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“Is Fat Still a Feminist Issue?’’ An examination of the significance of Susie Orbach’s Fat is A Feminist Issue from 1978 to today. Hanifa Blakemore-Razaq 14th February 2014 8,547 Words Tutor - Jon Cope Turnitin No; 30135643

Dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Promotion University for the Creative Arts  

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Contents

List Of Illustrations

3

Introduction

5

Chapter One

9

Chapter Two

22

Conclusion

39

List Of Images

43

Bibliography

55

Appendix

57

 

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List of Illustrations Figure 1. Titian. (1538) Venus Of Urbino.[Oil on Canvas] At: Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Figure 2. The 1920’s Flapper. (1920). [Photograph] At: http://iddavanmunster.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/how-to-recreate-1920s-lookhow-to-be.html (Accessed on 9/02/2014) Figure 3. Marilyn Monroe Playboy Cover. (1953) .[Poster] At: http://www.marilynmonroe.ca/camera/Playboy/ (Accessed on 9/02/2014) Figure 4. Twiggy Ultimate Style Icon. (1966). [Photograph] At: http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/fashion/ideas/34763/0/ultimate-style-iconstwiggy-1960s-style-icon-1960s-fashion.html#index=4 (Accessed on 5/02/2014) Figure 5. Electrify your Dior. (1978) .Dior Advertisement [Poster]In: British Vogue, Conde Nast Figure 6. Budweiser Advert. (1983). [Advertisement] At: http://www.glamoursplash.com/2010/09/bikinis-in-advertising.html (Accessed on 1/02/2014) Figure 7. Jodie Foster, in Taxi Driver. (1976). From: Taxi Driver. Directed by: Martin Scorsese [Film still] USA At: http://videoccult.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/taxidriver-1976/ (Accessed on 1/02/2014) Figure 8. Adriana Lima, Victoria Secret Campaign. (1990) .[Photograph] At: http://girls.bf-1.com/%E5%A5%B3%E6%A8%A1%E7%89%B9/victoriassecret-supermodel-adriana-lima (Accessed on 10/02/2014) Figure 9. Thinspiration. (2013). [Photograph] At: http://needing-ana-mia-ed.webs.com/thinspiration3.htm (Accessed on 13/01/2014)

 

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Figure 10. The cast of US series Girls. (2013) [Photograph] At: http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2013/01/10/girls15_wide42312aaff70bb1cd81218524b88bcfe6948d7569-s6-c30.jpg (Accessed on 1/02/2014) Figure 11. Lena Dunham in Vogue, retouched images, before and after. (2014) [Photograph] At: http://jezebel.com/here-are-the-unretouched-images-from-lena-dunhamsvogu-1503336657 (Accessed on 12/01/2014) Figure 12. Adele’s controversial Vogue cover. (2011) [Photograph] At: http://www.justjared.com/2011/09/05/adele-covers-british-vogue-october2011/ (Accessed on 1/01/2014) Figure 13. Femen at Paris Fashion Week, Nina Ricci Show (2013) [Photograph] At: http://www.euronews.com/picture-of-the-day/2013/09/27/topless-femenprotesters-crash-nina-ricci-runway/ Figure 14. MIA on the cover of Nylon Magazine, Singapore. (2014) [Photograph] At: http://theaerogram.com/why-did-nylon-whitewash-m-i-a-for-its-asianreaders/ (Accessed on 20/01/2014)

 

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Introduction. First published in 1978, Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach is regarded by many as ‘’essentially a self-help manual for women with serious weight problems’’. Orbach reveals that she suffered "10 years of dieting, bingeing and self-hatred" (Wilson, 2005:1):

before signing up for a course on

compulsive eating. Six months later, she had a whole new outlook on life; she went on to offer therapy to women with eating disorders (many years later, one of them would be Princess Diana). Since then she has co-founded The Woman’s Therapy Centre in London and The Woman’s Therapy Centre Institute New York. Her numerous publications apart from Fat Is A Feminist Issue include Hunger Strike, What Do Women Want, The Impossibility Of Sex and her latest text Bodies. Clearly Orbach is now well regarded by the forward thinking mainstream since she has also been a consultant to The World Bank, the NHS and Unilever and is a campaigner against Body Hatred.

My original interest in the book was due to my own compulsive eating disorder from which I have suffered since I was 15; I was recommended the text as a self help book with the aim to understand the root of my disorder. However as I explored the book I began to realise that Orbach was examining eating disorder not as simply an individual and personal problem.

 

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For Orbach gender inequality makes women fat: "For many women, compulsive eating and being fat have become one way to avoid being marketed or seen as the ideal woman," (Null/Seaman, 1067: 200) she writes. In other words, what your fat says about you is: "Screw you!" "Fat expresses a rebellion against the powerlessness of the woman," (Orbach, 1978: 31) says Orbach. On reading this I began to realise the relevance of her book to my study of Fashion and the industry: ‘being fat’ is a way ‘to avoid being marketed or seen as the ideal woman’ (Null/Seaman, 1067: 200). This stimulated my own thinking: how is the ‘ideal woman’ image created? What contribution does the catwalk and the reflected images in the mass and social media make to that image? Does the industry see that it has an impact on women’s self-image? If so, does it assume any responsibility? To explore these and related issues further my Study will firstly examine the social and cultural significance and impact of Orbach’s Fat is a Feminist Issue when first published in 1978. Secondly I will explore whether the work has any significance or relevance for women today barraged as they are by images of the “ideal body” distributed not only, as they were in 1978, by the mass media but now also by social media networks and Reality Television. My methodology will be firstly in Chapter One to analyze the key issues raised by Orbach in the 1978 version of Fat is A Feminist Issue. To enable a deeper understanding of whether Orbach’s book is still relevant, Chapter One will

 

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firstly question the ideal of body image throughout the decades, focusing extensively on the 1960’s and 1970’s. Chapter one will also aim to outline Susie Orbach’s ideas and understanding throughout the text, whilst examining relevant theories relating to Orbach’s ideas and understanding. My concern will be to identify the significance of her thesis in its historical and social context with regards to the prevailing and inherited attitudes of social and psychological commentators towards eating disorder and women. To contextualize the thesis I will examine the representation of women in the media at the time including in fashion shoots, magazines and film using imagery to support my arguments. But to explore her uniqueness or otherwise I will also assess the arguments of other radical thinkers on female issues including Simone De Beauvoir in The Second Sex (1949), Germaine Greer The Female Eunuch (1970), Kim Chernin The Obsession (1981), Joan Jacobs Brumberg Fasting Girls (1988) and Susan Bordo Unbearable Weight (1993).

In Chapter two I will question the relevance of Orbach’s text to today’s society seeking evidence of her influence on current trends with regards to women’s attitude to their body image. I will utilize secondary sources via salient newspaper articles, blog posts and social networking sites in order to collate a contemporary opinion on how Orbach’s ideas relate to women today. The use of recent secondary sources in chapter two allows for recent issues affecting women in society today to be identified in the study.

Furthermore I will provide the results of primary research I have carried out throughout my study in order to define the exact impact the text and Orbach’s

 

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thesis has had on individual women in society (See Appendix). The results of questionnaires will be included and analyzed to contribute to my conclusions about the impact of Orbach’s work on women today. My argument will be illustrated with relevant images to justify the thesis presented.

 

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Chapter One: How relevant was Orbach’s text in 1978 when published? A. Fat is a Feminist Issue: the thesis: Throughout the decades our society has been subjected to images of the ideal body image for women: “Botticelli’s Primavera, Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, or Titian’s Venus of Urbino (see Figure 1); these 14th- and 15th-century paintings represented the respected, even glorified, image of women of early times: thick thighs, round stomach, modest breasts; in the 1800s fullfigured, pear-shaped, an ample boson, a small waist and wide hips were all a woman needed; in the 1900s as women increasingly started playing sports and becoming more active, the slender figure slowly became the ideal figure; women joined the Olympics, and Eleanor Roosevelt started teaching calisthenics and dance; in the 1920s enter the flappers (see Figure 2), the bad girls of the '20s with straight waists and boyish figures - the "washboard profile" became popular, as women bounded their breasts’ flat.” ((Vongkhamchanh, 2009)

“In the 1950s Marylyn Monroe was the epitome of what women wanted to look like; she singlehandedly brought back curves with her dramatic hourglass figure, but this time, the hourglass was all about sex. Monroe became an icon for men and women when she donned the cover of the first issue of Playboy magazine in 1953” (Vongkhamchanh, 2009) (see Figure 3).

