Susie Orbach gives a new introduction in explaining how the female folk generations are developing in absorbing the anxieties that eat them by squarely reflecting on the society that is obsessed by body and increased diet. In this age where women are struggling to be domestic goddesses, nurturing, confident at work, sexy and feminine as well, women today are not well equipped for survival.
Susie Orbach explores our relationships with food and gives a description of how at is more than just food. She says it is as a result of our response to the social situations which we are. The way we respond to how people see us and the way we are ourselves impacts a lot on us. Orbach says that often, food acts as a source of suffering just like our bodies. However, in her opinion, she discusses how we can make food to be our friend. She also discusses the ways by which we can accept ourselves for whom we are and the way we are. Thus, in a nutshell she says that through a step-by-step guide, we can end the anxieties caused by food and dieting.
I would like to agree with Orbach’s view that the culture of instructing the female folk that they are nothing less than a complex of ‘problem areas’ which to me, sounds very damaging. I therefore think this should be fought by all means. However, this does not mean that I concur with everything in Orbach’s Fat is a Feminist Issue.
On body image, consumerism and women, Orbach says that women should conform purposely to aid the economy. This they can do by continuously consuming the clothing and goods that are rapidly made and are time bound due to constant changes in styles in fashion, body shapes and seasons (pg.21). In this view, Orbach’s point finds relevance especially during the times of economic difficulty in the global markets. This is true since our economic paradigms dictates that women must shop more for them to remain comfortable. They have to maintain the pace so that they don’t slug behind in fashion, changing trends in living. Unfortunately, changes in fashion and diet are a type of consumerism. This is because the endless purchasing of cosmetic products and the quick fashions is a great contributor to environmental waste and global inequity. However, these are not areas of female concern alone; they should bother any sane mind on earth.
Orbach also discusses the relationship that exists between women and food. She says that media is so preoccupied with good housekeeping, and especially with good food which is used as a yardstick in measuring the mother’s performance (pg. 23). She also puts it that in the western countries, the production of food is done by the MNCs which give women (as the main purchasers of food) a wide variety for them to choose. They thus use that opportunity to choose wisely for their families (pg. 14). In her view, Orbach accuse advertisers on the assumption that women are ever doing shopping on food or are ever preparing food. Unfortunately, women are to blame especially when the consumption of food goes wrong. This indicates that relationship between women and food is always anxious even without involving the advertisers. Though this is the case, emotional blackmail over the health of women and their children can also fuel this. Moreover, I feel that there is extra contemporary pressure on women to spend money in a thrifty way as they carry out their housewifely duties. This is the case evidenced in the perceived and real decline-related difficulties. Thus, provision of food remains the women’s issue; both to themselves as well as to those they provide.
On the perils of thinness Orbach says that there is penalty for showing the aesthetic qualities which the society recommends for women i.e. the values, abilities, independence and the intellect of women are devalued. She says that women struggle to run away from their own selves only to experience derogatory comments, street harassment, discrimination and inappropriate behavior. She says that she decided not to be ‘thin’ for there isn’t much in it. In her argument women are subjected to such through harassment of men so that they can be ‘perfect sex objects’. Due to the fact that such changes are not permanent, she didn’t want to be “the fashion magazines .” (pg. 11). I find it difficult to get to Orbach’s mind on this. Does she mean that those who are thin should get fat because they attract inappropriate behaviors from men? Or, does she mean that people should get fat? Does it mean criticizing? In this argument I find it so inappropriate to allow women to be objectified by the male gaze. I will be in order to say that this argument allows for the justification of people’s status quo through the cultural expectations.
Orbach also argues being fat as resistance. She says that the fact that women have a problem of compulsive eating implies that it is due to their gender in the society. According to feminism, being fat is an attempt to free from the sex stereotypes of the society. From this, it can be deduced that it is a purposeful and definite act which is directed, either unconsciously or consciously (pg.18). in this argument, I find myself asking a simple question: is it a noble cause to get fat? I think that Orbach fails to differentiate the unconscious and the conscious acts. However, I concur that overeating can unconsciously be used to build up a protective covering against the social judgments.
In conclusion, it is noble to acknowledge that Orbach was right owing to the time of authoring. This book is a fascinating read that gives a glimpse into the affairs of culture and society. However, to the people who want to take it as the gospel truth should widely look at in the whole issue from both psychological and social perspectives. I believe that being healthy should be the ultimate aspiration of a person. Also, I strongly recommend that basic life skills like driving, cooking, sewing amongst others should be accessible universally across genders. This does not give room to say that women are showered by unrealistic, paradoxical and ridiculous expectations. Generally the idea of the female body should inclusively and broadly normalize.
Nevertheless, I find it inappropriate to simplistically and automatically normalize some extreme cases, however hazardous they can be. At all cost, one should not cheat himself or others to be obese, in the name of activism. It will be so dangerous for people’s health will be at risk. If one feels that he or she is comfortable with the body, let them take care of their health.
In my view too, I can see social prejudice being used purposely to avoid the real problems facing the society. This should end. All we should aspire for should a healthy society; whether it will call for overeating or sliming.
Susie O. Fat is a Feminist Issue: The Anti-diet Guide for Women. Bbs Pub Corp Publishers: New York, 1997.