Anorexia and Bulimia:
Social Pressures in Being Thin
Society plays a big role in why
women develop eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. Bulimia and anorexia are disorders that make
you believe that you are fat and you continue losing weight in unhealthy
ways. Bulimia and anorexia are very
serious and dangerous disorders. From
an early age, girls are taught to believe that thin is better. Social pressure to stay unhealthily thin is
a primary cause of anorexia and bulimia.
Social pressures are in sports such as gymnastics, figure skating and
ballet dancing, in pop-culture and on television. These things push women to believe being thin will make you
beautiful, happy and successful.
Anorexia is the severe pursuit of
being thin. People that suffer from
anorexia starve themselves, are terrified of gaining weight even though they
are underweight, deny the danger of low weight and report feeling fat even when
they are very thin.
Bulimia is the diet-binge-purge disorder. People that suffer from bulimia misuse
laxatives and diets, and when not dieting they binge eat and then force
themselves to vomit frequently and repeatedly after eating. They also over-exercise or fast to get rid of
Anorexia and bulimia cause serious
physical problems. They can affect the
cardiovascular, nervous system, gastrointestinal, hormones, kidneys and
skeletal system. Anorexia and bulimia
can result in death from starvation, gastric hemorrhaging, or multiple organ
failure. “Food provides the nourishment
our bodies need to function normally” (Chiu 6). People that are anorexic or bulimic aren’t giving their body any
nourishment or are stripping their body of nourishment from foods that they
need in order for their bodies to function.
“Our society encourages the idea that being thin is
beautiful and sexy” (Chiu 6). Sports,
pop-culture and television play an enormous role in concepts such as body
image. Women develop anorexia and
bulimia because they have low self-esteem and low self-worth. They feel as if they aren’t loved and
accepted by others because of their appearance. […] “Females of all ages have been sold the belief that thin is
beautiful” (Immell 61). “ The media
foster and promotes this belief …pressuring women and girls to live up to the
image projected by beautiful, thin supermodels and movie and television stars”
“On television, in magazines and newspapers, we are
continually exposed to the notion that losing weight will make us happier and
it will be through “This Diet Plan””
(“Anorexia” 2). When Young women
see these advertisements on television, magazines and newspapers it makes them
feel they must lose weight to be accepted by others because not being thin is
unacceptable and ugly in our society.
It is easy to see why some girls might be more prone to developing an
eating disorder: just turn on the T.V. or flip through a fashion magazine”
(‘Anorexia and Bulimia” 1). The models
in the fashion magazines have the so-called “body image” that women may develop
anorexia and bulimia to be as thin as those models. If you flip through Vogue or Cosmopolitan magazine you will see
nothing but thin women, practically all the same size. When women see nothing but thin women in
their favorite magazines, they are prone to believe this is what they are
supposed to look like. On television
shows such as “Friends”, all the main actors/ actresses have the “ideal body”. Every once in a while they have flashbacks
when Monica was fat in her younger days.
In those days Monica was considered ugly and she had no friends and
couldn’t get any dates. In Rachel's
younger days on “Friends” she was always thin and was considered the pretty and
popular girl that every girl wanted to be like and every boy wanted to be
with. “Overweight characters are
typically portrayed as lazy, the one with no friends, or “the bad guy”, while
thin women and pumped-up men are the successful, popular, sexy and powerful ones”
(“Society” 1). If this is shown on
television no wonder that people fall under the belief that being thin equals
being happy. Women and young girls see
this and believe they need to be thin to be accepted. This is why many people develop anorexia and bulimia.
