be that size. And why? I have a best friend who at about 5’4″ has just recently broke 100 lbs for the first time in her life. She hardly ever excersizes, and she eats more than anyone I know. One of our favorite inside jokes she and the rest of my friends love to repeat was the time she asked me to get dinner, and I told her I had already had 3 slices of pizza at Slice Night. Not missing a beat she incredulously responds, “3 slices of pizza? Thats like…a snack…”. Point being, these thin women are not always- and probably often not- the marvels of self-control they are revered as being.
I also think it is important to look not just at the extremes of obesity and anorexia, but of all the women who are less obviously affected by whatever is going on with the body size crisis in our society. Those who perhaps are not yet at the extremes, but if something is not done could end up on one end or the other of a serious health issue. This week has made me really come to terms with disordered eating and body images I have myself, though before this class I would never have considered myself a disordered eater or mirror-gazer. If a feminist with 4 years of education in body image issues still eats with guilt and regret on a daily basis, something more ubiquitous and pernicious than maybe we know is going on here. Also disordered, I have realized, is wondering what size my body “really” is from the outside looking in. I know for example that my roommate’s mirror is a “skinny” mirror. This one I look in before I go out for the night. The bathroom mirror on the under hand, under huge florescent lights, is not as forgiving. I know that my reflection looks slimmer in the old Follett’s window then it does in the window of the financial consulting firm at the top of Court I walk past to my classes every day. And never really before this week did I realize how strange and unhealthy this all was, categorizing my “real” size between a series of different looking images that are probably not actually different anywhere other than inside my own head.