Whether they are rich or poor, tall or short, liberal or conservative, most young American women have one thing in common--they want to be thin. And they are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to get that way, even to the point of starving themselves. Why are America's women so preoccupied with weight? What has caused record numbers of young women--even before they reach their teenage years--to suffer from anorexia and bulimia? In Am I Thin Enough Yet?, Sharlene Hesse-Biber answers these questions and more, as she goes beyond traditional psychological explanations of eating disorders to level a powerful indictment against the social, political, and economic pressures women face in a weight-obsessed society.
Packed with first-hand, intimate portraits of young women from a wide variety of backgrounds, and drawing on historical accounts and current material culled from both popular and scholarly sources, Am I Thin Enough Yet? offers a provocative new way of understanding why women feel the way they do about their minds and bodies. Specifically, Hesse-Biber highlights the various ways in which American families, schools, popular culture, and the health and fitness industry all undermine young women's self-confidence as they inculcate the notions that thinness is beauty and that a woman's body is more important than her mind. The author builds her case in part by letting her subjects tell their own story, revealing in their own words how current standards of femininity lead many women to engage in eating habits that are not only self-destructive, but often akin to the obsessions and ritualistic behaviors found among members of cults. For instance, we meet Delia, a bulimic college senior who makes the startling admission that "my final affirmation of myself is how many guys look at me when I go into a bar." We even learn of six-year-olds like Lauren, already preoccupied with her weight, who considers herself "a real clod" in ballet class because she is not as thin as her peers. We are introduced to women (and men) from different cultures who themselves have acquired eating disorders in pursuit of the American standard of physical perfection. And we learn of the often tragic consequences of this obsession with thinness, as in the case of Janet, who underwent surgery to reduce her weight only to suffer from chronic illness and pain as a result. The book concludes with Hesse-Biber's prescriptions on how women can overcome their low self-image through therapy, spiritualism, and grass-root efforts to empower themselves against a society obsessed with beauty and thinness.
Am I Thin Enough Yet? brings into sharp focus the multitude of societal and psychological forces that compel American women to pursue the ideal of thinness at any cost. It will remain a benchmark work on the subject for many years to come.
"[Hesse-Biber] makes the politics of weight personal as she provides therapeutic options for those seeking to overcome weight obsessions."--Booklist
"[G]ives a needed perspective on the artificial creation of a mind/body dichotomy, and offers solutions in the forms of social activism and education to combat what, for many anorexia sufferers, is a slow form of suicide."--Listener
"Interesting reading."--Child & Family Behavior Therapy
"A scholarly, well-written book on the social psychology of overvalued thinness in today's society. It clearly conveys a sense of the overwhelming propaganda of the thinness-industrial complex and its impact on the lives and well-being of women."--Joel Yager, M.D., University of New Mexico School of Medicine
"Examining the role of the family in delivering society's messages about women as physical objects, [Hesse-Biber] makes the politics of weight personal as she provides therapeutic options for those seeking to overcome weight obsessions."--Booklist
"Suggests ways in which women can initiate social change through personal gestures within their own circle of family, friends, and coworkers.... Likely to stimulate lively discussion in classes devoted to women's studies."--Kirkus Reviews
"Hesse-Biber provides a 'tour de force' examination of the cultural factors that contribute to women's obsession with thinness. She weaves together a review of historical materials, an exploration of current psychological and sociological research, and interviews with women. Am I Thin Enough Yet? is a scholarly yet highly readable analysis of why women get so caught up with the quest for thinness."--Ruth H. Striegel-Moore, Ph.D., President of the
Academy for Eating Disorders
"The discontent of American women is nowhere stronger than in the way they look--almost everyone thinks she is too fat. Sharlene Hesse-Biber's book combines research data with the voices of lamenting women to show us that we have not come a long way at all! We are right where we started--loathing ourselves and victims of a distorted image. We may think we have risen high in our organizations, but we only care about whether we have risen on our scales.
Hesse-Biber's book asks women to liberate ourselves from this meaningless concern."--Shulamit Reinharz, Department of Sociology, Brandeis University