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Reaction To Sharlene Hesse Biber's Am I Thin Enough Yet?

1105 words - 4 pages

It seems that of many of the issues and problems facing society today, few workable solutions are to be proposed. Psychology often takes the role of addressing these pressing problems such as suicide, eating disorders, and so forth, but in the search for a solution the field often ignores the wider social forces involved in these problems. In order to more fully understand these issues and work towards a solution, people need to examine these wider forces as well. One author and sociologist, Sharlene Hesse-Biber, tries to do this in her book Am I Thin Enough Yet? She focuses on eating disorders in her studies. She goes beyond the traditional psychological explanations of eating disorders into a powerful argument against the social, political, and economic pressures women face in society that can lead to eating disorders.Sharlene Hesse-Biber first became interested in her research about eating disorders while she was the director of the Counseling Center at Boston College. After seeing the overwhelming incidence of female students reporting eating problems, she became interested in the broader factors at work in the incidence of this disorder. She began her study by initiating a survey of 395 students (both male and female) concerning their eating habits, diets, and their attitudes towards self, families, friends, and school. She also conducted interviews in the health care and fitness industries. Next, she conducted an in-depth study of 60 college age women over an eight year period.In her book, the author refers to the problems of eating disorders as the "cult of thinness," comparing the insatiable pursuit of being thin to that of a religious cult. In both cases, members are isolates, follow a rigid set of rules and values, and seem obsessed with the path to perfection. Through interpretive sociology, Hesse-Biber highlights the various ways in which American families, schools, popular culture, and the health and fitness industry all contribute to this "cult of thinness," undermining young women's self-confidence as they emphasize the notions that thinness is beauty and that a woman's body is more important than her mind.Hesse-Biber examines the influence of patriarchy on eating disorders and the ideal concept of a woman's body. She shows that throughout history, women have always been preoccupied with their bodies and gone to great lengths to possess the requirements for the times idea of an ideal body. She shows that even in today's society, there are interrelated social structures and practices present that allow men to oppress and exploit women. She gives examples of women who believe they must look a certain way if they are to obtain a husband or success, exemplifying the social forces that influence a woman to value her body over her mind.She examines how the economy of today's society also contributes to the "cult of thinness." She shows how popular culture reaffirms the notion of the ideal body by plastering magazines and television with...

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