Susan Orbach, the feminist psychologist who wrote Fat is a Feminist Issue, is coming out with a new book called Bodies. In it, she’s examining how our relationship with our bodies has reached a crisis point, not just in terms of the fear and phobia of fat and the size-zero culture, but how the endless pursuit of the perfect physical form has infected cultures across the world. As the Times reviewer writes,
In Bodies, Orbach unpacks Freudian ideas such as hysterical symptoms and explains the role of genetics, the brain’s mirror system, the culture of perfectibility, the global homogenisation of beauty and the postmodern rhetoric of empowerment and choice that encourages girls in Iran to have Nicole Kidman’s nose, American girls to whittle down to Keira Knightley’s size, Chinese men and women to insert rods in their legs to become taller, 50 per cent of Koreans to exchange their eyelids for a Western version and Brazilians to pad their bums.
The designation of fat as worthy of scorn and dislike, and of fat people as outsiders who should not only dislike themselves but also be discriminated against, is growing. This is not a new phenomenon (hence the organisations that exist to defend the rights of fat people) but the disrespect has intensified. Fat and fatness are now demonised and are seen as signals of class.
Yes, there are class issues involved in food distribution, food costs and nutritional education, but the contempt with which people talk about fat and fat people indicates something else. This is now viewed as a condition to be avoided, since it signifies both a loss of psychological control and membership of the wrong class, with an implied set of false aspirations.
The book looks incredibly thought-provoking, if not especially groundbreaking–I feel like it is not news, that being unnaturally, forcibly scrawny is unhealthy and not an ideal to strive for, that undergoing rounds and rounds of extensive plastic surgery chasing after an unlikely physical standard is indicative of deeper psychological issues, that as a culture we have a thoroughly fucked-up relationship with food across the board no matter what size we are. But these are significant issues that need to be continually pounded away upon, and Susie Orbach offers not only that but an analysis of the underlying causes. And we can hope that this combination of awareness and understanding might be one of the things leads us through to the eventual cure.
Me, I’ve preordered it; what do you think?
Posted by jenfu