Eating Disorders Across Cultures

February 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

After reading the essays for this past week, I really got to thinking about beauty across cultures, as well as throughout time. There are so many definitions of beauty and the definitions have been skewed and contorted in so many ways. Since I have grown up in the US, I have always seen the US ideals for beauty. I personally though have never found skinny people to be attractive and I don’t understand why that is the social norm. I would have to agree with the cultures that see normal people as healthy and well cared for. By normal, I mean humans that have muscle mass and some fat on their bodies and don’t have to be on extreme diets and exercise plans. Since when is skin and bones healthy and beautiful.

The essay that really struck me was, “A Way Outa No Way”. This essay was about eating disorders throughout cultures and social classes. In some ways I disagreed with the essay. Becky Thompson states in the article that race plays a big role in having an eating disorder. In some ways, this may be true just because of the situations that each race is put in, but I think that when put in the same situations, people from any culture will act the same way. In the part of the essay that talked about racism and class injuries it was said that none of the white women in the study thought that moving up in classes would be a cause for an eating disorder, but I would have to disagree. Just as African Americans move up in society and want to conform to social norms, so do white people. Being white does not dismiss the fact that you are overweight or unhealthy. Being white doesn’t give you the privilege of being fat or unhealthy looking, in my opinion it actually raises your standards.

In a way, this essay made me realize that white people are expected to be the perfect american, thin, rich, healthy, successful. But just as that isn’t true within other ethnicities, it isn’t true for whites either. The world is a stratified society and it always will be, whether you are white or black or asian, you have to fit somewhere in the stratification system. Not everyone can be at the top of the pyramid. Although I do thing that racism happens, I think more of our issue is classism. Anyone in the lower class is looked down upon no matter what their ethnicity and once they begin to climb the social ladder, they will all react the same way, by trying to conform.

I also was skeptical about the section that talked about misdiagnosis of eating disorders because of race or ethnicity. No matter what culture you are from eating disorders have the same signs and symptoms. In a way, I think this statement is almost being racist against whites. It is almost as if the professionals expect for white females to have eating disorders, which in my opinion isn’t fair. No, I don’t think it is ok to misdiagnose people because of their color, but I don’t think that the stereotypes being placed on the women of color are as derogatory as the stereotypes being placed on white females in this situation. I personally have been accused of having an eating disorder just because I started bringing smaller portions of food to school when I packed my lunch. I didn’t think it was fair for people to expect that I was trying to become skinny and was developing an eating disorder. Now when I think back, I feel like I was being targeted because I was a white teenage female. Even though that could be an untrue thought, it isn’t so far fetched. I think often times we focus on racist stereotypes and forget about stereotypes on white people. I don’t think we should neglect racism but I think it is a good idea to sometimes take a step back and look at all sides of a story or situation before making accusations or forming opinions.

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