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The Role Of The Female In Western Culture

2022 words - 8 pages

In Susie Orbach’s essay, “Fat as a Feminist Issue”, she argues that being fat is a rebellion against western society’s view of women. She begins her essay by explaining how prominent the issues of obesity and dieting have become, and how these issues negatively affect women. “Almost inevitably, the explanations offered for fatness point a finger at the failure of women themselves…” (para. 2), Orbach contends. She suggests that feminism, on the other hand, aligns itself with the perspective that women suffer from compulsive eating, and consequently obesity, not due to faults of their own, but because of “those painful personal experiences [that] derive from the social context into which female babies are born…and develop…” (para. 3). Furthermore, Orbach believes that insisting a woman’s heaviness is her own fault would not benefit anyone. She defends that overweight women are consciously defying the female stereotype in response to the inequalities between the sexes. She goes on to explain the difference between men and women—the capability to birth children—and how that affects women’s social roles. This difference, Orbach notes, “is used as the basis on which to divide unequally women and men’s labor, power, roles and expectations” (para. 5).
In western society, women have been confined to the social roles of the wife and the mother, which Orbach believes has effects that influence obesity. She states that a woman requires a man to step into either role, and that the acquisition of a man involves “learn[ing] to regard herself as an item, a commodity, a sex object” (para. 6). This perception of the female self leads to a preoccupation with appearance, claims Orbach, which necessitates critical inspection every element of a woman’s body and attire, with the hope of molding it into the media’s image of a woman. As acute observers of themselves, women become clasped in the manipulative hands of the diet and fashion industries. She contests that the message produced by the media is that “the woman’s body is not her own” (para. 7); a woman must adapt her body to fit into the ideal physical type dictated by the style of the era. These industries constantly change the way they portray “proper” women in terms of her clothes, her hair, and her body type, forcing women to fit into their impossible standard of beauty or risk societal rejection. Orbach asserts that these commercially created concepts of womanhood have one constant; a woman should be thin. Therefore, many women have avoided these marketing schemes and social ideals by being overweight. She contends that being a fat demands that other individuals find out who they are, rather than judging by outside appearances. “Fat expresses a rebellion against the powerlessness of the woman, against the pressure to look and act in a certain way and against being evaluated on her ability to create an image of herself” (para. 8), she concludes.
Clearly, Orbach is passionate about this discussion and her...

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