Mon, Mar. 14th, 2005, 09:52 pm || Chernin, Kim - The Obsession: Reflections on the Tyranny of Slenderness

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Precisely what the title says. I thought it was an interesting read, although it didn't quite go in directions that I wanted. The book is a great deal of reflection, and while I find Chernin's thoughts interesting, there was definitely a little part of my brain that kept yelling for statistics! citations! anecdotes, for heaven's sake! I think this is my problem with works that focus more on the theory than on the application -- I always want something to back it up, and I'm not quite sure if that is within the realm of literary type theory or not. This seems to be a more theory-oriented book, in which Chernin posits that our culture's obsession with thinness and losing weight is equated with a fear of strong women.

I did like how she compares the vocabulary of dieters to that of feminsits -- the dieters are always seeking to reduce, to slim down, to silence the appetite, basically. And I can see how she draws that to the thought that starving the body is much like starving the mind, starving the will, paring away anything that is socially unacceptable, like loudness and bitchiness. Being not-thin makes one visible; being thin means blending in with cultural expectations, means not standing out. Then she goes down a line of thought about a fear of the feminine being connected to a fear of the female-only power of giving birth to new life, of the roundness of breasts and belly being equated to the mother, and then the book started edging way to close to the ideology of the sacred feminine for me. While I like that women's work is respected and such, I think giving such reverence and power to motherhood can ignore the other areas in which females can be capable. I mean, I am more than my womb, or so I would hope.

I also got frustrated because Chernin was posing this as a sort of universal assumption, and I wanted more of a chance to hear the viewpoint of anorexics and dieters and the like. I mean, it is a bit like the slash argument. One can't just accuse one's opponents of universally disliking females. There's an entire layer of subtley and various voices that I wanted to hear from and didn't get to.

I think I was approaching the book more like a history, when it is a much more personal book.