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Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body
Author: Susan Bordo
Publisher: Published January 1st 2004 by University of California Press (first published 1993)
ISBN: 9780520240544
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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"Unbearable Weight is brilliant. From an immensely knowledgeable feminist perspective, in engaging, jargonless (!) prose, Bordo analyzes a whole range of issues connected to the body—weight and weight loss, exercise, media images, movies, advertising, anorexia and bulimia, and much more—in a way that makes sense of our current social landscape—finally! This is a great book "Unbearable Weight is brilliant. From an immensely knowledgeable feminist perspective, in engaging, jargonless (!) prose, Bordo analyzes a whole range of issues connected to the body—weight and weight loss, exercise, media images, movies, advertising, anorexia and bulimia, and much more—in a way that makes sense of our current social landscape—finally! This is a great book for anyone who wonders why women's magazines are always describing delicious food as 'sinful' and why there is a cake called Death by Chocolate. Loved it!"—Katha Pollitt, Nation columnist and author of Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture (2001)

30 review for Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body

  1. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    Unbearable Weight is an analysis of the body in relation to culture. I expected to read about eating disorders and disordered body images, but instead discovered a new way of thinking about the body and culture. "Psychopathology, as Jules Henry has said, 'is the final outcome of all that is wrong with a culture.' " The author, Susan Bordo, takes "the psychopathologies that develop within a culture, far from being anomalies or aberrations, to be characteristic expressions of that culture; to be, Unbearable Weight is an analysis of the body in relation to culture. I expected to read about eating disorders and disordered body images, but instead discovered a new way of thinking about the body and culture. "Psychopathology, as Jules Henry has said, 'is the final outcome of all that is wrong with a culture.' " The author, Susan Bordo, takes "the psychopathologies that develop within a culture, far from being anomalies or aberrations, to be characteristic expressions of that culture; to be, indeed, the crystallization of much that is wrong with it." This is true, this is a way of thinking about culture that I very much appreciate. Watching Bordo analyze our collective body and weight obsessions and finding them to be an expression of "some of the central ills of our culture" is refreshing. Bordo speaks with frankness and certainty about issues that all women and many men will quickly grasp. She does not argue or persuade so much as she lays out, explains, and analyzes, providing the reader with a deeper understanding of what she has always, deep down, known. Being aware of something doesn't (ever, in my experience) mean you can escape it, though, so reading Bordo was quite healing and calming for me. Bordo breaks down the personal and cultural effects of a society that is inundated with subtle and not so subtle messages about how your body should look. As we all know, these effects are devastating. This was published in 1993, and since then so much has changed; unfortunately, the external and therefore internal pressure to be thin and fit has become more intense, not less. We all know we shouldn't participate in self-loathing or body-bashing (I am, look, feel fat). Knowing we shouldn't do this only loads us with more guilt and negativity when we do it, especially since we are also told that being obsessed with superficial things such as appearance is vain and frivolous. Bordo provides much-needed breathing space for anyone who has internalized the onslaught of media images - let's not be angry at ourselves for our "imperfect" bodies or our obsessive thoughts about weight; let's externalize that anger and refocus the gaze not on ourselves but on the culture that produces these images and illnesses. I found in Bordo's essays validation of many things I already thought and felt, and an in-depth exploration of many ideas I've been briefly exposed to over the years. Some of the ideas are the male gaze, the concept and truth of which fascinates me in itself and also because I feel that gaze constantly; psychopathology as the crystallization of a culture, a lovely phrase for an awesome idea; a heavy critique of postmodernism, which surprised me, as I've always equated postmodernism with leftist thought and leanings - and therefore feminism. Yet Bordo manages to free herself from postmodernism for the sake of feminism, or rather, for the sake of women. Our lives, the images we are constantly exposed to, are so dependent on social constructs and loaded historical meaning that to strip that meaning away and say it exists in a vacuum certainly does damage to the women who absorb the images and intuitively understand their meanings. To be told that they have no meaning is demoralizing to say the least. And so - away with you, postmodernism! Bordo's argument and conclusions are of course in no way so simplistic, but I like