 

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However, “in the 1960’s we were introduced to waif models, such as Twiggy (see Figure 4) and Dorothee Bis, who were characterized by their thin figures and large, round eyes” (Clark, 2011). This body image became increasingly influential for larger and larger numbers of women with the rise of the mass media and the fashion industry’s exploitation of that media to extend consumerism to all sections of society. Increasingly through the 60s and 70s as this image of the ideal body image began to penetrate men’s and therefore women’s consciousness women’s dissatisfaction with their body image became apparent with, for example, the massive rise of the weight reduction industry and the growing development of self-help groups committed to supporting women with eating and body image problems.

Orbach was herself one of these women. She regarded the book as a ‘’selfhelp guide’’. Her main aim was to:

“Share what I had learned with a wider audience. My hope was that FIFI could encourage those women pre-occupied with body-image difficulties to think through their eating problems and their relationship with their bodies through a new perspective” (Orbach,1978:14).

The text is an attempt to share the ideas that Orbach explored when joining a program on compulsive eating and self-image. This program caused Orbach and many women similar to herself to, “explore the topic of compulsive eating

 

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outside a context of political vocabulary” (Orbach, 1978:12). The group over time began to rethink many previously held assumptions and began to nurture feminist ideas developed in consciousness raising groups, mass marches, demonstrations and political campaigns, finding new applications and usefulness. As a group these women turned their strongly held ideas about dieting and thinness upside down and so in this text Orbach shares her view of what she learned from the first group and then in subsequent groups.

The close link between fashion, consumerism and women’s body self-image is explored fully in the text. Orbach notes that: “Women are urged to conform, to help out the economy by continuous consumption of goods and clothing that are quickly made un-wearable by the next season’s fashion styles in clothes and body shapes.” (Orbach, 1978: 31)

She therefore highlights the pressure for women to remain ‘on trend’ and to conform to a standard that is defined as a “ten billion dollar industry that waits to remould bodies to the latest fashion” (Orbach, 1978: 31) (see Figure 5).

For Orbach women are not satisfied with their body partly due to the pressure of consumerism; the market, and in particular the fashion industry, controls a woman’s idea of the acceptable body image and therefore controls a woman’s whole image of how she sees her own body.

 

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But Orbach resists this pressure to conform to an unrealistic standard. She notes in the introduction to her text that “Being overweight is seen as a deviance and anti-men” (Orbach, 1978:27) and that “Being fat is an attempt to break free of society’s sex stereotypes” (Orbach, 1978: 28).

Orbach notes that for many women being fat has become one way of resisting being marketed as the ‘ideal woman’; instead women are saying:

‘“My fat says ‘screw you’ to all the people who want me to be the perfect mom, sweetheart, maid and whore. Take me for who I am, not for who I’m supposed to be. If you are really interested in me, wade through the layers and find out who I am”’ (Orbach, 1978: 31).

In this way fat shows rebellion against women’s role and powerlessness in society. Orbach argues that:

“Fat is a response to the many oppressive manifestations of sexist culture. Fat is a way of saying no to powerlessness and self denial, to a limiting sexual expression which demands that females look and act a certain way, and to an image of womanhood that defines a specific sole role”. (Orbach, 1978: 32)

Orbach is implying here that fat has a symbolic function as it rejects the way in which society portrays the ‘ideal woman’ and advocates women attempting to forge a new individual identity. But she also recognises the limitations of

 

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such an approach when she says that “fat is an adaptation to the oppression of women and, as such, it may be an unsatisfying personal solution and an ineffectual political attack” (Orbach, 1978: 45).

Orbach also examines however the perils of thinness, the idea that a woman is penalized if she demonstrates the aesthetic qualities that society prescribes for women: “If a woman loses weight, she herself may not yet be able to separate thinness from the packaged sexuality around her which simultaneously defines her as incompetent” (Orbach, 1978: 36).

For Orbach a thin woman is objectified by society; being thin allows you to be seen as a sex object and therefore incompetent. Orbach is arguing here that either way, fat or thin, women are being objectified and whether they choose to conform to society’s ideal or not they will be penalized.

Orbach quotes a member of the weight loss group: “Whenever I get thin I feel I’m being treated like a little doll who doesn’t know which end is up” (Orbach, 1978: 36). Here Orbach is highlighting the point that if you do conform to society’s ideal your intellectual ability and independence are de-valued. Orbach notes that: “Being fat serves the compulsive eater in a protective way; being thin is a fearful state – the woman is exposed to the very things she attempted to get away from when she got fat in the first place” (Orbach, 1978: 85).

 

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The central argument presented by Orbach in FIFI is that within her society of the 1970’s women had become objectified by a consumerism controlled by men. Self-image is never constructed in isolation; given the overwhelming influence of the fashion industry as a determinant of acceptable standards of womanhood as a result of the all pervasive influence of the mass media in providing images against which to judge one-self that industry was being used to dis-empower women from constructing their own sense of self freely and independently.

A. Fat is a Feminist Issue and 1970s America:

Fat is a Feminist Issue was first published in 1978 in the USA two years after Tom Wolfe, a writer for the New York Times Magazine, wrote in 1976 of “a general new attitude of Americans towards atomized individualism and away from communitarianism” (Wolfe, 1976: 1).

His article “The ‘Me’ Decade and the Third Great Awakening” highlighted a clear contrast in social attitude to the 1960’s. ‘‘Consumers of fashion, willingly or otherwise found themselves visibly the product of boardroom construction’’ (Kaufman, 2009:136) it is noted in. Carrol notes that ‘’individual Americans turned into free floating bill-boards marking the most blatant invasion of American capitalism into the private sphere’’ (Kaufman, 2009: 136) (see Figure 6).

 

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This new social attitude of the Americans and the objectification of the consumer by capitalism came at a time when feminists were beginning to challenge the objectification of the female body and the social factors behind a woman’s relationship with food and her body with Orbach as a key contributor to that debate.

Furthermore it was not until 1981 that Kim Chernin’s iconic text The Obsession was published in which she argued that:

“We must not imagine that it is only the fashion industry that is upset about the large size of our bodies. Fashion creates and it reflects. Creates, as we have seen, an image few women in this culture are able to realize for themselves.” (Chernin, 1981: 98)

Orbach’s text had explored these issues almost three years previously. With regards to woman’s negative relationship with food and her body it was the “landmark work” (Bordo, 1993: 45) Eating Disorders published by Hilda Bruch in 1973 that identified anorexia as a “a new disease” (Chernin, 1981: 98) because of its alarming rise during the previous five years. Bruch was the first to address the clinical theory behind women’s relationship with food; however she failed to address the real “feminist challenge” at the time with “little use of the concept of gender in her first interpretation of anorexia” (Bordo, 1993: 45).

 

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Kim Chernin, in her text The Obsession identified that Bruch’s text lacked one crucial element: the “recognition of the significance of the fact that this is a female body whose development is being resisted” (Bordo, 1993:45). It was at this point in time in medical accounts that “gender was either absent or was theorized in essentialist terms by the leading authorities on eating disorders” (Bordo, 1993: 47) therefore creating the gap for Orbach’s’ moving argument “grounded in object-relations theory and situated in the socio-cultural context of the construction of femininity” (Bordo, 1993: 47).

Chernin explained that “In America of the 1970s and 1980s, no woman can possibly remain unaware of the fact that significant numbers of her sisters are asserting their rights to autonomy, to power, to development of their full emotional and creative capacities.” (Chernin, 1981:104)

Orbach was a significant contributor to this social movement. She herself identified that: “Much to my surprise, the book struck a powerful chord in hundreds of thousands of women…Cosmopolitan dropped its style column…I began to feel that women were fighting back and contesting the blanket message that they should be thin. I was optimistic that the children being raised now might be free of these disabling body-image and eating problems that had so beset my generation” (Orbach, 1978: 20)

 

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Her optimism, however, has to be seen in the context of more negative developments in society at the time. As Chernin points out: “During this time of assertion of woman’s power” (Chernin, 1981: 109) there were still films such as Taxi Driver (see Figure 7) where a twelve-year old prostitute gratifies any male in order to please her “loathsome pimp” (Chernin, 1981:109). Jodie Foster then went on to star in The Little Girl Who Lives down the Lane, in which she performed as a thirteen-year old “bundle of budding sexuality” (Chernin, 1981: 109).