When you think of gymnasts,
figure skaters and ballet dancers you think immediately of a slender body. In sports such as gymnastics, figure skating
and ballet dancing, women are pushed to maintain a low body weight by their
coach or parents. “But in an effort to
make their bodies perfect and please those around them, these athletes can end
up with an eating disorder” (“Anorexia and Bulimia” 1). There are many cases in
which these athletes died to succeed in their profession. “ In 1997 a young ballerina by the name of
Heidi Guenther died of fatal heart attack as the result of her eating
disorder. She was 22”
(“Society”4). “Gymnast Christy Henrich
died from complications due to her eating disorder in 1994, at 22 years of age”
Pop-culture is another leading role
in why women develop anorexia and bulimia.
A lot of young women and girls look up to Britney Spears, Janet Jackson,
Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera because they portray the idealistic body
image. Young women and girls are faced
with thin and beautiful celebrities and aspire to be like them. When these young women and girls are faced
with seemingly beautiful and thin celebrities sharing the same culture they
might also wish to achieve the same physical goals. Young women and girls also see supermodels on television and feel
that is how a woman should look. “By
far, these body types and images are not the norm and unobtainable to the
average individual and far and wide the constant force of these images on society
makes us believe they should be”(“Society” 1).
Society makes people believe that
the ideal beauty is being thin. We are
brought into a society that does not celebrate everyone’s beauty, and this
makes it difficult for people to love oneself (Williams 144). As a result, women may develop disorders
such as anorexia or bulimia to become thin and have the idealistic body image
that society portrays. Anorexia and
bulimia are a devastating and life threatening disorders. We are exposed to the notion that in order
to belong and fit in society we must be thin; we see this in everyday life in
sports, pop culture, on television, in magazines and in newspapers. As Williams has said, “If we are to move
beyond these values we must be able to face ourselves our goals and beliefs and
trust that they are rooted in something deeper that a desire to belong, fit in
or prove that we can do just as well” (144).
“Anorexia.” Disordered Beauty. 2003 Mar 20.
and Bulimia.” Eating Disorders. 1995-2003. The Nemours Foundation. 2003
Christina. Eating Disorder Survivors Tell Their Stories. New York: The
Rosen Publishing Group, 1998.
Immel, Myra H. “Why Thin Is In.” Eating Disorders. Ed. Jill
Zimmerman. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1999. 61-69.
Fishy Website on Eating Disorders.
2003 Mar 25.
Williams, Saul. “No Longer Afraid of the Dark.” Essence. June
Existence of Pay Inequity
recently only a small number of women employed in the offices of American
business held positions other than typists or secretaries. Typing, filing,
and other clerical positions were considered women’s work. The high-paying
and high-status executive positions were reserved for men. Issues of
sex discrimination in hiring and promoting began to attract attention
over a century ago. As a result of a long struggle of movements for
equal pay, in 1963 Congress passed the Equal Pay Act that prohibits
discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, national
origin, or privileges of employment. However, sex-based pay discrimination
among office workers still exist in spite of existing wage discrimination
laws. Today women have achieved significant wage gains, but the stereotyping
of gender roles is still a significant factor that makes it harder for
working women, particularly office workers, to have equal access to
the high-paying and high-status executive positions.
order to understand issues of wage discrimination we have to take a
look at historical facts on how women entered the office. After the
Civil War the expansion of capitalist firms caused an increase in the
demand for clerical labor (Davies 55). An increase in amount of correspondence
and record keeping was required to hire more clerical workers. The best
candidates for these positions were women just because of the simple
fact that their labor was cheaper than men’s. There was a belief that
women were inferior to men. “Women were often thought to be working
for “pin money” with which to make frivolous purchases” (Davies 56).
There was a belief that women did not need to earn money for living
because they were supported by their families or husbands. Women were
financially depended on men. The only reason for making money was to
spend it for miscellaneous expenses. Since this was a major reason there
was nothing the matter with paying them low wages. In addition, it was
historical stereotype that women’s roles were to get married and raise
a family. This stereotype made women considered as not serious members
of the labor force. Employers believed that after marriage female employers
would return to their natural roles, as childcare and housekeeping,
and it would take almost all chances to work. These beliefs made employers
reserve high-paying managerial, professional, and technical positions
for men. At this period of time, employee’s requirements such as being
steadfast, and persistent and having the ability to work for a long
period of time were associated only with men (Davies 56). This explains
sources of formation the stereotype of working women, which led them
to hold certain types of jobs such as clerical low-paying positions.
factors have made the rise of working women’s organizations possible.