to simplify my life and so - away, postmodernism. Bordo devotes a chapter to the regulation of pregnancy by the law, to the autonomy of the rights of fathers and fetuses while the agency of pregnant women is stripped away. This is interesting, but I prefer her ruminations on the idealization and demonization of the female body in our culture, and as a new mother I found it helpful to apply her ideas on woman to my experience as a mother. First, the "archetypal image of the female: as hungering, voracious, all-needing, and all-wanting." Bordo quotes a young woman who says that " '...the anorectic is always convinced she is taking up too much space, eating too much, eating food too much. I've never felt that way, but I've often felt I was too much - too much emotion, too much need, too loud and demanding, too much there, if you know what I mean.' " I do know what you mean! And I'm sure most women do, too. Add to this the "powerful ideological underpinning...for the cultural containment of female appetite: the notion that women are most gratified by feeding and nourishing others, not themselves." Our society "casts women as chief emotional and physical nurturer. The rules for this construction of femininity (and I speak here in a language both symbolic and literal) require that women learn to feed others, not the self, and to construe any desires for self-nurturance and self-feeding as greedy and excessive. Thus, women must develop a totally other-oriented emotional economy." Let me speak to both her literal and symbolic meanings here. I nursed my daughter for 11 months. I did it because I knew it would make her healthy - which it has - but behind that was the feeling that it was what I should do, that I would fail as a mother if I did not provide her with milk for the first year of her life. Indeed, my breast mild dried up a month before her first year, and I was crushed with shame. I felt I had failed. Why did my milk dry up? I was working full-time, attending graduate school full-time, caring for and feeding an infant, and managing a house. I stopped feeding myself because I simply didn't have enough energy to prepare food. My mother often prepared meals for me - because, well, that's what mothers do; isn't that the sad point? - but all other requests for help went unmet. I didn't have the energy to cook, and then I simply didn't have the will to cook out of resentment that I wasn't being helped or being fed - and so I subsisted on pretzels and chocolate milk until my body had enough. From all this follows the body issues that will arise from having a child - the soft belly, the deflated breasts that are so unacceptable in our culture and cause men and women such disgust that "mommy makeovers" - combination breast lifts, tummy tucks, liposuction, and vaginoplasty - are a growing trend after having children. How sad that there is no space in our culture for the image of a real, beautiful postpartum body. Unfortunately we instead have "the tantalizing (and mystifying) ideal of a perfectly managed and regulated self, within a consumer culture which has made the actual management of hunger and desire intensely problematic. In this context, food refusal, weight loss, commitment to exercise, and ability to tolerate bodily pain and exhaustion have become cultural metaphors for self-determination, will, and moral fortitude." Bordo also speaks repeatedly, as some of the above quotes have touched upon, to the sheer amount of time and energy it takes to meet the standards set for us. "Yet, each hour, each minute spent in anxious pursuit of that ideal (for it does not come naturally to most mature women) is in fact time and energy taken from inner development and social achievement." She says that "through the exacting and normalizing disciplines of diet, makeup, and dress - central organizing principles of time and space in the day of many women....we continue to memorize on our bodies the feel and conviction of lack, of insufficiency, of never being good enough." Yet another reason to feel guilty? for me to feel bad for waxing my eyebrows and putting makeup on in the morning? Not necessarily. "Many, if not most, women also are willing (often, enthusiastic) participants in cultural practices that objectify and sexualize us." Yet "feminist cultural criticism is not a blueprint for the conduct of personal life...and does not empower (or require) individuals to 'rise above' their culture or become martyrs to feminist ideals." The goal is edification and understanding. Excellent - because I don't plan to stop with the makeup or the obsessive grooming that takes time and energy away from my participation in the real world. I am deeply enmeshed in our culture and the expectations it has of me. I don't plan or expect to escape, but I do have a deeper understanding of myself, my body issues, and will actively resist the "temptation" to become hard and plastic. The reviews on the back cover, as well as the foreword to the 10 year anniversary edition, claim that Bordo is jargon-free. Nope. No, she's not. Unless you're steeped in academia, this book won't be a breeze; but Bordo does write clearly, and her ideas contain the sort of depth and complexity and appreciation for nuance that make my mouth water. They make me...hungry. Totally worth it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    El

