Monthly Archives: February 2012

Fat Studies Journal: Review Women En Large

Laurie says:

Esther D. Rothblum, a long time fat activist and scholar, has edited the first academic journal in the field of fat studies, Fat Studies An International Journal of Body Weight and Society. She’s currently a professor of women’s studies at San Diego State University. Esther has been one of the clearest and most articulate people in the field for as long as I’ve known her.

It’s available as a free PDF until June 30th. It’s published by Routledge.

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..is the first academic journal in the field of scholarship that critically examines theory, research, practices, and programs related to body weight and appearance. Content will include original research and overviews exploring the intersection of gender, race/ethnicity, sexuality, age, ability, and socioeconomic status. Articles will critically examine representations of fat in health and medical sciences, the Health at Every Size model, the pharmaceutical industry, psychology, sociology, cultural studies, legal issues, literature, pedagogy, art, theater, popular culture, media studies, and activism. The journal will occasionally publish thematic issues that focus on a specific topic, as well as book, film, and media reviews.

It includes a extremely perceptive review of Women En Large by Stefanie Snider. She’s comparing it to Leonard Nimoy’s Full Body Project.

We’ve had many, many positive reviews of Women En Large over the years but her understanding of the project and our process was exceptional. Debbie and I very much appreciated it.

Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes was the result of a nearly decade long process of exploring the ways in which fatness was considered in creative communities. The project of photographing fat models that would become Women En Large was also a creative response to the history of Western art’s aestheticization of the nude female body and art history’s investment in a thin-body ideal for its female subjects. Although Western art does not entirely ignore fat women, much of the history of the female nude is intimately involved in supporting the conventional beauty standards of its day. As such, large groups of individuals, who had been made socially unintelligible due to gender, race/ethnicity, class, ability status, and sexuality, have been made invisible by being left out as subjects of visual culture and fine art.

Laurie Toby Edison, a photographer and metal artist, worked in Women En Large to contest the ways in which fat women had been given an outsider status, and were made to become invisible in contemporary art practices. Edison and Notkin had a difficult time getting the project published initially, as most mainstream publishers, and even several “alternative” presses were hesitant to take on the social and political ramifications of a book filled with large pictures of fat nude women (Corinne, 1994).

…The book (Women En Large) format made fat acceptance and bodily empowerment, along with the trials and tribulations of being a fat woman in contemporary U.S. culture, accessible to a wide, international audience. It also provided a space in which the women who took part in the image-making were able to communicate intimately with the viewer through their own words, which are included in one of Notkin’s essays in the book, as well as next to some of the photographs in the book.

Now that I’m back from my trip to Boston and more or less recovered, I’m downloading the journal PDF to read.
Check it out.

Emotional Eating: Love, Chocolate, and History

Debbie says:

I’ve had this bookmarked to write about for over a month, and I’m still thinking about it.

ice cream ad:

Larkin Callaghan at Sociological Images says:

The gendered notions of this ad are clear, as it makes sure to emphasize that these issues of emotional eating are befalling women. ‘Him,’ we are supposed to assume, is the man who left/dumped/broke the heart of ‘you,’ the woman. And ‘you’ are coping with this tragedy, of course, by eating copious amounts of delicious ice cream – that’s how women deal with stress and disappointment, right?

The association in the … ad implies that a woman’s desire for intimacy isn’t something dynamic and fulfilling, based on a real connection with a human being, but rather a desire that can be filled with anything that won’t desert her, or that can be easily replenished, drawing on larger cultural message and stereotype of men being unable to emotionally connect and of women being too needy.

(I’m not sure that “men being unable to emotionally connect” is in this ad, but it’s certainly a larger cultural message.)

Neither Laurie nor I remembers anything like this message about women and emotional eating when we were young. “Stress eating” was a concept at that time–that people (mostly women) ate to deal with anxieties and fears. If eating to get over a romance was considered, it would have been eating to mask unhappiness, to have some kind of sensual stimulation to take your mind off your troubles. But this is different: not eating as distraction, but eating as solution.

A little bit of historical digging bears out our memory. In 1977, psychologist Dorothy Tennov coined the word “limerence”: “an involuntary state of mind which seems to result from a romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one’s feelings reciprocated.” Although Tennov doesn’t seem to have described this specifically as “chemical,” nonetheless the concept that it is “involuntary” takes the whole framing of love away from a mind-over-matter view of emotion and toward the neurochemical concepts that so affect our thinking today.

I first remember the word limerence in what must have been the early 1980s, when it was widely banded about due to the “chocolate theory of love,” , which basically stated that phenylethylamine, a chemical in chocolate, causes the same responses as love, and that’s why people (women) who have been dumped eat chocolate. That one got a lot of play in the headlines, and may well be a major source of today’s assumptions about how love works. It also (surprise!) got a lot of play from the chocolate manufacturers.

I am amused to note that the research methodology involved researchers eating pounds of chocolate and measuring the phenylethylamine in their urine. Rough life. (And the levels didn’t change, which did no harm to the theory, although apparently it was later established that levels in parts of the bloodstream do change.)

We don’t hear much any more about how chocolate mimics the chemical responses of love–because it’s now something “everybody knows.” And Duane Reade (a New York City pharmacy chain) can post its billboard without mentioning flavor or taste and “everybody knows” the ice cream is chocolate and it helps women manage their involuntary responses to being frustrated in love.

“Emotional eating” is a cultural construct. So is “love” (that one is about 900 years old now; its beginnings in European culture are well studied). So are many of our current notions of neurochemistry. In a century or so, it will all look very different, and it will be hard to imagine that people believed many of the things we believe now, just as it is hard to imagine now that in 1900, many Western people swore by arranged marriages as the best (or often the only) way things should be done.

It’s easy to look back and see cultural constructs in the past; it’s infinitely harder to notice them in the present. Watch for cues and prompts that tell you about “emotional eating”; once you start seeing them, you’ll notice that they are everywhere.