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Feminism and anorexia – cause and effect?


THE German philosopher Martin Heidegger coined the term ‘facticity’, by which he meant those things in the human condition on which Blind Evolution or the Eternal Father (delete to suit your needs) neglected to consult us and which, therefore, we have to rejoice in or simply put up with for they are non-negotiable. In common parlance these things are termed ‘the bleeding obvious’. These include the fact that we reproduce sexually, owe our very existence to sexual reproduction (even those who are not sexually ‘normative’), and are sexed right down to the cellular level. If you subtract sex you subtract us. It is meaningless to consider us outside the realm of sex as, in a sense, we are sex and find our being in it. Sex, for humans, is life and the life-force. Because this is true we can safely say of the adult human female that she:

is a life-form making up one half of a mammalian sexual dynamic;
has mammary glands for the nursing of children;
has ovaries, a uterus, menstruates and is acted upon by the hormones progesterone and oestrogen;

can bear children;

is implanted with a powerful urge to reproduce;

is a member of the species Homo sapiens;

produces helpless sapient offspring with large craniums;

has a widened pelvis to accommodate those craniums;

forms a fierce bond with her long-term helpless offspring;

forms a powerful sexual bond with a male to aid parenting;

is, in herself, (those hips and breasts) a powerful sexual signal to males;

enjoys being part of the human display sex (if you doubt this look at those photos of expensively, colourfully and strikingly attired and coiffured females at the Oscar ceremony alongside their uniformly penguin-suited consorts, consult the comparative world budgets spent by males and females on hairdressing, clothing and cosmetics or witness the endless perfectly innocent complimenting of each other’s beauty that goes on between females on Facebook).

All of this, of course, is to utter the indexed heresy of ‘biological essentialism’ and might go on to suggest that, as much of a woman’s physiology is devoted to bearing and nursing children, in her very person she symbolises the good that life is in contrast to the evil that death is.

However, the Spirit of our Age will simply not allow us to say these things and, instead, exercises terrible tyrannies. On the one hand those large craniums lead it to believe, in a mixture of cerebral high-mindedness and furious resentment at not having been consulted on the parameters of our being, that we are, somehow, above these squalid biological animal facts (believing this in spite of those very facts providing the vehicle and substrate for bonding human love). As a result it encourages us to see ourselves as god-like, dilettante gourmets choosing and ‘curating’ sexual identities like dainties from a smörgasbord. On the other hand it tells us that the woes of womankind are due to a vindictive and self-serving ‘patriarchy’ that, for fun, cruelly subjugates its complementary other sexual half, forcing it to conform with arbitrary and unnecessary cultural ‘constructs’ regarding attractiveness just to please itself. Of course, neither of these two attitudes accepts that there is a pre-existing default for male and female nature which derives from nature.

The result of this is a desperate attempt to propitiate the angry zeitgeist via a kind of cognitive suicide whereby modern women simultaneously celebrate themselves as biological presences while denying and apologising that they are such things or are driven by biological impulses. This phenomenon could, be styled as a kind of schizophrenia or, perhaps, as ‘Schrödinger’s woman syndrome’ whereby a woman is two mutually exclusive conditions at the same time like the physicist’s famous, simultaneously dead and alive cat.

The antennae of intelligent adolescent girls pick these things up, looming just beyond the horizon of their girlhood, in a place to which their un-arrestable puberty is leading them, and, as a result, the cognitive suicide can extend to a physical one. This might explain to some extent the epidemic of anorexia afflicting, largely, the young females of the Western world. Of course, the zeitgeist will say that this insidious form of self-harm is due to girls rebelling against patriarchal tyranny or a ‘disempowerment’ that leads them to exert ‘power’ over their families and the medical profession.

In truth, though, it could be the vain attempt to resolve the head-on collision between the zeitgeist and the irresistible life-force of nature arising in adolescent girls that explains the phenomenon. And more can be said about the zeitgeist as embodied in certain influential strains of modern feminism. Just as some anti-racist justice warriors are often, in their hearts, the worst racists, some feminists can be secret misogynists, regretting or loathing the condition of womanhood. They believe in a kind of photographic negative of the celebratory western icon of the Madonna and child and, subliminally, communicate this. The clearest evidence of this is their lack of faith that there can be any inherent value, virtue or moral power in being a woman as revealed in the way female success is now defined in entirely masculine terms. A woman now has to play rugby, join the army or, generally, ape what men do to be taken seriously. It is the feminists who believe this and not men who think being a woman is second best and wish to punish female nature for being itself.

A bright girl might choose to resolve the dilemma by attempting to inhibit the very instincts that are irrepressibly emerging in her. This amounts to a form of slow suicide in which anorexics try to obliterate their female nature. One has only to compare pictures of a mature and healthy woman with those of the androgynous, stick-like profile of a typical anorexia victim to witness this sinister form of air-brushing. Embracing such a disastrous choice has some benefits. It can, through the alarm it generates, be a way of manipulating those around the ‘victim’ and make her the centre of attention. The main benefit, though, is that it creates an excellent distraction from the real issue, and that is a moral one. Resolving the terrible choice that the zeitgeist inflicts on young women requires decisions to be made and enormous courage to be exercised in making them. One can only hope that wiser, older women can help, support and guide the sad victims of this scourge to fly in the face of the Spirit of the Age and simply celebrate being the women that they are.

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Guy Walker
Guy Walker
Guy Walker is a retired French teacher living with his wife, Charlotte, in the South of England. He writes opinion pieces and poetry. He is 'technically' a Catholic.

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