Friday, July 15, 2011

Can A Feminist Diet?

I read an intriguing piece this morning by a woman, a recovering anorexic, who identified herself a feminist.   She asked the provocative question:  Can a Feminist Diet?

Now, I've always considered myself a bit of a feminist, so I found the question intriguing.   As the author notes, there are many in the feminist movement who view dieting as part of the "patriarchal bargain" i.e., an individual woman’s decision to accept gender rules that disadvantage women-as-a-group, in exchange for whatever power she can wrest from the system. 

In other words, dieting is something that women do as individuals that in the end harms women as whole.   Women, in this argument, are supposed to look good for men, so we diet to fit that gender rule and in the end hurt women as a whole.

She also discussed her ambivalence regarding dieting in light of her struggles with anorexia.   In the end she decides to shun mirrors for a year, and revamp eating and exercise habits to a healthy moderation.   She was going to judge her success by her behaviors.

Now I, of course, believe  you can diet and still be a feminist.    I've always thought the whole "patriarchal bargain" argument was rather weak.  After all, wearing a bra is also supposed to be part of the patriarchal bargain (hence the burning), and I don't know about you, but I've always found that men prefer me with my bra off.

Now here's what I think.  Dieting to lose weight to look good for others is bad. Dieting to be healthy and feel good about one's self is good.

Being fat is about more than just not being attractive to others. Eating the wrong foods and not moving and exercising enough can lead to serious health problems. In other words being fat is no different then smoking--it's extremely bad for your health (one of the reasons why I have a problem with the whole "Fat Acceptance" movement).   

So, being a feminist and dieting are not incompatible if the goal in dieting is to be healthy.

BTW, I also believe that short term dieting is always the road to failure. You have to make life-long changes to your diet and exercise habits to lose weight and keep it off.


  1. I love how you make me think with yours blogs. Thanks for the interesting article :)

  2. this is a good post. first of all the whole burning of the bra thing... women that don't wear a bra get waaaay more attention than women who wear one. and...dieting is what got us here in the first place. we need to make lifestyle changes and that's it. losing weight is and should be about being healthy, and taking the control back...