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Kathy Gyngell: Orbach takes the biscuit – she makes women fat or emaciated


‘Fat is a feminist issue’, Susie Orbach famously claimed back in 1978, starting the quite bonkers orthodoxy that gender inequality, rather than eating too much, is what makes women fat.

“For many women, compulsive eating and being fat have become one way to avoid being marketed or seen as the ideal woman,” she wrote.” “Fat expresses a rebellion against the powerlessness of the woman.” Does it?

How many wouldn’t have just loved to be that ideal woman had the good fairy locked the larder door for her? The ever-gullible great and the good swallowed her theory along with their grub. They still do.

Try Googling ‘critiques of fat is a feminist issue’. What do you find? None. Orbach’s view that our ‘sexist society demeans women by objectifying their bodies remains the accepted explanation for every eating disorder or self-harm that’s erupted since. Anorexia nervosa figures have conveniently bolstered this myth.

Eating disorders (not including its twin sisters of depression and self-harm) according to NICE, affect some 750,000 people. Only 11 per cent of them are chaps. The numbers have been rising – since 2000 by 15 per cent. Ms Orbach’s psychotherapy practice must be bursting at the seams.

But why (after 40 years of feminism, female positive discrimination in school, university and the workplace, the feminisation of education, the medical profession and the church, and the imposition of gender rules across the board wherever wimmin want them) should the fridge door be the gateway to hell?  Why, despite all these ‘wins’, has this female malaise just got worse?  Why are young women unhappier than ever before?

Uh – how about feminism itself being to blame? How about anorexia being the consequence (not the cause) of feminism?

Never before have we had such female empowerment. Equalities legislation has left no hiding places for men. As for women’s traditional caring responsibilities – well they’ve have been taken care of by the State. Girls growing up in 21st century Britain can happily survive without men. Or perhaps they can’t.

What if feminism has not delivered what women want but thanks to its indoctrination they dare not admit it? Is this the conflict that dares not speak its name that afflicts girls? Girls whose instinct still drives them to be mothers and wives rather than the autonomous individuals feminism would have them be? And has the hook up culture of ‘equal freedom feminism’ driven them into far from comfortable territory? Does it shame, demean and depress them more than ‘patriarchy’ ever did as the chance of romance or even a respectful relationship fade off the horizon?


With a blind insouciance Ms Orbach acknowledged last year that when she first started not every woman had an eating issue or a body dysmorphic problem, but “Now everybody does… It’s beyond depressing”, going on to say without any irony,  “It’s hateful, really, what the culture has done.”

Indeed – her feminised culture. Passing the blame is a gender war game that she and her feminist social justice sisters are well versed in.

You see it’s all the government’s fault – despite her best efforts.  The body-image summit she planned with the Labour government in 2000 collapsed because the Daily Mail – who else – accused it of being the nanny state. Then, “with the Coalition” she went on, “we had a fantastic time. We did some work with new mums so they could feel safe with their babies and not pass on their own eating problems”, but the Conservative Government that followed was not interested.

The universal resort to blaming the social media (which no doubt her body image summit would have done) and girls’ addiction to it is another easy cop out. This weekend the NHS found itself in the firing line and taking the flak for cutting adolescent mental health services at a time of rising demand.

Yet you only have to read the various daughters’ and mothers’ accounts in the papers – of the descent into self-hate, self-denial and family desperation that anorexia brings – to see how little this has to do with mothers ‘passing on their eating disorders’.

NHS attempts at specialist eating disorder units anyway have been condemned as useless. A now recovered sufferer complained she wasn’t offered any help “in addressing the thoughts and fears that had brought me to this point”.

But what doctor would dare?

It would mean challenging  ‘resentment harbouring’ feminism and its poisonous and dishonest messages about the ‘plight’ of women in male-dominated society; it would mean blowing female inequality and women’s victim status myths apart. Above all it would mean inviting girls to admit their most secret feelings and relationship dreams.

If modern young women are victims of anything it is of  ‘Everyday Sexism’s’ paranoid, humourless and oppressive ‘consciousness’ awareness raising. This I would venture has, more than anything else, trapped young women in a self-fulfilling cycle of confidence loss, unhappiness and anger.

If anything is to blame for screwing up and confusing girls’ psyches it is this – gender feminism icing an already heavy equality feminism cake. First we had to ape men; now men are made to ape us.

First we were made to deny our biology, our maternal instincts and our motherhood, to compete with men on equal terms. Now men must feminise or emasculate themselves or be demonised if they don’t, as the perpetrators of violence and abuse and a presumption of  guilt against them.

Is it any surprise that this mind bending drives some girls to self-hate when they are unable to square this circle of contradictory expectations, rules and feelings? Is it any surprise that their male counterparts revert to lad culture or porn when the slightest ‘wrong step’ or ‘misspoken’ word  condemns them and when the chasm between the sexes just gets harder to bridge?

If this is the price of women’s betrayal of women it is a terrible one.

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Kathy Gyngell
Kathy Gyngell
Kathy is Editor of The Conservative Woman. She is @kathygyngelltcw on GETTR and is back on Twitter.

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