In her essay, "Too Close to the Bone: The Historical Context for Women's Obsession with Slenderness", Roberta Seid explores the ever-changing standards Americans hold for women's bodies. She compares our obsession with thinness to a religion. If we follow the rules of the religion, even if those rules resemble a sickness, we will live long, happy, healthy lives. If we do not, we are certainly destined to failure.
Seid asserts that American society today places too high an irrational standard for women to maintain thin bodies. She says that their waif-like bodies defy biology and resemble sickness and death. Seid also claims that American culture is engulfed in a twisted belief about beauty, health, and appetite.
The author claims that during the Romantic period, thinness was considered ugly and a woman's bad luck, and 100 years ago, the female ideal was tall, full-busted, full-figured and mature. "Cellulite" was considered desirable, and plumpness was considered a sign of well-being.
She relays that today, female beauty is represented by a gangly, bare-boned youth; with the ideal being 1960s model "Twiggy", who was 5 feet 7 inches and 98 pounds. At the same time, the definition of "overweight" includes normal-sized Americans and being fat is as disgraceful as being dirty.
Seid compares The United Nations World Health Organization daily intake of calories to modern diets, stating that what the UNWHO claims as semi starvation is often more than modern diets recommend. She further states that Americans believe that permanent dieting and constant hunger are healthy and energy-giving and food does not nourish, but instead kills. When the truth is that the well-fed grow stronger, healthier and more productive than the under-fed.
Seid compares the Victorian attitude toward sex to today's attitude towards food; stating that in the 19th century, control of one's sexual instincts is as important as today's belief of controlling one's appetite. We seem to...
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