First of all, it was a financial situation faced by women in their families.
In second, the society itself motivated them to organize women office
workers’ movements. Women tended to enter the labor force during periods
of economic crisis. During the Great Depression and World War II men
could not resolve financial difficulties by themselves. The families
also depended on the income of working women. Women realized the economic
necessity of working for wages (Goldberg 23). At the same time, the
society’s morality of getting divorced had changed. Women could already
divorce without condemnation of the society. And since it happened,
they were aware that they should support themselves. Small wages became
a barrier to becoming an independent person. All these factors and the
growing awareness of the salary differences contributed to dissatisfaction
with wages among clerical women workers. Women had realized that women
office workers were treated unequal to men. It was much more difficult
for women to be promoted or to be hired to high-paying positions. Women’s
movements helped them to realize and to focus on issues that affected
their job opportunities. That is why it was very important to continue
to struggle for improving the existing conditions in which working women
found themselves. Women’s office workers’ organizations tried to achieve
a couple of goals such as winning rights and respect for female office
workers, breaking down barriers of the stereotype of gender role (Goldberg
39). The general goals “were carried out in a variety of educational
projects, media events, rallies, and specific campaigns of direct action
aimed primarily at the issues of sex discrimination” (Goldberg 57).
meaning and expectations of gender in relation to labor finally translated
into the politically successful struggle for the Equal Pay Act of 1963
and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The government has enacted
these laws in the effort to protect workers against wage discrimination
and to promote equal employment opportunities for men and women. The
Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
prohibit unequal pay for equal work performed by men and women. Women
cannot be paid differently because of their sex. They cannot be intentionally
segregated into “women’s” job. Women cannot be denied the right to apply
for any jobs, particularly higher paying jobs often performed by males.
They cannot be denied promotions or any other job opportunities because
of their sex (Williams and Kessler 28). However, even if women have
got a right to be legally protected against wage discrimination, the
subliminal stereotyping of gender roles is so strong that discrimination
continued taking place.
take a look at statistics on the wage gap in order to understand if
there is wage discrimination. According to the Institute for Women’s
Policy Research, in 1997 the ratio of women’s to men’s weekly earnings
was 74.4 percent (“CHN
Issue Brief on Pay Equity”
n.p.). This 26 percent pay gap was decreased from about 37 percent in
1979. However, this decrease was not because women’s wages had risen
but because men’s wages had declined. If men’s wages had not declined
since 1979, the wage gap would still be around 34-37 percent. This ratio
is the remarkable evidence that gap between wages of female and male
jobs still exist. “Scientific American” magazine published that in 1998
women hold only 28 percent of the eight million jobs in the better-paying
professions with the average compensation of more than $40,000 (Doyle
30). They explain this low percentage by a gender schema and the low
pay because women do not have equal access to the high financially rewarding
positions. In addition, the data of comparison of men and women in
the 500 largest companies provided by Catalyst in 1999 shows that of
the 2,353 top earners only 77 are women, which is only 3.3% (Conlin
good example of the present existence of wage discrimination in America
is various court cases. One of such charges was filed by Sharon
Long in 1995 based on the discrimination alleging gender-based unequal
pay (Long n.p.). Long was hired by a wholesaler company to work as a
purchasing assistant. Two years later, she was promoted to purchasing
agent and was only one female in this department. All agents were doing
equal work. Based on her observation of the life-style of her co-workers
doing the same job, she began suspect that she was paid lower wages.
A few years later Long mentioned to her manager about unequal pay and
possible raise. She received an answer that he was going to double her
salary in order to put her on the same pay scale as her male co-workers.
