Under Patriarchy Women Can’t Eat
Under patriarchy women may not be allowed to vote or hold public office, own property, or make choices that stray from their husbands’ inclinations. In the modern Western world we don’t have those problems anymore. But in modern patriarchy we can’t eat. Well, we can eat a little. But not too much. The current ideal that is slapped all over billboards and fashion mags is thinner than is healthy.
Feminism took off in the 1960s and so did Twiggy as a role model. And not so long ago a headline ran in The Huffington Post: “Victoria’s Secret: She Simply Doesn’t Eat.” And we’re supposed to look like Victoria Secret models, right? Looking at women who most closely fit the ideal, anorexics consume only 600–800 calories per day, and some eat even less. Anorexia usually stems from a desire to control, often a reaction to the disempowerment of sexual or physical abuse. But what they choose to control is their bodies – shaping them as closely as they can to the skinny beauty ideal – however ugly it actually is. Meanwhile, when women become obsessed with food (trying not to eat) they don’t have the time or energy to be powerful in the world in any way.
No surprise then that the rail-thin imperative arose under patriarchy, and at a time when women’s power was rising. And it’s part of a pattern. Women under patriarchy are physically weakened in a number of ways. American women once wore corsets that restricted their movements. When sweating was thought unfeminine women could not exercise and build strength. Chinese women’s feet were once bound and crippled. Even today’s high heels can be painful and difficult to walk – or run – in, damaging feet and knees. Breast implants can rupture, perhaps turning a fall that would ordinarily only bruise into a major medical crisis. When implants are placed beneath the muscle, just using your shoulder can become risky. The extra care needed to protect and maintain implants makes women a little bit crippled. And because so many of us accept it all since we all know that “beauty hurts,” we are all left without our full capacity to live and act in the world.
Hmmm, on the other hand, maybe we should think about going to the refrigerator for a healthy snack.
This was written by one of my students and posted with permission.
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