Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Thirsty in the Rain*

Anorexic young women tend to be popular with the opposite sex.  They epitomize our cultural definitions of feminine: thin, passive, weak and eager to please.  Oftentimes young women report that they are complimented on their appearance right up until they are admitted to hospitals for emergency feeding.
I think anorexia is a metaphor.  It is a young woman's statement that she will become what the culture asks of its women, which is that they be thin and nonthreatening.  Anorexia signifies that a young woman is so delicate that...she needs a man to shelter and protect her from a world she cannot handle.  Anorexic women signal with their bodies "I will take up only a small amount of space.  I won't get in the way."  They signal, "I won't be intimidating or threatening."  (Who is afraid of a seventy-pound adult?)
---Mary Pipher, Ph.D.  (from Reviving Ophelia, p. 175)
*Peter Rowan


  1. That is a great book.

  2. And when that young woman goes into treatment, she's still slotted into the passive, paternalistic sick role described by Parsons in the fifties. I didn't start to take myself back until I ditched my therapist and her one-track mind -- I was ill, I needed help, I couldn't possibly understand my own illness, right? There's nothing underlying anorexia but problems with food! Silly girl, asking to see the literature on the subject. Just keep your food diary, sit down, and shut up.

    By the way, this was in the metro area we share. It was the least offensive tack anyone took with me regarding treatment (forced refeedings, no allowing for legitimate dietary problems? Oh, hi, St. Mary's! And you'll never get me back to RGH, where I was diagnosed borderline out of spite).

    The face of anorexia has merged with the face of so many other problems our young women confront as they try to grow up. Maybe it's time to treat the whole anorexic, even if she is just a piece of who she was before, and to treat her like she has half a brain in her head.