What is Oppression?: How we view ourselves

Oppression is often viewed as the result of an external force holding people down. In Bordo and Hesse-Biber’s discussion of the media and food industries, we see that both have become oppressive forces perpetuating unhealthy body images and lifestyles. However, they have thus created a culture of internal oppression, where we begin to oppress ourselves in order to fit the molds created by these forces. Bordo describes how the need to have a slim, fit body now symbolizes “willpower, energy, control over infantile impulse” (195). Instead of wanting to be healthy, focus has turned to people being able to force themselves to ignore or reject their natural impulses in order to fit a certain image. As Hesse-Biber discusses, this image has been created by the media, “depicting unreasonably “perfect” bodies as attainable,” and the “profit-making corporations” that benefit from our search for the right food to eat or gym to join (63). As she also points out, “Eating is no longer a natural process, but something to be regulated and scrutinized” (71). This view of eating has become internalized: food habits amongst friends are noted and discussed, diet trends are constantly on peoples’ radars. Hesse-Biber emphasizes that “The capitalist and patriarchal mirror held before [American women] supports and maintains their obsession and insecurity” (82). This is true, but even were this “mirror” to be magically removed, its effect would remain in how men and women today view food, eating, and body image.  Changing the way the media portrays people or the way the food industry works would reduce external oppression and thus could lessen internal oppression in the future. But, to reduce oppression today, a conscious choice must be made to recognize our oppression of ourselves and our natural desires and to attempt to eradicate this.

Bordo, Susan. “Reading the Slender Body

Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy. “The Cult of Thinness.”

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1 Response to What is Oppression?: How we view ourselves

  1. Your definition of oppression has sparked my understanding of how the media and food industries burden the people in today’s society. I agree with you that the people in our culture are experiencing “internal impression,” as they restrain themselves from their inner desires in order to succumb to society’s limited standards. In addition, I have found that from my personal experience I, too, perceive eating as not merely a necessary action, but as a process that I thoroughly consider and frankly a process over which I obsess. When I am eating, I consider how this food will affect my body when I am not eating, I think about what I will eat for my next meal and how that meal will impact my self-image. I concur that changing the way the media and food industries affect our perception of body images and eating is a gradual process. In order for us to define eating and health by our own standards is a long-term goal, which we must accomplish through our individual lifestyles and personal experiences.

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