Friday, May 04, 2007

Why do women hate their bodies?

Gen-Y journalist Courtney E. Martin posed this question to herself, her friends, and to some of the so-called experts. Then she wrote a book called Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body.

The subtitle rocks--I love the juxtaposition of "normal" and "hating your body," which makes you stop and really think about it. Though I don't think there's anything new about the phenomenon. It was "normal" to hate your body when I grew up in the 1960s and 70s. Martin's point seems to be that the pressure to be thin has now morphed into the pressure to be perfect. The opening line of the review that ran in Publishers Weekly reads, "It is no longer enough for girls to be good . . . girls must now be perfect, and that need for perfection is played out in women's bodies."

I'll be curious to read the book and see if it lives up to its title . . . and what, exactly, Martin has to say about eating disorders.

6 comments:

CARRIE ARNOLD said...

Funny you mention this- I just got an email that the copy I had requested was now available for pickup at my local library.

Mmmmm...books...mmmmm... ;)

Maggie said...

Interesting! Although it seems to me that perfectionism has long been cited as a major factor in anorexia - ?? On the other hand, maybe that idea wasn't as clear to the masses back then as it is now?

Should be a good read. I agree with Carrie - mmmmmm, books!

carrie said...

I read through parts of it- the writing is fantastic. It was a little on the "blame the parents" side, but more of a looking at parents and family within the context of the whole society way.

However, and maybe I had a sort of freakish high school and college experience, my friends and I never discussed looks or appearance. Our EDs were much more secretive, not talked about, the elephant in the room. It wasn't assumed you hated your body- you probably did, but I was also a bit of a loner.

However, I really relate to the whole needing to be perfect thing.

It's a good read. It didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, but it probably wasn't written for a person in recovery from AN.

Harriet Brown said...

Every expert I've ever interviewed brings up the perfectionism thing. It certainly is true about my daughter. I remember wishing she'd get a B in middle school so she would see that the sky wouldn't fall down if she didn't have a 4.0 average. I'm probably the only parent in Madison who wants her kid to get Bs.

The part of the book I'm most interested in is the notion that it has become de rigeur for women to hate their bodies. I certainly noticed that during my d's recovery, and am now oversensitive to it, probably. It's become like a social reflex--when you meet a friend, the two of you hug or kiss, then exchange disclaimers about your butt or weight. It's revolting that this has become some kind of norm.

carrie said...

Or how everyone says "You look great- have you lost weight?" Once I said "Nope. I've actually gained." That took the wind out of their sails. It's sort of like if you've gained weight, you look horrible.

The most interesting part of her thesis is the connection with perfectionism and body hatred. I was never like all head over heels with my body. The way perfectionism overlapped with my ED is the need to have the "perfect" diet (as in food consumption, NOT weight loss plan) or "perfect" work out routine.

The real point in Martin's book is this: hating your body is only one part of the whole of expecting perfection from people.

And, Harriet? My parents were the same as you. Except they never succeeded. I have numerous A-'s under my belt (ha!) but I've never managed a B. My college professor told me I needed to go out and party for once. Yikes. I loved that man.

Harriet Brown said...

He sounds like a great professor, Carrie. We all need someone like that in our lives once in a while.