It cannot be proved that masculine preference for little girls was on the increase at the same time Orbach published her text; however it can be noted that there is an un-nerving parallel between the preference for little girls in fiction and the slimmer image of women in fashion magazines at the time. Furthermore, “The fashion industry took the image of waif to an extreme in the 1990’s with the introduction of heroin chic; models like Kate Moss and Jamie King were poster-girls for the term. The image these models portrayed was that of pale skin, dark circles under their eyes and jutting bones. This look dominated the fashion world until 2000, when the rise of the “Sexy Model” ended the heroin chic era, with the entrance of models such as Giselle Bundchen and Adriana Lima (See Figure 8). Although these women brought about an image of a fuller woman, they were followed by the current trend of young girls barely in their teens, pale, and bordering on anorexic. We are currently in an era similar to that of heroin chic once more”(Clark, 2011)

 

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For 30 years ‘thinness’ has ruled the fashion industry offering often impossible body image goals for women despite Orbach’s work. However, there is clear evidence of her significance with regards to the increased understanding of the impact of body image propagated by the fashion industry and the mass media on the growing understanding of eating disorders. Invited as the Keynote Speaker to the 1983 meetings of the New York Centre for the Study of Anorexia and Bulimia Orbach powerfully argued that: “Anorexia represents one extreme on a continuum on which all women today find themselves, insofar as they are vulnerable to one degree or another, to the requirements of cultural construction of femininity”. (Bordo, 1993: 47)

Whilst Orbach’s’ argument provoked criticism from the discussing panel, “(notably all male)” (Bordo, 1993: 48). Bordo notes that Orbach’s’ argument was “unambiguous in its indictment of the normative construction of femininity in our culture” (Bordo, 1993: 48) suggesting that a female audience understands Orbach’s’ argument more effectively. Brumberg continues:

“Before Chernin, Orbach and Millman, women’s dieting and weight concerns were trivialized or interpreted as masking a strictly individual psychological problem without consideration of the ways in which culture stimulated, exacerbated, and gave shape to a pattern of problematic behaviors.” (Brumberg, 1989:36)

 

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The 1983 meetings of the New York Centre for the Study of Anorexia and Bulimia highlighted the issue of anorexia and bulimia in society prompting numerous studies exploring the way in which these eating disorders affect women in society.

“In 1984 a study by Glamour Magazine and analyzed by Susan Wooley and Wayne Wooley revealed that 75% of the 33,000 women surveyed considered themselves “too fat” despite the fact that only one-quarter were deemed overweight by standard weight tables, and 30 percent were actually underweight. “ (Bordo, 1993: 55)

In addition a study by Kevin Thompson found that out of 100 women “free of eating disorders symptoms” (Thompson,1986: 44)

more than “95 percent

overestimated their body size-on average one fourth larger than they really were” (Thompson,1986: 44)

Whilst there is no evidence of a direct link between Orbach’s work and these Studies, they nevertheless do show that Orbach was a key contributor to the increasing understanding of how the representation of body image standards through the fashion industry and replicated in other mass media forms had a lasting and direct impact on women’s health and sense of well-being.

Prior to writers such as Orbach and other prominent feminist writers including Bruch, Chernin and Boskind-White it has been suggested that many eating disorder professionals understood the disorder from a purely medical

 

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perspective. Orbach’s groundbreaking work and the later investigations of feminist writers have helped to shape a very different paradigm, which has been adopted by many professionals. Orbach’s’ feminist critique issued a “profound challenge to one of the most basic and most thoroughly entrenched premises of the medical model” (Bordo, 1993: 55).

Orbach’s’ critique was inevitably challenged by medial professionals for, as William Davis put it, its “lack of specific explanatory conceptions” (Bordo, 1993: 48) and “indistinct and unconvincing theorizing” (Bordo, 1993: 48).

Clearly Orbach’s’ critique did have significant impact in 1978 when published stimulating increased exploration and debate on the cultural construction of eating disorders and affirming the key role the fashion industry was having on that construction.

Orbach’s work fuelled an explosion in written material related to the feminist view towards eating disorders with Bordo publishing her Anorexia Nervosa: Psychopathology as the Crystallization of Culture in 1985, Brumberg’s Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa in 1989. With Bordo noting that “In 1983 the body practices and attitudes that I viewed as supporting my tentative intuitions were a mere ripple on the cultural scene” (Bordo, 1993: 138) it seems evident that Orbach’s work, the first of its kind, significantly contributed to the growing debate on eating disorders and the feminist psychology.

 

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It is clear therefore that the Orbach text Fat Is A Feminist Issue is a seminal work in the 1970s for women’s understanding of the impact society and its representation of women on the catwalk in particular has on the way women view their bodies.

 

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Chapter 2 One of the main issues that must be addressed when discussing the contemporary relevance of Fat Is A Feminist Issue is society’s preoccupation with the “self”. It was noted in Chapter 1 that Orbach’s book was published in the USA two years after Tom Wolfe, wrote in 1976 of “a general new attitude of

Americans

towards

atomized

individualism

and

away

from

communitarianism” (Kaufman, 2009: 1) in his article, “The ‘Me’’ Decade and the Third Great Awakening’’ (Wolfe, 1976: 1). Our society seems to have marched on regardless of Wolf’s warnings down this ‘Me’ road.

Orbach notes in the introduction to her newest edition of the book that “bodies today have almost come to define the way our lives can be lived” (Orbach, 2006:7); there is a constant pre-occupation for young women to get their body “right” (Orbach, 2006:7). She suggests that “the deluge of visual images that wallpapers our world has seeped into all of our consciousness” (Orbach, 2006:7) and for women today the appearance of the body has become a crucial aspect of their lives.

It must be noted that the pre-occupation with body image is not an issue that lies solely with the young woman; instead as Orbach suggests and reports support that at “whatever point we chose in the lifecycle, we can see evidence of cultural pre-occupation with food and body image” (Wiseman, 2012). It seems that increasingly women’s lives are becoming dominated with these concerns. At as early as 5 years old:

 

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“Children begin to understand people’s judgment of them. At seven they are beginning to show body dissatisfaction. As adults 90% of women feel body-image anxiety. And it doesn’t wane – many women in their eighties are still anxious about the way their bodies look” (Wiseman, 2012)

Professor Rumsey argues that this lifetime obsession with body image affects women’s treatment in hospital as their “health choices are influenced by aesthetics” (Crafti, 2012).

“Many young women say they are too self-aware to exercise; many say they drink to feel comfortable with the way they look; 50% of girls smoke to suppress their appetite – is it too strong to suggest that these things, these anxieties, are slowly killing them?” (Wiseman, 2012)

This harrowing depiction of women’s health choices suggests that women are not passive victims in this battle against body-image instead they are “actively making it their own cause” (Orbach, 2006:8) and therefore embracing the challenge and in doing so “often make decisions which are not only damaging to our well being but inadvertently create and then reinforce an anguished relationship to food and the body”. (Orbach, 2006:8) That this cultural pre-occupation takes over all parts of a woman’s life including their ability to gain political power has been suggested by MP Jo Swinson (Liberal Democrat).

 

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Evidence presented in a documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Miss Representation, about the under-representation of women in positions of power argues powerfully that women whose values lie in their imperfect bodies feel disempowered and that “women who are high "self objectifiers" have low political power”. (Wiseman, 2012) It has further been suggested that not only do high “self objectifiers” suffer from low political power but so too do “obese female politicians” (Crafti, 2012). Research evidence shows that overweight people are targets of weight prejudice and stigmatization from employers. “A recent study showed that ‘obese’ female political candidates were evaluated more negatively overall and in terms of reliability, dependability, honesty, ability to inspire, and ability to perform a strenuous job, than were non-obese female candidates. Not only did this finding not hold for obese male candidates, but obese men were rated more positively than non-obese individuals in this study.” (Crafti, 2012) Throughout this personal exploration, primary research has been conducted in order to understand the thoughts and feelings towards understanding women that “self objectify”. A questionnaire aiming to understand women’s thoughts behind weight gain was completed by 60 women and was able to justify the argument above. Many responses linked weight gain with feelings such as “depressed”, “unhappy”, “suicidal”, “guilty”, “angry” (see Appendix 1). All responses justified the woman’s feeling of disempowerment when feeling their bodies are imperfect.  

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With issues such as “self objectification” and stigmatization that women have to deal with in society, it seems clear that whether women objectify themselves to fit in with the social stereotypes of body image or not they will still be objectified by others for their body shape or size. Not only does this pre-occupation affect a woman’s political power it also tailors many women’s decision when it comes to pregnancy and child birth. Orbach tells us in the newest edition of her text;

“The latest celebrity craze for having elective caesarean deliveries at 36 weeks is designed to avoid the increase in weight associated with the last month of pregnancy and lose that tummy more quickly, although most women don’t significantly gain weight in the last two weeks anyway.” (Orbach, 2006:8)

This type of decision does not only affect the pregnancy of the woman but also extends beyond the pregnancy and birth. Orbach suggests that “the woman’s ability to breastfeed and nurture her new born is clouded about her concerns about her own appearance and appetite.” (Wiseman, 2012) Clearly for Orbach this pre-occupation with body image can in fact have an immediate affect on a new generation even before they have the ability to adopt a conscious pre-occupation with body image themselves.