    An interesting collection of essays written by Susan Bordo in the late 80s and the early 90s, focusing on the way women in Western culture view their bodies, and the idea of "perfection" as a feminine goal. In spite of being rather outdated (though the ads included throughout are pretty classic - holy shoulder pads, Batman!), the information is still, sadly, relevant today. Our media still dictates what is expected of women (and men) especially when it comes to what is considered not only normal An interesting collection of essays written by Susan Bordo in the late 80s and the early 90s, focusing on the way women in Western culture view their bodies, and the idea of "perfection" as a feminine goal. In spite of being rather outdated (though the ads included throughout are pretty classic - holy shoulder pads, Batman!), the information is still, sadly, relevant today. Our media still dictates what is expected of women (and men) especially when it comes to what is considered not only normal but also preferred. Bordo covers the usual topics, such as anorexia and bulimia, but also discusses cosmetic surgery which was, at the time of publication, a somewhat new and popular way of perfecting ones body. There is some repetition throughout the essays - a common problem with these sorts of collections, but it's a decent amount of information and worth reading more than once anyway. I've always been fairly interested in pop culture references and how what occurs in popular culture becomes the norm, the standard, the expectation. Bordo handles this fairly well, even though they may seem irrelevant to modern readers, especially those who didn't grow up through the 80s or even 90s. The essay, Material Girl, for example, focuses on Madonna who in her early years was proud of her body the way it was, and implied that would never change. A few years later, however, she had lost considerable weight from a diet and exercise plan, and made cosmetic changes to her body. We saw a similar change with Gwen Stefani who, I think we all agree, has lost a considerable amount of weight, especially when compared to the Gwen Stefani of the 90s when she first found popularity on MTV with Just a Girl - then an athletic-appearing woman with a strong-physique. But herein lies part of the problem - it's hard to talk about these things without bringing up other examples in media, especially when a celebrity's appearance changes so noticeably in the public eye, and then we all talk and wonder and that makes us all bad people, doesn't it, because we're not letting these people live authentic lives. In any case. So I appreciated Bordo's book, though would especially be interested in reading an updated version of these essays if Bordo felt so inclined. There were a few aspects that seemed especially outdated, and I have to wonder if Bordo still stands behind all of her opinions proposed in this collection, published in 1993. Lord knows I no longer still believe a lot of what I believed in 1993. You're all welcome for that, by the way. Because I believed a lot of stupid shit in 1993. There are also similarities to Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth which was published just a couple years before Bordo's book, but they clearly were writing about much of the same issues at the same time, and we should all appreciate the fact that they were calling that shit out. Only when we realize and admit there's a problem can we start to fix it and heal, collectively.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kyley

