The Beauty Myth

During dinner one evening at the Union, someone asked a friend of mine if I was anorexic. I became infuriated.

"Of course I'm not!" I screamed.

"He meant it as a compliment," she shouted back. "I wish someone would call me anorexic."

Seventeen magazine, one of the most widely read magazines by young females today, recently reported that "one in every hundred adolescent girls" develops anorexia.

While some psychologists largely attribute anorexia to "sexual victimization," it seems instead that the root cause is the perpetuation of an unfair standard for today's women. The vast majority of men expect women to be ridiculously slim.


Although the exact causes are certainly disputable, the detrimental consequences remain the same. The most obvious effect of anorexia is the external decomposition of the body. This emaciation reaches such a level that anorexics lose their ability to carry themselves or perform many of the bodily functions healthy humans perform each day: breathing or walking, for example. In addition, anorexics develop serious gastrinal problems, diabetes and gall-bladder diseases.

Also, there is the traumatic psychological component of anorexia, which stems from the extensive preoccupation with food, dissatisfaction with the body and general feelings of insecurity.

Once we begin to understand that anorexia is a serious illness, perhaps we will overcome the urge to regard emaciated bodies as the epitome of beauty.

Many people tease me because I eat more than they do, while hardly ever gaining weight. All too often, though, the teasing has an underlying tone of resentment.

A fellow female student has said to me more than once, "I can't wait to see you in thirty years when you'll be just as short and weigh 250 pounds. I'll fucking crack up in your face."

She often stares at me during dinner with a look of jealously in her eyes as she stuffs herself full of bread. I hate you, she playfully says every night. Too bad, I answer.

And it is too bad. It is too bad that she feels she isn't pretty because she isn't thinner than she is already. Like many other women, she is never satisfied with the way she looks.

Unfortunately, this attitude is widespread, as society cultivates women's obsession with their physical appearance. Essentially, many women perceive their current weight to be at one extreme (which they usually are not), while viewing an "anorexic" weight (which really is an extreme) as their goal.

Enthralled in a competitive struggle for the waif-like ideal, any woman who weighs less is viewed with hateful envy.

Complex and ingrained social trends must be examined to understand the cause of these desperate problems. The most obvious impetus for anorexia is the perception among women that they must be thin to be attractive to the opposite sex. Certainly, society perpetuates this belief.