To be or not be a woman: Anorexia nervosa, normative gender roles, and feminism

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 17 (2):233-251 (1992)

This paper reviews the characteristics of anorexia nervosa described in the DSM-III-R , relates them to normative gender roles and adolescent development, and critiques those roles on feminist grounds. Two apparently contradictory explanations for the irrational pursuit of thinness are considered: a) the anorexic thus attempts to conform to a socially defined feminine ideal; b) the anorexic thus attempts to avoid the appearance and consequences of mature womanhood. I propose that both explanations are applicable, together emplifying the ambiguity that Simone de Beauvoir considers characteristic of female experience. Because both explanations suggest a gender identity disorder, I question the fact that the DSM-III-R fails to indicate this linkage. I argue further that therapeutic considerations require efforts to alter the socialization factors that are implicative in anorexia nervosa. Keywords: anorexia nervosa, diagnoses, feminism, philosophy of biology, psychiatry CiteULike Connotea What's this?
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DOI 10.1093/jmp/17.2.233
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