    This was a very difficult book for me to finish. I started out engaged; her discussion about the history of the mind/body split was very interesting and the writing on hysteria made me want more on the topic. In general, I think this where she shines: the history of ideas. But as the book went on, it dragged. A lot. It's very clearly a product of 1993, and in that way it's not anyone's fault I didn't always connect with the data points. That being said, this felt at times like a spotty example o This was a very difficult book for me to finish. I started out engaged; her discussion about the history of the mind/body split was very interesting and the writing on hysteria made me want more on the topic. In general, I think this where she shines: the history of ideas. But as the book went on, it dragged. A lot. It's very clearly a product of 1993, and in that way it's not anyone's fault I didn't always connect with the data points. That being said, this felt at times like a spotty example of cultural studies, with cherry picked examples holding up the author's claims. In general, I'm not a fan of Bordo's theoretical position; I think she simplifies Foucault and misses Lacan/Derrida /postmodernist notions of subjectivity entirely. I just can't quite connect with Bordo's discussion of gender; she strains away from the binary but does not make a break. Despite her apologies, I cannot help but feel that male/female are real poles in her universe. (In general, Bordo apologizes for and explains away her position a lot, which was an annoying writing tick to say the least.) Ultimately, I'd suggest reading the first 100-150 pages and calling it a day. PS The 80/90s ads included as images are worth their weight in gold.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Beverly Stewart

    I think that Susan Bordo takes usually difficult-to-understand theory and applies it to anorexia and body image. I turned to her because many women my age have decided to starve themselves. She mainly deals with younger women, but reading this has helped me understand the complexities of eating disorders-- from wanting control over at least one aspect of life to being bullied into cultural submission through the barrage of images projecting ideals of femininity, beauty, and success. This book is I think that Susan Bordo takes usually difficult-to-understand theory and applies it to anorexia and body image. I turned to her because many women my age have decided to starve themselves. She mainly deals with younger women, but reading this has helped me understand the complexities of eating disorders-- from wanting control over at least one aspect of life to being bullied into cultural submission through the barrage of images projecting ideals of femininity, beauty, and success. This book is somewhat dated; however, I think her analysis is useful. Because much of her analysis is based on Michel Foucault, whom she describes as saying that power is diffuse, her recommendations for resistance is somewhat limited to individuals' personal decisions. I would prefer a movement.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Way, way more academic than I had anticipated. I found myself rereading lines 2-3x. You definitely need some background in women's studies/philosophy to understand all the references to different philosophers and theories. It was so dense; it took me six months to complete. The parts that were slightly more accessible in talking about mass media, culture and women were pretty interesting. Not sure I agreed with all of it, but it was presented in a way that at least made me consider it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    I've been thinking about Bordo a lot as I've been riding the bus during rush hour. The logistics of body and space and how it relates to expectations of women are frustrating. That I (and women) are expected to tuck and pull into ourseleves on our shared seats while the man sitting next to me sprawls out and is allowed culturally to take up more space. Bordo speaks to a lot of this (maybe not within this context) and applies it to the eating disordered. Interesting stuff. I'm going to kick my le I've been thinking about Bordo a lot as I've been riding the bus during rush hour. The logistics of body and space and how it relates to expectations of women are frustrating. That I (and women) are expected to tuck and pull into ourseleves on our shared seats while the man sitting next to me sprawls out and is allowed culturally to take up more space. Bordo speaks to a lot of this (maybe not within this context) and applies it to the eating disordered. Interesting stuff. I'm going to kick my legs out more often.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jensen Davis

