When I consider the motives of dieters—and by extension of an extreme, anorectics—I initially feel that one of their central aims in losing weight is to appear more attractive, usually in the conventional sense, and to attract sexual attention and relationships. Although I do not mean to suggest that the experiences of anorectics and mere dieters are analogous, I have always thought that both groups are principally driven by the desire to be attractive and conform to standards of ideal beauty—namely, the slender, feminine body. However, readings from this week demonstrate that the motivations of these people are much more complex and effected by notions of gender that I had never considered.
Generally speaking, I found Bordo’s piece exceptionally convincing and illuminating. In particular, I was impressed by her position that women’s (and, specifically anorectic’s) desire to tone their bodies and minimize the “fleshy “parts of their figure may reflect their attempt to achieve “liberation from a domestic, reproductive destiny.” Bordo implies that women experience anxiety over supple, bulgy body-parts, such as the hips and breasts, as well as menstruation, as these inherently feminine characteristics represent “maternal felinity” that often connotes assumptions of weakness and fragility. As such, women dieters and anorectics strive to diminish these body-parts and induce amenorrhea, as it effectively subverts these feminine characteristics and symbolizes an effort to achieve a more androgynous look that will perhaps grant these women esteem comparable to that of a man. Similarly, McCaughey asserts that anorexia essentially disrupts “gender categorization,” as the androgynous, anorexic female is able to minimize feminine characteristics associated with subjugation—the breasts, menses, hourglass figure, etc.
As I pondered this theory, which posits that anorexia and in a similar, though less acute manner, dieting, is fundamentally more than a mere attempt to appear conventionally attractive but may be influenced by the desire to sculpt the body to a more androgynous, masculine physique, I reflected on my own habits. Admittedly, I am persistently concerned about my appearance, and specifically, my weight. As such, I attempt to keep fit and have recently intensified my workouts and devote more time to exercise. Although I do not regard myself as an athlete by any means, the shape of my body has inevitably changed and I have found that some muscles—particularly those in my legs—are becoming more prominent and toned. I feel that part of my pleasure from this manipulation of my body form mirrors the ideas emphasized by Bordo and McCaughey, as the increased musculature in my legs, to me, represents a divergence from the conventionally soft, weak, feminine body. I often feel empowered by my more developed muscles, and I cannot neglect to recognize that some of this empowerment may be because my body now reflects, to some degree, attributes normatively associated with the masculine. I also notice that I have become exceptionally concerned with minimizing my curves; like Tisdale, in some ways, I aspire to have a body more similar to that of a boy’s, “smooth, hipless, lean.” In short, although I do feel that much of my preoccupation with weight loss and exercise is motivated by my inclination to be more attractive in conventionally feminine ways, I recognize that I am also impelled by the desire to minimize the “fleshy” parts of my body and experience liberation from the traditionally feminine body.