In today’s society women have become significantly pre-occupied with their appearance and although throughout history women have always compared  

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themselves to images, the likes of Marylyn Monroe, Twiggy, Dorothee Bis for women today images in the media are central to the value that they place on themselves. “There's a famous study which looked at teenage girls in Fiji after television was introduced to the island for the first time in 1995. After three years with TV, the girls who watched it the most were 50% more likely to describe themselves as "too fat"; 29% scored highly on a test of eating-disorder risk. One girl said of the western women she watched on Beverly Hills 90210: "In order to be like them, I have to work

on

myself,

exercising,

and

my

eating

habits

should

change.””(Becker,1995)

Although conducted in 1995, this study reflects perfectly the negative effect that the media and visuals have on a woman’s perception of her own body. It also demonstrates that whereas perhaps in the 70s and 80s it was the Fashion industry’s distribution of its ideal standard of womanhood that is no longer the case. Today women are bombarded with constant visuals whether it’s on the Internet, in magazines or social networking sites such as Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest and Facebook. Women are constantly able to compare themselves to airbrushed and photo-shopped images (around 5,000 a week) of celebrities, diet-obsessed individuals and self-proclaimed Instagram ‘dolls’ that constantly cloud their judgment and justify women’s pre-occupation with body image and allowing them to constantly self-objectify.

 

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It is the constant pre-occupation with ‘thinspiration’ that is of my upmost concern when analyzing self-obsession in todays image obsessed society. (See figure 9)

“Thinspiration” is a widely used practice among social networking sites; it is the idea that people post images on social networks of celebrities, fitness fanatics and even regular people who inspire them to become thin; ultimately these people are their inspiration for thinness (hence ‘Thinspiration’). The content on Instagram is now so wide spread that the hash-tag “thin” has 870,765,000 posts of images of ‘thin’ women, the majority posted by other women.

This is a prime example of how women have become ‘self-objectifiers’, and highlights Orbach’s idea that women are no longer “passive victims” (Orbach, 2006;8) instead we are “actively make it our own cause” (Orbach, 2006;8).

This constant use of images of extreme body image no longer remain on the social networking sites they seep into our daily lives and are a constant reminder of the pressures of body image in the media. A personal example of this when I was out one evening with friends; an old friend approached me and before greeting me or asking the general polite questions of how University is going, or how my dissertation is getting on, the individual immediately bombarded me with the statement “Oh my goodness Hanifa, your sister is my Thinspiration!”. Shocked and somewhat taken a back by the directness of this statement it became apparent quite quickly that although my

 

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sister does not post, or in fact ‘hash tag’ her images on Instagram as “thin” or “Thinspiration” her weight loss has become apparent and she had become without being aware of it the motivation for others to lose weight, or become ‘thin’. This example illustrates quite clearly that no matter the context of an image, women have become automatically tuned to scrutinize all images around them by the figure, and the image of the individual projecting the image.

This scenario for me highlighted Phillippa Diedrich’s (from The Centre of Appearance Research at The University Of West England, Bristol) idea of “fattalk” (Wiseman, 2012), which was addressed in the Guardian, where by ”Eating becomes a means of communication” (Wiseman, 2012). She argues that “We're socialized to be negative about our bodies,”(Wiseman, 2012) including comparing our bodies to others. These everyday conversations reinforce the “thin ideal” (Wiseman, 2012) and contribute to our selfdissatisfaction.

“For example: “You look great – have you lost weight?" Or, on being offered a bun: "Ooh, I really shouldn't." "After three minutes of fat talk," says Diedrich, "there's evidence that our body dissatisfaction increases significantly." (Wiseman, 2012)

Diedrich’s idea of “fat talk” (Wiseman, 2012) immediately highlights the unnerving fact previously highlighted by Orbach that self-obsession and the obsession with body image is an issue constantly dealt with throughout a

 

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woman’s lifetime. A woman’s body image quickly becomes her “brand” (Orbach, 2006:14) notes Orbach “her brand, her membership and entitlement to occupy space. Her body has to fit for the individual to feel she belongs and is recognized as belonging” (Orbach, 2006:14).

Although diversity through ethnic groups is promoted on the catwalk and in glossy advertising campaigns, there is little diversity between body shapes with most body shapes promoted being thin and long.

Lena Dunham writer and star of US Girls, the new American television series states in the Telegraph about her acting work “I don’t feel there are a tremendous amount of roles for the size I am. There is your sassy chubby friend (or the) part of an ingénue” (Gordon, 2012). Therefore she went on to create her own role in her hit series Girls (See figure 10) and although the Guardian deemed this role “refreshing” (Filipovik, 2014) there has been little else in the way of introducing ‘normal’ women to today’s television screen.

With numerous celebrities such as The Only Way Is Essex stars advertising their use of plastic surgery to enhance their image Jo Swinson in her government enquiry into body image states that “half of all 16- to 21-year-old women would consider cosmetic surgery and in the past 15 years eating disorders have doubled” (Campaign For Body Confidence, 2013).

In

response to the enquiry The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) has called for a ban on adverts for cosmetic surgery, highlighting promotions that play on vulnerabilities, such as “divorce feel good packages

 

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of breast augmentation and liposuction, and surgical procedures sold via online discount sites such as Groupon” (Wiseman, 2012)

With the cosmetic and cosmeceutica (anti-ageing products) industry growing fast Orbach states “they combine, perhaps inadvertently, to create a climate in which girls and women come to feel that their bodies are not OK" (Wiseman 2012).

Orbach is suggesting that along with the “self-obsession” of women today, the media also adds to the negative portrayal of body image in society. With programs such as Super Fat VS Super Skinny and How to look good naked there is often an array of programs providing as Orbach describes it “dysmorphic and distressed women" (Wiseman, 2012) the opportunity to "compete over their body distress and win the prize of radical restructuring" (Wiseman, 2012). These programs on the television introduce technologies of body enhancement to women that may not have seen cosmetic surgery as a factor when enhancing their body image let alone an option. Orbach states that it’s these industries "along with the fashion houses, the diet companies, the food conglomerates [which own the diet companies], the exercise and fitness industry, and the pharmaceutical and cosmetic surgery industries" (Wiseman, 2012) that she is now combating. As they " combine, perhaps inadvertently, to create a climate in which girls and women come to feel that their bodies are not OK"(Wiseman, 2012).

 

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The use of constructive surgery to enhance or change your body dates back to World War Two when burns victims would undergo surgery to alleviate their wounds. Orbach suggests that reality show contestants such as Lauren Goodger who underwent a nose job due to stop herself from “hating seeing her profile on television” (Wiseman, 2012) have undergone their own individual wars; “Their compulsion to change their bodies is a result of a different kind of assault on women, and increasingly men, which is sufficiently damaging to have persuaded them that the bodies they live in are urgently in need of transformation." (Wiseman, 2012)

It must be emphasized that this urgent need for transformation is not occurring in the UK and the US alone: “35,000 cases of women’s noses being reshaped in Iran under the Hijab, or women’s legs being broken and prostheses inserted in order to create a few extra centimeters of height to Chinese women, or Japanese women thinking they are too fat” (Orbach, 2010; 13).

There is an image of female body insecurity becoming “a major export of the western world” (Orbach, 2010; 13). Women worldwide are being attached together in a superficial way. These statistics are almost an exact prediction by Orbach in today’s society.

 

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However the question remains what is it about these images that are causing women to become so pressured by body image to the point where they become self-obsessed and are willing to undertake constructive surgery?

It has been suggested that women see around 5,000 images in the media a week, whether that be on a social media platform, in a magazine, newspaper or publicized on a blog the majority of which in the media have been photoshopped. As Wiseman notes in her article for the Observer Uncomfortable in our skin: the body image report “I always bristle a little when "airbrushing" or Photoshop is blamed for the rise of body-image anxiety. It seems too simple”. (Wiseman, 2012)

Jo Swinson challenged photo-shop in her campaign for body confidence: “For a L’Oreal anti-wrinkle cream could never again appear in its current form. The ad showed a lovely photograph of the actor Rachel Weisz, her skin glassily, fantastically smooth. The ASA decided in 2010 that although the ad didn't misrepresent the "luminosity or wrinkling" of Weisz's face, "the image had been altered in a way that substantially changed her complexion to make it appear smoother and more even", and concluded it could therefore mislead the public as to the product's performance.” (Wiseman, 2012)

This campaign although conducted four years ago made a change at the time; however it prompted responses such as this from the likes of Tina Fey:

 

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‘"Photoshop itself is not evil," she wrote. "Just like Italian salad dressing is not inherently evil, until you rub it all over a desperate young actress and stick her on the cover of Maxim, pretending to pull her panties down. Give it up. Retouching is here to stay. Technology doesn't move backward. No society has ever de-industrialized." (Fey, 2011:10)

Her argument is that it is not in fact photo shop that is the enemy; instead it is the idea that photo-shopped images have changed women’s standards of comparison. Women are no longer able to identify what is ‘real’ and what has been enhanced for the sake of an effective advertorial campaign.