    not all the way done with it but everyone should read this book!!!! i have cried at several points during this book!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    In the introduction to this collection of essays, Susan Bordo names Foucault as the primary influence on her thought, and on the ideas she explores here. As soon as I read that, I said "Oh, no. That's a bad sign," fearing that the book would be too postmodern for me. Happily, it's not. The writing is clear, engaging and fairly accessible (it can still be slow going, especially in the final three essays which deal specifically with postmodernism), and she does actually make recognizable, clearly- In the introduction to this collection of essays, Susan Bordo names Foucault as the primary influence on her thought, and on the ideas she explores here. As soon as I read that, I said "Oh, no. That's a bad sign," fearing that the book would be too postmodern for me. Happily, it's not. The writing is clear, engaging and fairly accessible (it can still be slow going, especially in the final three essays which deal specifically with postmodernism), and she does actually make recognizable, clearly-stated arguments in every one of her essays, as opposed to much of postmodernist writing, which spends most of its time studiously avoiding argument. (Harrumph!) Anyway, most of the book has little to do with postmodernism at all; it's a discussion of the body in Western culture, particularly at the time the book was written (early 1990s), though it also makes reference to earlier historical periods. Much time is spent discussing eating disorders as logical outgrowths of contemporary society's conflicting attitudes toward appetites --- we still honor the Protestant work ethic of delayed gratification and self-denial, but our economy has shifted to one dependent on lots of consumer spending. Until recently, we solved that problem by making men the producers and (middle- and upper-class) women the consumers (in the housewife role), but with the second wave of feminism that dichotomy collapsed. Bordo also draws a connection between historical periods of greater social and political freedom for women and more-restrictive beauty standards. What I liked most about her cultural explanations for eating disorders and the thin ideal is her refusal to limit herself to one "reading" of thinness. She prioritizes the different readings, of course --- she would have to, in order to avoid incoherence --- but she recognizes that beauty ideals say a lot of different things about the culture from which they come. To women who embrace the thin ideal, it's not just about looking like the models in the ads; it's also about repudiating maternity as the only destiny a woman can have, and claiming historically "masculine" virtues (those aforementioned traits of self-denial and striving) as one's own. She emphasizes, however, that these are just another aspect of the still-rigid, and still-unequal gender binary: extreme thinness is about repudiating what makes the body characteristically feminine, just as much female success is (still) achieved at the cost of uncritically accepting, and forcing oneself into, the masculine mold.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This collection of essays is truly amazing and eye-opening. I really enjoyed every single one. Susan Bordo does a great job of creating a dialogue about eating disorders and highlighting the many issues that surround such topics in society today. She is able to recognize them for the difficult topics that they are while also making them incredibly easy to understand and bring the reader into the topic in a way that makes you question "Why haven't we looked at it like this before?" Would definite This collection of essays is truly amazing and eye-opening. I really enjoyed every single one. Susan Bordo does a great job of creating a dialogue about eating disorders and highlighting the many issues that surround such topics in society today. She is able to recognize them for the difficult topics that they are while also making them incredibly easy to understand and bring the reader into the topic in a way that makes you question "Why haven't we looked at it like this before?" Would definitely recommend to anyone looking for an enlightening, educational read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Leseparatist

    Much better than the excerpts have led me to believe; I particularly enjoyed the chapter on reproductive rights and the critique of postmodern disembodiment in theory. Highly recommended and quite relevant.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stan

    Best thing I've read on what are called "eating disorders." Essential reading for people who care about women who have contradictory relationships with food.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    A beach read this is not. Pick up this book prepared to work, highlight, make a few notes, discuss with your compatriots, even be frustrated with the author from time to time. But do pick it up! The work is dated in some respects (you will see more eighties tailoring in these pages then many of us have encountered in our entire lives...) but still excruciatingly relevant. A savvy reader can generate a wealth of examples from their daily lives that are equally astute if they find the jell-o and s A beach read this is not. Pick up this book prepared to work, highlight, make a few notes, discuss with your compatriots, even be frustrated with the author from time to time. But do pick it up! The work is dated in some respects (you will see more eighties tailoring in these pages then many of us have encountered in our entire lives...) but still excruciatingly relevant. A savvy reader can generate a wealth of examples from their daily lives that are equally astute if they find the jell-o and shoulder pads too much of a distraction. Bordo gives an unapologetically intellectual and academically rigorous underpinning beneficial to 2017's "#feminism" as well as trenchant articulation to many of the subjects that give modern women pause. Bordo's discussion of intersectionality has not aged gracefully, but the tenth anniversary edition has also resisted the urge to "correct" the record with surgical excision. The author remains refreshingly true to her argument in this. Bordo does not wallow in her outrage. The authorial voice when detailing the stark differences in judicial opinions of male vs. female physical integrity, the portrayal of their diverse "desires" in place of "wishes", or a student mocking his girlfriend for not weighing 110lbs, remains neutral and well-informed. As well, the work is painstakingly annotated and well grounded in the literature, and so if this is a gateway piece of feminist academia, it is also a roadmap to the rest of the state of the art. Find a quiet evening (or several) and pace yourself-- it is worth it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alvin Steviro

