Monday, March 2, 2009

"Beyond eating disorders..."

Sorry for my lack of posting this week. It wasn't due to being really busy, but rather being exhausted. I'd come home from work, do my usual stuff of feeding dogs, a few chores here and there, and then would find myself drifting off to sleep around 9:30/10 PM which is quite early for me. Sometimes, I get really concerned about this since it deviates from my norm, but more than likely it is due to some combination of eating, sleeping, mood, and/or exercising. :sigh:

Now that you have that preface, onto the actual blog post. A few of you were interested in hearing about
Bordo's presentation I attended last week: "Beyond eating disorders: why we must rethink everything we thought we knew." The presentation itself was good but it only touched the broad surface, but I guess that's all that can be done in an hour's time. Much of the presentation focused on consumerism--the ideology to get us to "see it, love it/want it, buy it/here's how to get it." From there, Bordo used a step by step approach to show the progression of how this type of thinking/advertisements have lead to the problems we are currently seeing in impulse disorders which includes eating disorders.

A few interesting key words in her presentation were the "
pedagogy of the binge" and "deregulation." She uses "pedagogy of the binge, " because consumer society has trained individuals to be without limits. Looking at a variety of current advertisements, frequent words like "voraciousness," "indulgence," and "craving" have appeared more often. This type of idea is not strictly related to food ads but also ads about perfect bodies, overexercising, shopping, etc. In essence, this continues the cycle, leading to an increase in what is deemed as impulse disorders, like binge eating, kleptomania, shopaholism, etc.

In relating this all to eating disorders, the term "
deregulation" comes up. Often times, deregulation is seen more in terms of the government reducing, restricting, or simplifying in order to raise productivity. With anorexia, what is looked at as deregulation, i.e. food and other pleasurable activities, Bordo sees it as a "failure of self-regulation." Consumption is not seen as just guilt-ridden but rather dangerous. She didn't go into much detail here, but I think she talks about it more in depth in her book, Unbearable Weight.

There were several other interesting points she made. For example, much of society is about "craving," and how with anorexia, it is about being in a state of "beyond craving." This isn't exclusive to food either but many other areas of life. I thought that was a different way of looking at it or at least a choice of words.

I should also mention that
Bordo is skeptical of the medical model pertaining to eating disorders but does feel that eating disorders are multi-dimensional. She doesn't discount the medical model, but she feels it leaves out important other criteria. Her thoughts are that some individuals are vulnerable to eating disorders (or whatever disorder), but culture brings out those vulnerabilities. In essence, culture is like a "smoking gun." She makes a much better argument than I can here in her book. There is one line that I think really stands out to me in her book about this issue. It's that as she sees we are not all exposed to the same cultural environment, but rather "what we are all exposed to, rather are homogenizing and normalizing images and ideologies concerning 'femininity' and female beauty."


After the presentation, I decided to go say hi to Dr. Bordo. What I did not mention in my last post was that I in fact know Dr. Bordo. I took an english/women's studies class she taught on "Lolita" as an undergrad, so I do have a relationship with her, though this was about seven years ago. This was another reason why I felt nervous about going.

I waited my turn, and then said "Hi, it's Tiptoe." She kind of looked at me puzzled, but then P. (this is the former professor/client who boards her dog at the kennel) who was there, yelled out, "It's Tiptoe," like shouting it out would jostle her memory better. I guess it worked, because then she remembered me. However, she also said, "
Omg, I didn't recognize you. You look so much thinner." Argh! Those of you who have read this blog know how I feel about this sort of comment --drives me insanely mad and paranoid. But I will let go of this statement and move on.

I gave her a brief thing about how I was blogging these days and keeping current with eating disorder/body image stuff. I should also note that I had shared a body awareness piece with her that I wrote in college which recounted how the ED evolved, so she was one of the few who ever knew. Why, I shared it with her, I'm not sure but there seemed to be some comfort, or maybe just because I knew she was familiar and wrote about these types of topics.

Anyway, Dr.
Bordo ended our conversation with "We should get together and catch up." I'm super stoked that she offered this even with her very busy schedule. I can just think now all the questions I have for her.

In the end, I left feeling like I rekindled an old connection, one that I hope to keep in touch with better.

Note--for the record, I didn't sit in the back--in the middle


Reagan said...

Well done!! Be proud of your bravery!

MelissaS said...

from what you've written, i agree with dr. bordo. i believe my ed was environmentally stimulated -- a dieting mother who dragged me to diet doctors,etc. it went on and on. i don't relate to the medical model, but i'm sure many people do. i don't know what's right.

good for you for attending the workshop, for meeting dr. bordo after and, of course, for sitting in the middle

MelissaS said...

i forgot to mention -- i found it very troubling that she commented on your weight. it would be nice if the enlightened were more...enlightened.

that doesn't diminish your experience -- it just saddens me

sarah-j said...

Hi Tiptoe. wow, that's so freakin cool. congratulations on succeeding in your challenge and you're so lucky that you get to chat to dr. bordo.


Cammy said...

1) I think a lot of anthropologists are threatened by scientific/medical explanations for things, some kind of academic Napoleon complex, so they tend to use their soapboxes to emphasize (or overemphasize) cultural factors.

2)I cannot believe that someone who is famous for writing on EDs, and was speaking specifically on EDs at that event, commented on your weight when being reintroduced to you.

3) Putting #2 aside, I think it's interesting that you knew her before and have the chance to get reacquainted with her, what is she like, in terms of personality/demeanor?

4) Is her degree of/approach to feminism similar to that of earlier work like "An Unbearable Weight," or has it shifted? After I read that book I wondered if that brand of feminism was more a product of her personal view or the militant stage that feminism went through in the mid-80s.

Cammy said...

I forgot!:

5) I'm glad you went even though you were nervous, yay for challenging yourself!

Kara said...

Sounds like Dr. Bordo's book/ideas are very interesting.

I can't believe that she commented on your weight! You'd think she'd know better because of her ED background!!!

Tiptoe said...

Thanks for your thoughts everyone. I like to think every accomplishment no matter how small is important.

Reagan, Sarah-J, and Kara, thanks for your support. :-)

MelissaS, I think there are a lot of people who adhere more to the cultural model. Sometimes, it's the one that is easier to point out, though of course, there are usually many more variables too.

Cammy, I too wonder whether academicians do feel threatened by the medical model. I don't know why some may feel it is an either or thing.

As for how she is personally, she's quite an inviting person. I remember getting along with her easily and feeling like I could just chat, though there is still a feel of worrisome on my part since she is well known.

As a professor, she was pretty cool--We had a class at her house. She often had snacks for everyone as well.

In terms of her theory, I think it is similar as in the book, but just kind of upgraded. She's very big into looking at how we are trained at such an early age to think this way. I'll shoot you an e-mail and go more into details there.

Tiptoe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tiptoe said...

Forgot to say that yes, I found it quite odd that she commented on my physical appearance like that. I don't know I guess it is just a reminder that even feminists and the like are not immune to these sort of statements, unfortunately.

For the record, I seriously do not look that different from college. I'm beginning to think everyone needs glasses, but of course who is going to really believe me with my distorted vision and all anyway.