First – welcome to my new followers! I had a bit of profile in the Herald last week, and I am always excited to be joined by new folk.
A number of years ago Kirsten Bell and Darlene McNaughton wrote an intriguing paper in the journal Body & Society called Feminism and the invisible fat man. This quote from the abstract summarises their main point:
An examination of the limited published material on male concerns with fat reveals that for many men fatness is feminizing – and undermines normative forms of masculinity in threatening ways. We call for further research that considers both female and male experiences of fatness, given the limitations of approaches that focus merely on one or the other.
Since then there has been a range of academic work addressing Bell and McNaughton’s concerns, if you believe Google Scholar, their article has been cited 45 times. One of the issues raised by the researchers is how men’s relationship to fatness is so often ‘told’ through and enacts a female perspective. As if the fat man is just a semblance of the REAL fat subject: the fat woman.
It’s not just fat as a feminine issue at stake here – it’s also (too) thin. Fatness AND eating disorders are so fully encompassed within the feminine that men with these ‘issues’ have to be subsumed within the girl-talk. A recent example is this article featuring the opinion of Victoria Marsden. In general I am enormously supportive of this kind of coverage – discussing publicly the so-often normalised but destructive dietary practices of everyday people of all ages is incredibly important work, so congratulations for the reporter for doing this. BUT – again the invisible man is crowded out by the Real eating disordered subject, the woman. The only mention of men in this article is here:
One of the biggest culprits of disordered eating for women – and men – of all ages is society’s obsession with body image.
No analysis, no consideration, just a throw-away comment reducing men to a semblance of women. This is feminizing.
A final note – congratulations and thanks to the comment by ‘scoot’ on this article for pointing towards men, and for not stating that their reasons are the necessarily the same as women’s:
I do think it important to highlight the fact that many males – from children to older men – also suffer from eating disorders, but we do tend to brush past this and the reasons they occur too.
But I think like most girls my age, I had a brief time of my life where I obsessively controlled my eating, and sometimes purged and I’m lucky it never took over my life like it does to some.