    In this legendary book, Bordo is successful in maintaining the balance between the abstract philosophical thought and social criticism that is aimed to tangible issues that we are all exposed to everyday. While there are some tendencies to romanticize subjectivity, Bordo has nevertheless given us a sight to problems we might not have seen before. The discussion of a (female) human body in this book challenges both our biased cultural and scientific point of view that omits women's struggles within In this legendary book, Bordo is successful in maintaining the balance between the abstract philosophical thought and social criticism that is aimed to tangible issues that we are all exposed to everyday. While there are some tendencies to romanticize subjectivity, Bordo has nevertheless given us a sight to problems we might not have seen before. The discussion of a (female) human body in this book challenges both our biased cultural and scientific point of view that omits women's struggles within their own bodies.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Thai Divone

    While full of interesting facts and ideas, the book, at least for me, doesn't live up, from a 2017 point of view, to its expectations. The ideas within it were so implemented that now it feels more like an historical artifact than as a still revealing addition. One point of interest still remains highly illuminating, though, and it is the article "Anorexia Nervosa", especially regarding its thesis of sexual boundry crossing, in terms of the anorexic body.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Hudson

    excellent book with insightful theory

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kye Flannery

    Heart-breaking, true, wrenching, vindicating, well-researched, much-needed.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    Fantastic. I'm not enlightened enough on the study of philosophy to properly review this, but I love Bordo's critique of "choice" feminism.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cara Byrne

    This was a great read. Bordo's fantastic analysis of body politics helps me better understand the underlying cultural messages placed upon us through commercials, ads, and even Madonna's music videos (I'm pretty sure had this been written in 2013 instead of 1993, Bordo would have had a field day with Gaga's work). I'm also interested in references Bordo makes to children - from the dolls they are given to their early introductions to limiting notions of the female body. Personally, this book als This was a great read. Bordo's fantastic analysis of body politics helps me better understand the underlying cultural messages placed upon us through commercials, ads, and even Madonna's music videos (I'm pretty sure had this been written in 2013 instead of 1993, Bordo would have had a field day with Gaga's work). I'm also interested in references Bordo makes to children - from the dolls they are given to their early introductions to limiting notions of the female body. Personally, this book also helped me understand my own dysfunctional relationship to my body. As the number of plastic surgeries continues to increase and women (and men) have to deal with even more unreasonable physical expectations (see Tina Fey's _Bossypants_ for a spot on description of this), Bordo's work seems increasingly relevant despite its dated cultural references. In quoting bell hooks, she also reminds me that my feminist scholarship should not be limited to the academic arena. Bordo states: "Subversion of dominant cultural forms, as bell hooks has said, 'happens much more easily in the realm of 'texts' than in the world of human interaction ... in which such moves challenge, disrupt, threaten, where repression is real'" (299).