Although Swinson’s campaign caused changes in 2010, these changes seemed to have had less of an impact on the negative use of photo shop for today’s images in media. For example, as mentioned before Lena Dunham of the hit television series Girls who has been heralded as “The voice of a generation” (Sheffield, 2013) for her innovative writing and being a “totemic figure for a generation of young women” (Thorpe, 2014) was featured in US Vogue’s February edition 2014. However it has been argued by Jezebel (the feminist blog site), that the glossy campaign that apparently “really reflects” (Coen, 2014) who Lena Dunham is has been photo shopped to provide the published images which “present a glamorized slimmed down version of the star” (Thorpe, 2014) (See figure 11) After Jezebel offered $10,000 dollars to anyone who could provide the original images photographed by Vogue’s notorious Anna Leibovitz it

 

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“Has now revealed that the neckline of Dunham's gown was changed and her face, chin and hips trimmed. Another shot, taken on the street, appears to have been put together like a collage. The cover image, a head and shoulders shot, has been altered to increase the proportional size of Dunham's eyes.” (Thorpe, 2014)

Although Girls does not have an imposing campaigning message it must be argued that as Lena Dunham is celebrated for her embracing of a real woman, she was still a subject of objectification by Vogue. Jezebel editorial applauded her representation of "normal" women on Girls, but remained critical. “What is not a good thing is when the magazine decides to take that woman and tweak her appearance enough such that she's 'acceptable' for the cover. It undermines the decision to feature that individual in the first place." (Coen, 2014)

These images were not drastically altered.

However it highlights how

unforgiving the media can be when it comes to images of women: “Men are generally allowed to have pores and wrinkles; women are supposed to be “perfect” – a state that does not exist” (Coen, 2014).

The co-editor of ‘’Mother Jones’’ magazine Clara Jeffrey put this on twitter: “If Lena’s given us an image of a real woman on Girls, and they altered – perhaps without her consent - isn’t that a paradox that should be explored?” (Coen, 2014)

 

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This is not the first time however that Vogue has been accused of distorting images via photo shop or camera angle to portray a false view of women in their campaigns. In October 2011 when Adele, the size 16 songstress graced the cover of Vogue bloggers were outraged, arguing that the image was a head shot due to the fact that Vogue wanted to hide Adele’s size 16 body. (See figure 12)

Shulman argues that this in fact was not the case; she notes ““In fact Adele would not let us pull the camera back. As soon as any of her body was shown on the camera's digital screen she'd say no. It was her desire to have a head shot, which I found very frustrating. I was desperate for a full-length picture.”” (Wiseman, 2012)

This suggests that Adele is possibly the product of a body image obsessed environment where by she was too embarrassed to show her curves. Shulman carries on to argue that Vogue is in fact:

““One of very few [women's interest] magazines that never publishes diets, never points out when someone's put on weight. We don't come from that unhelpful culture where you forensically examine the way a woman looks. That's appalling. We don't have to put our hands up about that.””(Wiseman, 2012)

 

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Shulman was in fact the editor that initiated “Health Initiative, a six-point pact between the editors of the 19 international editions, aimed at encouraging a healthier approach to body image within the industry” (Wiseman, 2012). This suggests that the argument that the fashion industry’s preference for skinny models is in fact not wholly true where Vogue is concerned. Shulman argues that it is helpful for fashion designers to extend the size of sample dresses, as they are not a realistic fit for ““real people”” (Wiseman, 2012) for example actresses that reign the covers of Vogue such as Scarlett Johansson. I think it’s evident that although the fashion industry is not willing to take responsibility for the negative view of body image in the media it is however ““realizing we're in a powerful position and we can do something about it.”” (Wiseman, 2012)

Whilst Orbach cannot be said to be the direct cause of this re-think within parts of the industry that such developments are going on is clear. “Differing from the fashion industry, Agent Provocateur strays from the current trend, and only hires fuller models to market their products. In addition, in 2006 Spain moved to ban underweight models from the catwalk from Madrid fashion week. There has been a spike in the appearances of plus size models in magazine campaigns and on the runway. Recently, Dove and Jockey launched campaigns featuring real-sized women. In congruence to the rise of plus size models, popular clothing lines have also been launching plus size lines. In 2009, Forever 21, a popular clothing store for young women, launched

 

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a plus size line Faith 21. Faith 21 offered many of the same types of clothing in a junior plus size.” (Clark, 2011)

In September 2013 the feminist protestors from the radical group Femen broke onto the catwalk at Paris Fashion Week Nina Ricci show with “Model, don’t go to brothel” painting on their bare chests. (See figure 13)

This ‘doing something about it’ initiative can be said to be encouraged by the All Walks Of Life initiative that encourages diversity in fashion. This initiative lead by Caryn Franklin, Erin O'Connor and Debra Bourne “encourages diversity in fashion, talk to designers and students about creating more "inclusive" designs.” (Wiseman, 2012)

However the question of how effective these initiatives are remains unknown with January 2014’s issue of Nylon Magazine Singapore in mind; the image on the cover of pop star M.I.A. has been altered with extensively (See figure 14). The Aerogram a blog specializing in the take on South Asian art, literature, life and news suggests that

“The creative team at Nylon have has seen fit to lighten her features through the magic of Photoshop. Her actual complexion is darker — and it’s never needed any lightening, not when her music climbed the charts, not when she turned into an overnight icon at the Super Bowl, and not when she was nominated for an Oscar, two Grammys or the Mercury Prize. To whitewash M.I.A. for a largely South and Southeast Asian readership seems antithetical

 

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to the point of even having a Singaporean off-shoot of the Nylon brand.” (Guha, 2014)

Yet Orbach herself believes that change is in the air: “”Oh, there is a shift going on”” she says “”a definite one that I haven’t seen since Fat Is A Feminist Issue came out”” (Gordon, 2012) with “Lady Gaga recently posting pictures of her new, more shapely self, alongside the caption “Bulimia and anorexia since I was 15, my boyfriend prefers me curvier”, other stars refusing to starve, Salma Hayek, who admits she is “at the limit of chubbiness at all times”, and Kelly Clarkson, who is used to being criticized about her weight telling an Australia interviewer in June that it had been happening for “seven years…it’s like, ““Ok, cool, the fat jokes””. (Gordon, 2012)

These positive changes are occurring the dissatisfaction with set standards of body image imposed by in part the Fashion industry is finding a voice and Orbach’s ideas are now being more widely expressed by others. But the conversion of these ripples of protest into a tide of change will require much greater efforts from all parties including men who still control most of the industries in whose interest it is for women to be so dissatisfied with their body shape.

 

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Conclusion. It is clear from this analysis that Orbach’s Fat is A Feminist Issue was a seminal work in the 1970’s in taking forward society’s understanding of the consequences of imposed gender roles on women’s health and wellbeing.

Orbach was not alone of course in exploring the consequences of imposed gender roles. She agreed with other feminist writers of the time including Germaine Greer in The Female Eunuch (1971) that gender roles divide labor, power, and expectations based on sex. To fulfill her role of wife and mother, a woman must attract a husband; she must beautify herself according to the current standard of beauty (always changing, but forever thin). Women become sexual commodities. They obsess over achieving “the image of womanhood presented by billboards, newspapers, magazines and television” (Orbach, 2006; 16) to catch a man who will support them economically, thereby accomplishing “the first step of womanhood.” (Orbach, 2006; 16). As with other feminists of the time Orbach also felt that the media, the fashion and diet industries manipulate women into spending billions of dollars chasing an unattainable goal of physical perfection.

As she considers the American media and now increasingly the global media is largely built upon the industries of fashion, makeup, and weight-loss. One need only pick up a magazine to recognize this truth today; celebrities and models illustrate the ideal physical form: unnaturally thin and glamorous. The economic success of these industries proves the strength of their hold on the female, and now the male, psyche.

 

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As is shown in Chapter 2 though the current styles change with each passing year, the media’s fixation on appearance does not. Women face the same stereotypes today as they did in the seventies. Clearly Orbach’s analysis of the imposed pressures on women first explored in the 1970s is still relevant today.

As accurate as this analysis is, it is not for this that Orbach is seen as significant in the 1970s since it was part of the wider feminist assessment of the causes of gender stereo-typing. Rather it is for her application of these feminist ideas to the issue of fatness for women. In her view women, either consciously or unconsciously, increase their weight through excessive eating in order to break out of this imposed role.

