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The Obsession: Reflections on the Tyranny of…

The Obsession: Reflections on the Tyranny of Slenderness (1981)

by Kim Chernin

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When this book was first written, eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa were assumed to only strike white upper and middle class women and girls. In recent times, more men and people of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds have come forward with eating disorders. Whether this is because there are more widespread cases then at the time of this book's publication or there was simply a lack of proper diagnosis in the past is up for debate. Modern studies of eating disorders also reject the idea that family life and the cultural preoccupation with slimness is the major factor causing eating disorders - though these things are still up for debate in some circles.
The reason I bring up these differences in viewing eating disorders is to excuse the fallacies that I feel this book bases it's premise on. It takes a feminist, sociological, psychodynamic view of eating disorders, which is old fashioned at best and just plain wrong at worst. Maybe I shouldn't say "wrong;" much like Freud's theories, the assumptions in this book are not even wrong because they are not falsifiable - they are philosophy, at their heart.
It was very hard for me to get through this book, even though it was well written and thought provoking, because I could not get past it's assumptions, knowing what I know about eating disorders in 2010. It is, to me, a historical and philosophical exploration and not particularly useful to sufferers or clinicians in the field of eating disorders. If the reader would like to know what the prevailing attitudes concerning eating disorders were in feminist circles in the 70's and early 80's, this book may be useful. If the reader is looking for any useful research or even case studies, look elsewhere. ( )
  ediedoll | Nov 7, 2010 |
When I first read 'The Obsession', I was struggling with a severe eating disorder, and thought my problem had to do with will power and discipline. 'The Obsession' was one of three books I read that year that literally turned my life around. Each gave me a different, and crucial, perspective on my own struggles. Kim Chernin's book reminded me that the craze for skinniness is a very recent development in Western culture; that it has everything to do with the power dynamics of our society, and nothing to do with whether we're good or bad people based on our size; and that the most powerful female figures in history have been amply endowed, if not (by modern standards) downright fat. After reading this book, I felt like a warrior goddess for weeks. It helped me let go of a lot of self-hatred and confusion about my body. Kim Chernin is also an exquisite writer - there were passages that literally took my breath away. I give this book my highest recommendation for any woman struggling with her body image, or any reader wanting to understand women's minds at a deeper level. ( )
  HeatherLee | Sep 6, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060925051, Paperback)

The Obsession is a deeply committed and beautifully written analysis of our society's increasing demand that women be thin. It offers a careful, thought provoking discussion of the reasons men have encouraged this obsession and women have embraced it. It is a book about women's efforts to become thin rather than to accept the natural dimensions of their bodies--a book about the meaning of food and its rejection.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:42 -0400)

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