  19. 4 out of 5

    Iskander

    I have never read more informative essay or collection of essays than this extremely illustrative book by Susan Bordo. As it happens usually with any book you will come with a one question and leave with a hundred other answers . This book is so to speak has become my crucial material of understanding of Western culture, feminism, and consumerism that shapes it. Her analysis about the body in the culture is incredible. She opens up and explores how feminism and feminine body affects the culture. I have never read more informative essay or collection of essays than this extremely illustrative book by Susan Bordo. As it happens usually with any book you will come with a one question and leave with a hundred other answers . This book is so to speak has become my crucial material of understanding of Western culture, feminism, and consumerism that shapes it. Her analysis about the body in the culture is incredible. She opens up and explores how feminism and feminine body affects the culture. Also, she points out to all dilemmas which comes with it. And most importantly how to counter all misperceptions in the society. Without any hesitation she points out how key social political figures can make differences. The most illuminating examples she brings about is Oprah Winfrey. When she was asked about the biggest achievement in her life .. she replied that she could manage to lose sixty-seven pounds on liquid diet. One of the highly respected and successful businesswoman declares that getting in shape was the biggest event of her life ?! Yeah, what a fancy shibboleth for the posterity :)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. checked out from Washington Co. Cooperative Library Services, 11/13 list. from the library get this back to start again in 2014 from the library computer: Contents: Foreword: Reading Bordo / Leslie Heywood -- In the Empire of Images: Preface to the Tenth Anniversary Edition -- Discourses and Conceptions of the Body -- Whose Body Is This? Feminism, Medicine, and the Conceptualization of Eating Disorders -- Are Mothers Persons? Reproductive Rights and the Politics of Subject-ivity -- Hunger as Ideolo checked out from Washington Co. Cooperative Library Services, 11/13 list. from the library get this back to start again in 2014 from the library computer: Contents: Foreword: Reading Bordo / Leslie Heywood -- In the Empire of Images: Preface to the Tenth Anniversary Edition -- Discourses and Conceptions of the Body -- Whose Body Is This? Feminism, Medicine, and the Conceptualization of Eating Disorders -- Are Mothers Persons? Reproductive Rights and the Politics of Subject-ivity -- Hunger as Ideology -- The Slender Body and Other Cultural Forms -- Anorexia Nervosa: Psychopathology as the Crystallization of Culture -- The Body and the Reproduction of Femininity -- Reading the Slender Body -- Postmodern Bodies -- Feminism, Postmodernism, and Gender Skepticism -- "Material Girl": The Effacements of Postmodern Culture -- Postmodern Subjects, Postmodern Bodies, Postmodern Resistance.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    Susan Bordo is one of my favorite feminist theorists, and I love the way she handles politics of the body. Though originally published in the mid 80s, most of her observations about advertising, anorexia, bulimia, and body image still stand. I'm a bit of a Susan Bordo fangirl, and I love the way that she takes high theory and writes a book that is engaging, understandable, and influential. Her discussion of Foucaultian systems of control and the anorexic body are particularly spot-on, and I thin Susan Bordo is one of my favorite feminist theorists, and I love the way she handles politics of the body. Though originally published in the mid 80s, most of her observations about advertising, anorexia, bulimia, and body image still stand. I'm a bit of a Susan Bordo fangirl, and I love the way that she takes high theory and writes a book that is engaging, understandable, and influential. Her discussion of Foucaultian systems of control and the anorexic body are particularly spot-on, and I think the way she correlates those systems with modern advertising is particularly enlightened. This is an absolutely critical text for anyone looking to better understand the way feminism interprets body image.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Evie

    Susan Bordo's collection of essays about the feminine and the feminine body and the impact of culture upon both has made me rethink my own obsession with my weight and body. She explores eating disorders and the idea of "thin" or "slim" by placing them within a cultural contex: how does society, our belief systems, our history, our families, our commercials and commercialism contribute to our personal images of the physical ideal and our perpetual struggle to achieve this unachievable goal? This Susan Bordo's collection of essays about the feminine and the feminine body and the impact of culture upon both has made me rethink my own obsession with my weight and body. She explores eating disorders and the idea of "thin" or "slim" by placing them within a cultural contex: how does society, our belief systems, our history, our families, our commercials and commercialism contribute to our personal images of the physical ideal and our perpetual struggle to achieve this unachievable goal? This is not just another book about The Man keeping a Sistah down; rather, it is an intelligent, challenging, and complex read of the feminine body and its precarious place in Western culture. Now in my permanent collection!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kailey Rhone

