[Marxism] The MIM on anorexia

La Sainte lasainte at earthlink.net
Sun Nov 26 18:04:25 MST 2006

-----Original Message-----
>From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>
>Sent: Nov 26, 2006 6:53 PM
>To: marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu
>Subject: [Marxism] The MIM on anorexia
>Brumberg shows anorexia has changed over the last 100 years as 
>class/gender structures have changed in response to socio-economic 
>developments in United States, English and French capitalist 
>societies, although the main focus since 1900 is on the United 
>States. During the second half of the 19th century prosperous middle 
>class families could afford to keep their female children out of the 
>labor force. Young women stayed at home until they married, typically 
>in their early 20s.(9) What we now call adolescence was created by 
>the burgeoning prosperity of middle-class families during the late 
>19th century. Before this time women married younger and all but 
>members of the higher aristocracy performed at least some domestic 
>work. Obviously, working-class women started laboring at a very early 
>age. Middle-class adolescent women were privileged in one sense 
>because they did not have to work or yet reproduce, but they were 
>highly dependent and controlled by their parents unlike their 
>brothers, who had far greater educational and employment 
>opportunities. Starvation was one socially acceptable way for middle 
>class young women to rebel against parental control.(10) To some 
>extent Victorian women fasted to meet cultural values about beauty, 
>but those social pressures were weaker then than they are today.(11) 
>Ideal female body size in Victorian culture was larger than today and 
>women were required to wear such bulky clothing it was more difficult 
>to tell whether a woman was thin or not.(11)

People are overlooking other bizarre dietary practices by upper and middle class women during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mostly in eastern North America and Britain. The one I am most familiar with was the deliberate avoidance of any foods high in iron, along with avoidance of the sun, to achieve the highly prized alabaster skin. The healthy, outdoorsy look was out, and considered very unfeminine. The anemic, hot house fragile-flower look was in, a sign of true femininity. And it wasn't confined to young women. It was practiced by women of all ages. 


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