As one who has suffered from being over-weight in the past and very concerned about body size, I have to ask whether this seems an accurate analysis, whether Orbach’s central thesis is still applicable to the contemporary world, to women’s own experiences or whether our understanding of these body issues has developed and changed. Is fatness as a young girl due to women’s wanting to break out of an imposed gender role? Is the pre-occupation with Body Mass Index due to wanting to emulate the ‘thin’ images I see in the fashion magazines? There is a great deal of pressure on both young and older women to conform to stereotypes of body image. Also there are other factors at play that Orbach did not explore in the 1970s. Our understanding of obesity has moved on

 

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since 1978. There is substantial evidence that obesity is the consequence of not necessarily only willful over-eating, but also of the ready availability in supermarkets of unhealthy, sugar-laden cheap foods, the growth of easily accessible fast-food outlets on every street corner, the loss of appetite for fruit and vegetables and, of course, the significant reduction in physical activities. Furthermore, recent studies of primary school children in London and Birmingham have demonstrated a clear link between poverty and obesity; poor families may not be able to afford to over-eat but the diets they do choose clearly contribute to obesity problems.

Orbach’s thesis fails to take into account the significance of parent’s busy professional lives for our family meals or the seductiveness of ready meals in the supermarket to students too busy to prepare more nutritional food. Equally it fails to take into account the reduction in the amount of physical activity adults participate in post school. In June 2013 Sport England reported that the number of people playing at least 30 minutes of sport at moderate intensity at least once a week dropped to 15.3 million from 15.5 million between April 2012 and April 2013. (Sport England, 2013)

In other ways too I have to question the relevance of Orbach’s thesis. Are women’s concerns with my weight really due to the fact that they want to be attractive to men; is thinness really a result of the gender divide? Are women really the victim – as well as a perpetrator - of the fashion industry’s currently acceptable body image? This may all be true but equally for many women in

 

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society it is due to the fact that we want to stay healthy and fit. The issue may be more complex than Orbach allowed for in the 1970s.

Furthermore Orbach suggests that by becoming fat women will challenge male domination in western society. It will free them from gender stereotyping. Again it may well do – but women will also have to suffer a great deal of sexist and fatness abuse, overt or covert and the evidence presented in the previous chapter demonstrates that it will also limit women’s career opportunities. Are there not other ways of challenging male domination rather than becoming fat and risking one’s health? Has the law with regards to equalities and diversity tremendously improved since 1978? Is not it better to challenge in a court of law rather than risk the health of women? I believe these are the points of research that must be explored in order to fully answer the question as to whether Orbach’s text is still relevant today.

Orbach’s work in 1978 had immense significance in terms of its developing deeper understanding of the links between women’s body image, societal pressures on women and eating disorders. This analysis is still relevant today, but as this conclusion has demonstrated from the positionality of a female researcher, who has experienced eating disorders Orbach’s central thesis has limited value today in terms of both our understanding of fatness and of our approach to challenging patriarchy.

 

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Figure 1. Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1538)

 

Figure 2. The 1920’s Flapper    

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Figure 3. Marylyn Monroe on the first cover of Playboy 1954

 

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Figure 4. Twiggy, a style icon in the 1960’s

 

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Figure 5. Electrify is Your Dior. Vogue 1978  

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Figure 6. 1980’s Budweiser Advertisement

 

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Figure 7. Jodie Foster starring in Taxi Driver 1976

 

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Figure 8. Adriana Lima, Victoria Secrets Campaign 1990  

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Figure 9. An Example of ‘thinspiration’ off ‘tumblr’ website ‘my body issues’

 

Figure 10. Hit US series, Girls 50  


51   Figure  11.  Lena  Dunham  in  Vogue,  retouched  images,  before  and  after  


Figure  12  Adele’s  controversial  Vogue  cover  October  2011  

 

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Figure  13  Femen  at  Paris  Fashion  Week,  Nina  Ricci  Show  

 

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Figure  14  MIA  on  the  cover  of  Nylon  Magazine,  Singapore.  

 

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Bibliography Becker, Ann. (1995) ‘Eating behaviors and attitudes following prolonged exposure to television among ethnic Fijian adolescent girls’ [online] At: http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/180/6/509.short (Accessed on 2/01/2014) Bordo, Susan. (1993) Unbearable Weight; Feminist, Western Culture and The Body: University of California Press, Ltd London, England. Brumberg, Joan Jacobs. (1989) Fasting Girls; The History of Anorexia Nervosa : First Plume Printing. Clark, Susan. (2011) ‘Body Image; Advertisements and Body Image; Content’ [online] At: http://www.wstudies.pitt.edu/wiki/index.php?title=Body_Image (Accessed on 1/01/2014) Chernin, Kim. (1981) The Obsession; Reflections of the Tyranny of Slenderness: Harper & Row Publishers. Coen, Jessica. (2014) ‘Here are the unretouched images from Lena Dunham’s Vogue Shoot’. In: Jezebel Blog [online blog] At: http://jezebel.com/here-are-the-unretouched-images-from-lena-dunhamsvogu-1503336657 (Accessed on 10/02/2014) Crafti, Naomi. (2012) ‘Is fat still a feminist issue?’ In: The Scavenger [online] At: http://www.thescavenger.net/feminism-a-pop-culture/is-fat-still-a-feministissue-828.html (Accessed on 15/09/2013) De Beauvoir, Simone. (1949) The Second Sex: Librairie Gallimard. Gordon, Bryony. (2012) ‘Bryony Gordon: why fat is still a feminist issue’In: The Telegraph [online] At: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/9695796/Bryony-Gordon-why-fat-isstill-a-feminist-issue.html (Accessed on 15/09/2013) Fey, Tina. (2011) ‘Bossypants’: Little, Brown & Co. Flipovik, Jill. (2014) ‘Lena Dunham’s nudity on Girls is refreshing.’ In: The Guardian [online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/15/girls-nudity-lenadunham-refreshing (Accessed on 20/01/2014) Greer, Germaine. (1970) The Female Eunuch: MacGibbon & Kee Ltd.

 

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Guha, Rohin. (2014) ‘Why Did ‘Nylon’ Whitewash M.I.A. For Its Asian Readers?’ In: The Aerogram [online blog] At: http://theaerogram.com/why-did-nylon-whitewash-m-i-a-for-its-asianreaders/ (Accessed on 10/02/2014) Kaufman, Will. (2009) ‘American Culture In The 1970’s’[online] At: http://site.ebrary.com/lib/ucreative/docDetail.action?docID=10288230 (Accessed on 12/01/2014) Orbach, Susie. (1978) Fat Is A Feminist Issue: Paddington Press Ltd. Orbach, Susie. (2006) Fat Is A Feminist Issue: Arrow Books. Sheffield, Rob. (2013) ‘The power of Lena Dunham’s ‘Girls’’ In: The Rolling Stone [online blog] At: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/blogs/pop-life/the-power-of-lenadunhams-girls-20120413 (Accessed on 21/01/2014) Sport England (2012) ‘School sport following London 2012: No more political football’ At: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmeduc/164/16 4ii.pdf (Accessed on 9/02/2014) Thorpe, Vanessa. (2014) ‘Lena Dunham defies her critics over 'doctored' Vogue cover; Girls writer and actress says fashion magazine is about escapism and defends pictures of her’ In: The Guardian [online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2014/jan/18/lena-dunham-criticsdoctored-vogue-cover (Accessed on 05/02/2014) Wiseman, Eva. (2012) ‘Uncomfortable in our skin: the body image report.’ In: The Guardian Observer [online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jun/10/body-image-anxietyeva-wiseman (Accessed on 15/09/2013) Vongkhamchanh, Linda. (2009) ‘Renaissance to Runway: Body Shapes Over the Ages’ In: I-village [online] At: http://www.ivillage.com/renaissance-runway-body-shapes-over-ages/4-a106826 (Accessed on 1/02/2014)

 

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Appendix Appendix 1. (An example of the blank questionnaire completed by 60 women between 1/12/2013 and 11/2/2014. Do you feel like you have to keep up to date with the latest seasons fashion styles and therefore remain 'on trend'? YES NO It depends whether I like the trend

 

Who do you dress to impress? Myself Other Women Husband/Boyfriend Men in general Do you feel that your idea of body image is affected by the media/magazines/celebrities? Explain

  In order to be a good mother do you have to be a good cook? YES NO  

     

Do you feel that the thinner/better looking women get taken less seriously in the work place/society? YES NO Remember a time when you have felt you have put on weight, how did you feel about putting on weight? Are you afraid of putting on weight/getting 'fat'? YES NO

  How old are you? 16-20 21-30 31-40 41-50 51-60

 

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Appendix 2. The Results of my primary research PAGE 1 Q1 Export Customize

Do you feel like you have to keep up to date with the latest seasons fashion styles and therefore remain 'on trend'? • •

Yes I feel there is a lot of... No I don't bother with the trends It depends on whether I like the... 0%20%40%60%80%100%