    The topic of body image and its associated behaviors are efficiently preluded on the first page of Susan Bordo’s book through Delmore Schwartz’s poem The Heavy Bear. It introduces the dualism of the body; how it is both our being as well as an inescapable pest. It expounds on the idea that the body is a “brute” equipped with a primitive need to consume in order to feel fulfillment. Essentially, the body is heavy baggage for many people, constantly pulling downwards towards what it “needs”, but n The topic of body image and its associated behaviors are efficiently preluded on the first page of Susan Bordo’s book through Delmore Schwartz’s poem The Heavy Bear. It introduces the dualism of the body; how it is both our being as well as an inescapable pest. It expounds on the idea that the body is a “brute” equipped with a primitive need to consume in order to feel fulfillment. Essentially, the body is heavy baggage for many people, constantly pulling downwards towards what it “needs”, but not necessarily towards what the mind wants. The rest of the book really revolved around that and I enjoyed it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Rereading this book, I am yet again fascinated with Bordo's reading of the thin female body. She situates this body in history, analyzing pervasive fears of the all-consuming, uncontrollable force of female bodies and female desire - and, in contrast, the masculine-gendered ideal of restraint and asceticism. One passage compares the frighteningly similar accounts of athletes, body-builders and anorectics. (Yet another reason for me NOT to work out & read theory instead.) For anyone tired of Rereading this book, I am yet again fascinated with Bordo's reading of the thin female body. She situates this body in history, analyzing pervasive fears of the all-consuming, uncontrollable force of female bodies and female desire - and, in contrast, the masculine-gendered ideal of restraint and asceticism. One passage compares the frighteningly similar accounts of athletes, body-builders and anorectics. (Yet another reason for me NOT to work out & read theory instead.) For anyone tired of the same analysis of WHY women hate their bodies, this is a refreshing read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Fathom Panthere Iaguar

    Aside from reaffirming my already-present beliefs concerning eating disorders as merely logical extremes to the current weight-obsession we have in our world today, this book introduced me to several other important facets of body-control (governmental, personal, social) including the appalling state of non-personhood that any woman becomes included in once they become pregnant. While somewhat dry, this book is nevertheless fascinating, and a worthy read whether you are just starting to think or Aside from reaffirming my already-present beliefs concerning eating disorders as merely logical extremes to the current weight-obsession we have in our world today, this book introduced me to several other important facets of body-control (governmental, personal, social) including the appalling state of non-personhood that any woman becomes included in once they become pregnant. While somewhat dry, this book is nevertheless fascinating, and a worthy read whether you are just starting to think or if you are already very accomplished in the realm of feminist thought.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gouri Kapoor

    A must-read for those working in the field of Body and Women's studies. Bordo talks not just about how the pressure to conform to social norms sometimes results in eating disorders, but also about how women's bodies are viewed and contained in the society. The chapter where she uses case studies to highlight the fact that pregnant women are often just thought of as containers for the foetus and denied subjectivity even by the law is especially well-thought-out.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gayle Noble

    An absolute corker of a book. Recommended for anyone who wants to discover the roots of Western culture's dysfunctional relationship with the physical body, especially the female body. Whilst it was written in the 1990s, none of the essays seem particularly dated apart from a couple of pop references. In fact, the arguments Susan Bordo makes are more relevant today than ever. Essential reading.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Noemi Vega

    Bordo gives a critique of modern and postmodern conceptions of "body," "embodiment," and gender through the lens of Western Feminism, culture, and (intriguingly) "abnormal" eating behaviors such as anorexia, bulemia, and agoraphobia. I found myself thanking her for writing this book and elucidating discourse on concepts of the body.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Amazing book. She asks incisive and insightful questions and while I don't agree with her conclusions on everything, I deeply appreciate the issues she raises. It's a really dense read, but worth the work. I'm putting it on my "to-read-again" shelf, because there's so much to think through in there.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    Unbearable Weight is a journey into the impact of cultural messages. I have been reviewingthis book extensively on my website as it is having a great impact on me. Once having read Susan Bordo I will never be able to look at advertisements and even my own body, the same again.

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