Long knew that she was underpaid, but she had no idea of how much. One
month later she was fired, told by manager that the company had a financial
crisis and that an automated purchasing program would be able to perform
her job. A little bit later another male was hired who took over her
accounts. It was clear that Long was fired in relation on her complaint
about unequal wages. The company agreed to pay Long $200,000 in an out-of-court
settlement. This case is a good evidence that women still have to stand
up for the equal pay they deserve.
consequences of pay inequity may reflect not only the lives of women
and their families but also the companies they work for as well as the
society as whole. One of the subscribers of “Glamour” magazine said
that if she felt that she had no chance to be promoted simply because
she was female, it would affect the work she performed (“Glass Ceiling
Survey” 162). She could not contribute a lot to the company that saw
her as a less valuable, intelligent employee without motivation. Therefore,
it is possible to draw the conclusion that companies are suffering from
an unequal attitude. The wage differentials reflect not only the choices
of the individual, but also their level of poverty. The study by the
Institute for Women’s Policy Research concluded that if women could
find jobs paying the same wages as those held by men of the same age
and the same educational background then the welfare for working single
mother could be cut in half (“CHN
Issue Brief on Pay Equity”
n.p.). This would definitely a great advantage for our government, which
recently has financial problems, and for whole nation. And as a student
of economics I can say that if we have employment discrimination and
people do not earn and do not do what they desire, it means that we
have less than full production because we are not efficiently allocating
our labor. In other words, there are a lot of people who should be engineers,
or corporate workers or in our case office workers, but they have been
condemned to lower level occupations because of the simple fact that
they happen not to be males.
if we have laws that protect women from wage discrimination, cases are
extremely difficult to prove and win. To resolve these problems women
need to struggle for stronger legislation and clarify the right to pay
equity (“Questions and Answers on Pay Equity” n.p.). Also with a help
of history of female office workers women can entering the debate and
have in their hands the possibility of shaping the future of their lives.
There is also a sign that wage discrimination based on gender is noticed.
The report by the AFL-CIO organization shows that 94 percent of working
office women respondents said that the issue about to have equal access
to the high-paying positions is very important for them (“CHN Issue Brief on Pay Equity” n.p.). That fact gives a hope to
the future that women will not leave this problem aside. With increases
of action and active participation of working office women they could
change the view of traditional stereotype of gender role.
on this research we can see that wage discrimination based on gender
is still widespread. Working women are still continuing to suffer from
the historical stereotype of gender roles that were created by our society.
The society itself is suffering. A wage rate is an important index of
independence, self-respect, community norms, and public status. If working
women continue to show the society that they are not going away, and
if they make their voices louder, then the society will have no choice
but to listen to women and make changes in the attitude toward working
office women. The fight for rights at work is also a fight for our future
Issue Brief on Pay Equity.”
Coalition on Human Needs. Jan. 2000. CHN. 14 Apr 2003. <http://www.chn.org/issuebriefs/payequity.asp>.
Conlin, Michelle. “The CEO
Still Wears Wingtips.” Business Week 22 Nov. 1999: 85-90.
Women’s Place is at the Typewriter. Philadelphia: Temple University
Doyle, Rodger. “Women and Professions.”
Scientific American Apr. 2000: 30.
“Glass Ceiling Survey.”
Glamour Apr 2000: 160-162.
Organizing Women Office Workers. New York: Praeger Publishers,
Long, Sharon. “Wage Discrimination
in Workplace.” Women Friendly Workplace Campaign Speakout. 28
Jan 2000. National Organization for Women. 14 Apr 2003. <http://www.now.org/issues/wfw/speakout/msg00463.html>.
and Answers on Pay Equity.” Feminist. 1999. National Committee
on Pay Equity. 14 Apr 2003. <http://www.feminist.com/fairpay/f_qape.htm>.
Williams, Robert and Lorence
Kessler. A Closer Look at Comparable Worth. Washington: National