Answered: 59 Skipped: 0

Answer  Choices–

Responses–

Yes  I  feel  there  is  a  lot  of  pressure

13.56%   8

No  I  don't  bother  with  the  trends

15.25%   9

It  depends  on  whether  I  like  the  trend  or  not

71.19%   42

Total  Respondents:  59

 

Q2 Export Customize

Who do you dress to impress? • MyselfOther women Husband/Boyfr iend Men in general 0%20%40%60%80%100%

Answered: 59 Skipped: 0

Answer  Choices–

 

Responses–

Myself

64.41%   38

Other  women

44.07%   26

Husband/Boyfriend

32.20%   19

Men  in  general

18.64%   11

58  


Answer  Choices–

Responses–

Total  Respondents:  59

 

Q3 Export

Do you feel that your idea of body image is effected by the media/magazines/celebrities? Explain • •

Answered: 57 Skipped: 2

w Responses (57) C Text Analysis z My Categories D PRO FEATURE Use text analysis to search and categorize responses; see frequently-used words and phrases. To use Text Analysis, upgrade to a GOLD or PLATINUM plan. Upgrade Learn more »

? s Categorize as... Filter by Category Showing 57 responses

Yes 2/12/2014 8:33 PM View respondent's answers

yes 2/12/2014 4:20 PM View respondent's answers

yes magazines and the media only really portray very slim women 2/12/2014 4:17 PM View respondent's answers

yes. Women are often expected to look a certain way and when they don't they get scrutinized by society. 2/12/2014 12:13 PM View respondent's answers

Yes, seeing the way celebrities are seen through the media in terms of what they look like. Women tend to inspire to be like them. 2/11/2014 6:51 PM View respondent's answers

Sometimes 2/10/2014 9:34 PM View respondent's answers

yes! i don't solely base my style on whats hot but celebrities influence a lot of it 2/10/2014 5:31 PM View respondent's answers

Yes and no, I think theres a lot of pressure to remain skinny but I also know that many images are photoshopped. 2/10/2014 5:17 PM View respondent's answers

Magazine. The perfect bod! 2/10/2014 4:29 PM View respondent's answers

Yes, I normally aspire to have the same body/weight as my favourite celebs 2/10/2014 3:55 PM View respondent's answers

it is hard not to compare yourself to victoria secret angels! 2/10/2014 2:15 PM View respondent's answers

Yes, I was a size 6-8 all my life and when medication made me gain several stone, I could not cope. I did not know how to dress or accept a body that did not have a flat stomach 2/10/2014 1:12 PM View respondent's answers

Yes and no. I am has ppt with my body image at the moment but I sometimes do think it would be nice to look like the girls in magazines. 2/10/2014 1:09 PM View respondent's answers

Yes. The media tell us what we are expected to look like 2/10/2014 1:08 PM View respondent's answers

Yes because everything is airbrushed. 1/20/2014 8:50 PM View respondent's answers

I definitely think so. I look at pictures of celebrities with amazing bodies all the time and even set them as my phone background for "Thinspiration". 1/16/2014 5:45 PM View respondent's answers

 

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Yes, although what is presented as "beautiful" or "desirable" bodies in the media is shaped by the ideals of modern society, I think that the focus on them and the critique on everything or everybody that is not perfect results in over exaggerated insecurities in most ppl, especially girls 1/16/2014 4:59 PM View respondent's answers

I think that maybe people have more insecurities about themselves after seeing what they think are 'perfect' models when in fact the images probably have been photoshopped. 1/15/2014 6:11 PM View respondent's answers

I would like to say no, but even the strongest of people is. There's a constant barrage of images of skinny celebrities and there's always chatter when a celebrity puts on weight or loses it, glorifying the idea that skinny is the best. 1/15/2014 5:28 PM View respondent's answers

My idea of the 'right' body image has definitely been influenced by all areas of the media, although I know everyone is different shapes and sizes and cant always change this, however this in my eyes does not make anyone less 'right' or 'perfect'. 1/15/2014 5:08 PM View respondent's answers

Yes 1/15/2014 4:39 PM View respondent's answers

No because I don't read magazines and don't model myself on any celebrities 1/15/2014 4:06 PM View respondent's answers

Yes as frequently women in the media are extremely thin and are deemed beautiful for this which gives anyone who isn't as slim as them the impression that they cannot be beautiful 1/15/2014 3:13 PM View respondent's answers

When I was a lot younger it definitely did, now I think I am coming into the age where I can appreciate my body for what it is, I wouldn't mind some curves though! 1/15/2014 2:46 PM View respondent's answers

yes, seeing celebrities that I like in good shape makes me want to work out more and eat healthily 1/15/2014 2:38 PM View respondent's answers

yes, the images in the media are what i look up to be like 1/15/2014 2:29 PM View respondent's answers

Yes 1/15/2014 1:26 PM View respondent's answers

Not necessarily affecting me directly, but its how men see women in the media, and then how they expect to see women in real life. 1/15/2014 1:12 PM View respondent's answers

Yes - the media dictates societies' views of what is "beautiful" or "acceptable" - if most celebrities are thin and praised for looking beautiful when they are then we as a society think that these are the 'rules of beauty'. Same goes for celebrities/models who all have small noses (many celebs have nose jobs) and a certain skin colour (eg most models are white) 1/15/2014 1:09 PM View respondent's answers

no 1/15/2014 12:35 PM View respondent's answers

There is a lot of pressure to conform to the image that the media portray as being "ok". "Plus Size" is considered to be size 12 or over in some cases. The media convince the younger generations that their bodies are not the right shape and size because of the models they use, with stick thin legs and tiny waists. Very often trends are designed for the slimmer person, not real people with real curves! 1/15/2014 12:08 PM View respondent's answers

Yes, obviously not everybody is going to be that toned but I think it is better to have that as role models as opposed to accepting that fat is normal. Apparently 1/5 people will be morbidly overweight soon! 1/15/2014 11:25 AM View respondent's answers

Yes because you are constantly being bombarded with images of the perfect beach body and how to loose 5 pounds in 3 days. The media are setting an ideal for women that is just not realistic because of Photoshop. 1/15/2014 11:21 AM View respondent's answers

Yes- I agree there is pressure to be slimmer and almost perfect but I also believe that you can either let it effect you or ignore it and be happy with who you are. 1/15/2014 11:16 AM View respondent's answers

I think so when I was younger (I am twenty now), but I'm more thick-skinned now. Only occasionally would I feel affected by media images, usually I realise how unattainable they are. 1/15/2014 11:01 AM View respondent's answers

I feel like there is an 'ideal' of how we are brainwashed to look but whether I chose to abide by it is something else. Sometimes I would say that it is influenced yes. 1/15/2014 10:55 AM View respondent's answers

Skinny girls= pretty girls=favourite girls 1/15/2014 10:51 AM View respondent's answers

I don't think it it is consciously affected but having the images always around i can't ignore the forced image of perfection 1/15/2014 10:25 AM View respondent's answers

 

60  


No. Media and magazines greatly distort photos and images to create the "the perfect woman" which is completely ridiculous as there is no woman with those proportions naturally. E.g. a woman with the figure of a Barbie doll wouldn't physically be able to stand up due to her excessive chest and tiny leg width and torso. Additionally women of colour are also constantly subjected to "white standards" of beauty and these women often feel ashamed of darker skin tones, hair and eyes. 1/15/2014 10:10 AM View respondent's answers

Yes, especially by victoria secret-esque bodies. Body image is everywhere! 1/15/2014 9:42 AM View respondent's answers

Yes - the media portray a particular 'type' of body to be beautiful. Usually this type is very slim, tall etc. which affects my body image, especially in terms of weight. 1/15/2014 9:39 AM View respondent's answers

Unfortunately yes, although I am in intelligent woman who realises that the media ideal that we are fed is in fact a lie. Airbrushing & good lighting create the lie. 1/15/2014 9:37 AM View respondent's answers

YES! Airbrushing and celebrity photos make you feel like every girl in the whole world has abs/ is toned etc so you feel that unless you are this way too no one will find you attractive. 1/15/2014 9:32 AM View respondent's answers

In some way I think I am but I don't care too much. I think its ridiculous when women say 'well its all these magazines/society that force us to have plastic surgery or loose weight' people have their own mind to make these decisions and sometimes they just blame the media! 1/15/2014 9:22 AM View respondent's answers

To an extent but I believe that normal people put more pressure on you because of what celebrities look like 1/15/2014 8:40 AM View respondent's answers

in a way yes because its a constant presence and even if you dont follow magazines/celebrities etc you are subliminally effected by it 1/15/2014 8:38 AM View respondent's answers

Yes - seeing beautiful models in wonderful clothes definitely affects perceptions of body image. 1/15/2014 8:36 AM View respondent's answers

yes. makes you feel self conscious,especially when thry say bigger people are ugly or have 'horiffic weigh gain pics of celebs 1/15/2014 8:34 AM View respondent's answers

