Artifacts to Body Feminism in Orenstein’s The Dialectic of Fat
The perception of curvy women across countries is defined by culture, society, history, norms and the acceptance of what the female image should be (Marwick). As the borders across countries are being broken down, standards of how the woman should look, act, think and leaning towards opposite preferences. On one side, the growing need for women worldwide to become rail-thin is increasing in popularity; however, there are sub-cultures that are also increasing in its voice in promoting heftier-sized women. Catherine Orenstein’s article entitled The Dialectic of Fat has raised several interesting but somehow well-accepted issues regarding the portrayal of women in society across different cultures today.
From the Vantage of a Fat Woman
She gives focus to the TV show Fat Actress where the female lead, Kirstie Alley plays a quasi-fictional actress trying to make it big in Hollywood. A formerly-svelte actress, Christie has gained significant weight through the years and has been thought as the best lead actress for a television show that was initially perceived to be the cry for freedom regarding women’s weight. However, giving more credence aside from physicality for larger women was far from taking place. Orenstein states:
It is not so much about fitting in or losing weight as it is about actually being fat [ ] and female in Hollywood [ ] — where thinness and femininity are synonymous — without actually giving in to it.
The television show therefore does not really give larger women a positive voice; instead, it is an illustration of how being fat is still an existing double standard in society – be it in entertaining, looking for a job and even in being chosen as a priority in any other social instance. Orenstein further observes the following of the television show:
What she illustrates is not the impossibility of a fat woman having a career in Hollywood, but rather the centrality of weight to a woman’s cultural identity. [ ] A fat woman can carry a hit show, but only if it’s a show about her size.
Today, with the end of the Fat Girl television show, a stint in Dancing with the Stars, and losing over 100 pounds, Kirstie Alley is a spokesperson for a brand of health foods promoting weight loss (Organic Liaison) and mentions that she is back in her element (of thinness) (Cohen).
Weight is a Global Feminist Issue
Within her article Orenstein shares the view of Susie Orbach, who has mentioned that the image of how a woman should be has become a global feminist issue that has been propelled to a large magnitude by innovations in telecommunications, media and technology. Globally, instances of fat-related eating disorders have increased due to the factors of:
Assaulted by visual culture – by monolithic mono-imagery
This can be observed in the Internet that promote and glorify thinness, anorexia, bulimia, starvation and forums on fast-acting weight-loss methods, such as thinsipiration, pro-ana, and other similar websites promoting exercise and health. The age of dieting women are becoming younger; the population being affected by weight concerns in women is becoming larger, and more importantly, Orbach observes that:
The normalization of disordered eating: that is, compulsive eating and dieting that is no longer considered abnormal.
Still Pretty Hot and Tempting?
Despite these anti-obesity campaigns and sometimes extreme health and diet promotions, the negative perception of fat women would somehow shift and favor the size in time. This can be exemplified by cultures from Arabia and Niger prefer robust women (Kulick and Meneley); that the alarm for obesity is just a ruse or political campaign (Oliver) and hip-hop, a pop-culture music fad, promotes roundness and girth as a reminder of power and exemplification of phat – or pretty hot and tempting.
Still, the main issue of weight bears so much reflection on how much a certain culture accepts the role and power of women in society – that this is still judged based on appearance. Fat women are generally viewed as healthy eaters who are liabilities in organizations therefore are not preferred hires even if the credentials say otherwise. Biases are still present – women are evaluated through weight and outward physique whereas men can excel, lead, or become sods and still be accepted as normal.