What are the women eating?

Food Habits

Noted author and feminist Naomi Wolf in her bestseller, The Beauty Myth, had attempted to explore the origins of eating disorders. “A cultural fixation on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty but an obsession about female obedience.

 Women who remain thin are being obedient; it is another way for patriarchy to control women,” writes Wolf. “If women cannot eat the same food as men, we cannot experience equal status in the community,” the bookfurther reads.
According to counsellor Veerji Sharma, while debating patriarchy and food, it is impossible to leave out countries in South Asia. Sharma while in conversation with Metrolife expressed his view about how women are increasingly becoming ‘objects of desire’ and how due to societal pressures they are forced to change their ‘basic habits’ including food preferences.

“No doubt being slim and healthy is a good thing but being overweight is now being looked at with ridicule. Worse, men sometimes bypass this pressure but women have no escape. That’s why we see women today being very particular about their diet. If the intention is to be healthy then it’s perfect but I fear the changing food habits has to do more with how others look at us,” Sharma said.

There are ofcourse those who believe that changing food habits has more to do with ‘self censorship’. Take for instance Deepali Batra, a Delhi-based clinical psychologist who heads Psychological Academic learning Services (Pals), a mental health centre for children and adults.
According to Batra, the influx of sexual imagery of women perpetrated through mass media has affected not only how people here look at women but also how they see themselves. “Today, you look at Bollywood or Hollywood films the protagonists are mostly slim and fair. This has an impact on the mentality of teenagers and those in early adulthood as they start to compare themselves with actors and actresses,” Batra said.

There is ofcourse some resistance to this culture of ‘food censorship’. In 1993, Swedish film director Lasse Halstrom’s What's Eating Gilbert Grape, (an adaptation of a novel by the same name), was a story about Gilbert Grape (played by Johnny Depp) whose life revolves around taking care of his brother and an obese mother.

“Issues such as these however are not explored in media here,” adds Batra. “Everywhere you see there are advertisements on how to lose weight. Younger females are now are afraid of eating,” she said adding that anorexia is now becoming a common sight.

Nishtha, a student in Delhi says that while men take pride in eating heavy quantities of food, girls are subjected to scrutiny. Another sign of double standards, according to her. “There is a notion that Golgappas are mostly eaten by girls but I have seen so many men lining up to have them.

This shows how taste for a particular food is a common thing between men and women. Capacities differ from person to person and my gender has to nothing to do with it. Then why do we need to tailor our appetite,” she remarks.

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