‘Ideal Weight’ from a Feminist and Postmodernist Perspective…

Hi all, (as the title suggests!), today I will be looking at the notion of ideal weight from a feminist and postmodernist perspective.

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Technology gains a vast amount of media attention affecting individual lifestyles. Over the past few decades, weight has received immense attention revising the concept of ideal weight. Although a healthy weight is identified as one which allows the body to effectively function allowing maximum protection against ill health,  lay perspective beliefs about the ideal weight often arise from stereotypes which can affect individual lifestyle.

Feminism focuses on inequalities between sexes; arguing that women are classified as the second sex.

There are several forms of feminism; the fundamental notion is that men historically and culturally exclude and dominate women as the social system is based on patriarchy; shorthand for male domination. Therefore men are perceived as superior; allowing them to dominate due to high levels of control and power. In a patriarchal sexist society, male norms and values are followed whilst views of women are ignored or undervalued.

Previously, around the 1970s, being thin was accepted, and was supported by the media where fragile women were used as models, actresses and hosts; indicating to lay women that this was appropriate and consequently they too strived to be this weight. This ideal way of looking is still somewhat present in the 21st century, where a size 8 is the norm. Being thin is now associated with major health issues in the western country; with 60,000 people suffering with an eating disorder in Britain alone. Despite this, people, especially women are still expected to be skinny.

Feminists explain that this notion of ideal weight is just another example of inequalities faced by women because lay views about the ideal weight are dominantly directed at women, instead of men, or both sexes. It is argued that historically women were seen as sex symbols, and therefore were expected to change to the demands of the society, which is dominantly influenced by men. Thus, there are gender differences within these views of the ideal weight, as there is more pressure on women; causing more inequalities faced by women.

Postmodernism proposes that ideas and knowledge about the social world are constantly changing questioning the possibility of uncovering the reality.

 Postmodernism focuses on the agency and structure dualism; arguing humans are agents controlling the way society and identities are shaped. Hence, social constructionism which branches out of postmodernism refers to ways in which social reality is constructed by individuals and groups.

 Concepts about the ideal weight have changed over time fitting in well with the ideas of post modernists – it can be argued that the notion of the perfect body is socially constructed. Weight is a subjective matter that is viewed differently by various people and groups hence the belief about ideal weight vary. For example ethnic minority backgrounds like the Indian community and the African black community view big people as healthy and an ideal weight. However the White community see slim people as ideal, hence Umberto Eco suggests ‘’beauty takes different aspects depending on the historical period and the country’’.

Both feminism and postmodernism believe that in some way, the view of ideal weight emerges from the society. Postmodernists argue that society and the aspects within them, such as ideal weights, are constructed by individuals. On the contrary, feminists insist that it is the patriarchal society which is to be blamed for the restrictions upon women and their bodies.  Again, the focus is on men, who dominantly shape society, and make decisions that affect key institutions.

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