Yes, I want to look like the women I see in the media 1/15/2014 7:09 AM View respondent's answers

Yes I think even though I would like to say it isn't, it does affect me. I do find myself wishing that I could lose a bit more weight or have a different body shape when I see a celebrity who, to me, has desirable characteristics. It happens a lot more when those characteristics are then highlighted by the media, for example articles about celebrities who look flawless without make up or who manage to pull off a certain outfit. 1/15/2014 2:36 AM View respondent's answers

Q4 Export Customize

In order to be a good mother do you have to be a good cook? • yesno 0%20%40%60%80%100%

Answered: 59 Skipped: 0

Answer  Choices–

Responses–

yes

18.64%   11

no

81.36%   48

Total  Respondents:  59

 

Q5 Export Customize

 

61  


Do you feel that the thinner/better looking women get taken less seriously in the work place/society? • •

YesNo 0%20%40%60%80%100%

Answered: 59 Skipped: 0

Answer  Choices–

Responses–

Yes

32.20%   19

No

69.49%   41

Total  Respondents:  59

 

Comments(38)

Q6 Export

Remember a time when you have felt you have put on weight, how did you feel about putting on weight? • •

Answered: 57 Skipped: 2

w Responses (57) C Text Analysis z My Categories D PRO FEATURE Use text analysis to search and categorize responses; see frequently-used words and phrases. To use Text Analysis, upgrade to a GOLD or PLATINUM plan. Upgrade Learn more »

? s Categorize as... Filter by Category Showing 57 responses

Sad 2/12/2014 8:33 PM View respondent's answers

I was very annoyed at McVitties for providing such tasty biscuits 2/12/2014 4:20 PM View respondent's answers

annoyed at myself 2/12/2014 4:17 PM View respondent's answers

not happy. 2/12/2014 12:13 PM View respondent's answers

Horrible, I wanted to loose it as quick as possible 2/11/2014 6:51 PM View respondent's answers

Not great, because some clothes no longer fitted and I generally felt quite slouchy. But it also gave me motivation to exercise and become healthier 2/10/2014 9:34 PM View respondent's answers

even though i'm small i still have the same body issues as everybody else. i'm a size 8 but wouldn't be seen dead in hot pants! 2/10/2014 5:31 PM View respondent's answers

Awful, I'm only a size 8 but the thought of getting any bigger scares me. I would feel uncomfortable with my body shape and unattractive. 2/10/2014 5:17 PM View respondent's answers

Depressed 2/10/2014 4:29 PM View respondent's answers

Went on a diet asap 2/10/2014 3:55 PM View respondent's answers

awful 2/10/2014 2:15 PM View respondent's answers

 

62  


i stopped eating properly, & occasionally resorted to pro ana/mia tips to drop it. Nowadays I just complain and go to the gym 2/10/2014 1:12 PM View respondent's answers

Unhappy 2/10/2014 1:09 PM View respondent's answers

Suicidal but i carried on eating. What is wrong with me ??? 2/10/2014 1:08 PM View respondent's answers

Suicidal. 1/20/2014 8:50 PM View respondent's answers

Upset and anger with myself. 1/16/2014 5:45 PM View respondent's answers

Weak, bad, ugly, less worthy than skinnier people, guilty, like a failure 1/16/2014 4:59 PM View respondent's answers

I wanted to lose it straight after I put it on. Just because i know if I didn't lose it as soon as i could i would probably end up putting more on. 1/15/2014 6:11 PM View respondent's answers

I felt awful! I felt like I needed to quickly fix it. 1/15/2014 5:28 PM View respondent's answers

At a younger age it would have bothered me greatly and effected my life choices, although eventually I would stop caring. Now I am older it depends on my mood if I mind putting on weight as most of the time I would view it as more curves and voluptuousness that can be attractive and healthy to most and those who would think it is disgusting I would not care about because they have the wrong mind set. However, if I am already feeling down about myself, both mentally and physically, I will convince myself that to be a better person I should look more like the pretty, skinny models plastered literally everywhere in our society. 1/15/2014 5:08 PM View respondent's answers

Guilty, instantly wanted to loose it 1/15/2014 4:39 PM View respondent's answers

That it was a bad thing and I wanted to get rid of it 1/15/2014 4:06 PM View respondent's answers

Terrible, I felt I was being judged constantly and I could not look in the mirror properly and actually avoided my reflection. 1/15/2014 3:13 PM View respondent's answers

I felt so happy I'm a twig haha, being black i have grown up with the idea that a real woman has meat on her, however self acceptance in my opinion is the difference between a girl and a woman. 1/15/2014 2:46 PM View respondent's answers

I felt fine, putting on weight doesn't bother me as long as im happy with what I see when I look in the mirror 1/15/2014 2:38 PM View respondent's answers

sad/angry 1/15/2014 2:29 PM View respondent's answers

Shit 1/15/2014 1:26 PM View respondent's answers

That I need to get rid of it again quickly. 1/15/2014 1:12 PM View respondent's answers

Pretty rubbish. I think most of my (female) friends have taught themselves to hate themselves if they put on weight (as a discouragement to do it again) 1/15/2014 1:09 PM View respondent's answers

Terrible. I felt unattractive 1/15/2014 12:35 PM View respondent's answers

Horrible, but it was your fault because we'd drive to Maccies every lunch break...Terrified of getting an arse like Debs the Killer Whale. 1/15/2014 12:08 PM View respondent's answers

Rubbish! I believe that everybody would feel better at a weight within their BMI 1/15/2014 11:25 AM View respondent's answers

Everyday of my life haha. Annoyed and frustrated. 1/15/2014 11:21 AM View respondent's answers

Not great. Horrible in fact 1/15/2014 11:16 AM View respondent's answers

Embarrassed in myself, like I had done something bad 1/15/2014 11:01 AM View respondent's answers

Definitely makes me unhappy. 1/15/2014 10:55 AM View respondent's answers

Easy to put on, ruined my days/nights out as felt people would notice and comment on my weight. Even if I only put on a couple of pounds. 1/15/2014 10:51 AM View respondent's answers

I usually feel uncomfortable in my skin until I am back at my original weight

 

63  


1/15/2014 10:25 AM View respondent's answers

Guilty for putting on weight. 1/15/2014 10:10 AM View respondent's answers

Dissapointed when clothes didn't fit, stopped enjoying shopping 1/15/2014 9:42 AM View respondent's answers

awful. 1/15/2014 9:39 AM View respondent's answers

Low mood and less capable of achieving goals 1/15/2014 9:37 AM View respondent's answers

gutted. 1/15/2014 9:32 AM View respondent's answers

It doesn't feel nice, but if i'm bothered about it I will exercise and loose the weight. 1/15/2014 9:22 AM View respondent's answers

Depressed 1/15/2014 8:40 AM View respondent's answers

self conscious and unconfident 1/15/2014 8:38 AM View respondent's answers

Awful - tried to get rid of it immediately 1/15/2014 8:36 AM View respondent's answers

bad 1/15/2014 8:34 AM View respondent's answers

Hate it 1/15/2014 7:09 AM View respondent's answers

I felt horrible! I genuinely wouldn't look in the full size mirror until the weighing scales had given me the confirmation I needed that I was back to normal. And shopping was completely out of the question! It wasn't so much that I cared what other people thought though as it wasn't that obvious, it was just that I had managed to let myself go and I felt very disappointed in myself for it. 1/15/2014 2:36 AM View respondent's answers

Q7 Export Customize

Are you afraid of putting on weight/getting 'fat'? • •

YesNo 0%20%40%60%80%100%

Answered: 59 Skipped: 0

Answer  Choices–

Responses–

Yes

83.05%   49

No

16.95%   10

Total

59

Comments(42)

Q8 Export Customize

Do you regularly view the Mail Online? • YesNo 0%20%40%60%80%100%

Answered: 58 Skipped: 1

Answer  Choices–

 

Responses–

Yes

50%   29

No

50%   29

64  


Answer  Choices–

Responses–

Total

58

Q9 Export Customize

Do you feel that the Daily Mail has a positive view towards women? • •

YesNo 0%20%40%60%80%100%

Answered: 54 Skipped: 5

Answer  Choices–

Responses–

Yes

33.33%   18

No

66.67%   36

Total

54

Q10 Export Customize

How old are you? • 16-2021-3031-4041-5051-60 0%20%40%60%80%100%

Answered: 59 Skipped: 0

Answer  Choices–

Responses–

16-­‐20

37.29%   22

21-­‐30

57.63%   34

31-­‐40

0%   0

41-­‐50

3.39%   2

51-­‐60

3.39%   2

Total  Respondents:  59

 

 

 

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Dissertation