Tag Archives: Hesse

Cultural Pressures of Thinness and Disorderly Eating


The above video shows a mildly clothed thin woman on the beach eating a large sandwich. This video is from a Hardees television commercial that depicts Nina Agdalin in provocative poses in comparison to the sandwich. When I first viewed the commercial I noticed the way she devoured the food in a sexual manner. After viewing a second time I noticed how this commercial has the potential to promote disorderly eating. As Biber mentions “The media bombards us with images of every imaginable food…at the same time women are subjected to an onslaught of sources devoted to dieting and maintenance of a sleek and supple figures” (67).   Physical perfection is displayed in advertisements of thin women eating immense portions of food. Physical perfection is often associated with thinness but yet foods that are harmful to the heath and have the possibility to make people fat are promoted along side skinny women. The representation of a skinny woman eating unhealthy food is damaging to a society that polices body conformity. Many people try to control their body weight by not eating fast food in order to obtain a similar body to ones viewed in commercials such as Hardees. These kinds of advertisements promote disorderly eating in an environment that juxtaposes unhealthy eating habits with unattainable figures.

Source: The Cult of Thinness by Sharlene Nagy Hesse- Biber



Target’s Editing Fail


Photo via https://www.facebook.com/target

(Picture comments blocked out for privacy reasons.)

I saw this ad on Facebook the other day. It seemed unoriginal and innocent enough; the thin, happy woman embodies the ideal look for Target as it attempts to sell products to all ages (especially families). Upon closer inspection though, the editing errors become painfully obvious. The woman is missing a bicep in her right arm, and her left is a series of jagged edges. While this “Photoshop fail” may be a cause for humor, I look at it instead as a cause for concern. How many of the ads we see every day have been edited without such obvious giveaways? According to Jean Killbourne in Killing Us Softly 4, the answer is all of them.  Without our attention or permission, the media and advertising world have made their expectation of the ideal woman (feminine, thin, and heavily made up) become that of society. The purpose of this is clear. As Sharlene Hesse-Biber wrote in “Selling the Body Beautiful,” “If women are busy trying to control their bodies through dieting, excessive exercise, and self-improvement, they are distracted from other important aspects of selfhood that might challenge the status quo” (63). With this in mind, it is crucial that we look at advertising with a cautious eye, realizing that what we see is the product of technology and cannot (and should not) be obtained through physical efforts.

Hesse-Biber, Sharlene. “Selling the Body Beautiful: Food, Dieting, and Recovery.” The Cult of Thinness, Second ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 64. Print.

Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women, dir. Kilbourne Jean, Sut Jhally, and David Rabinovitz (Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation, 2010), DVD.

What is oppression? Self-monitoring based on oppressive standards

Women feel enormous pressure to be thin due to media messages that feature impossibly slender and toned bodies as the beauty ideal. Our society has come to believe that “thin is inherently beautiful and fat is inherently ugly” (Wann ix), causing women to fixate on achieving a slender body with firm bodily margins. Women devote an enormous amount of time, energy, and attention in the pursuit of the ideal.

The food, diet, and exercise industries profit enormously from women’s body dissatisfaction, as “women are told that they can have the right body only if they consume more products” (Hesse-Biber 75). By normalizing thinness and stigmatizing fatness, the media has created a “fat-hating culture” in which everyone “inevitably absorbs anti-fat beliefs, assumptions, and stereotypes” (Wann xi). Therefore, our culture oppresses those people whose bodies do not fit into the slender body ideal.

This does not include only “overweight” and “obese” people, but also the huge proportion of women who are at a healthy weight but still perceive themselves as too fat. Weight oppression affects people of all sizes, since “in a fat-hating society everyone is fat” (Wann xv). Women have internalized the media messages and societal expectations. Society has trained women to oppress themselves through self-policing, demonstrated by women’s obsession with achieving thinness.

The oppressive capitalistic system oppresses women by setting up a “battle…with the self” (Bordo 198) for every woman. As a result, women are distracted from the systematic sexism in society and do little to challenge the status quo. Is there a way for women to break free from capitalism’s patriarchal oppression?


Bordo, Susan. Unbearable Weight. Berkeley: University of CA Press, 1993.

Hesse-Biber, Sharlene. The Cult of Thinness. Second Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. 2007.

Wann, Marilyn. Foreword. The Fat Studies Reader. By Esther D. Rothblum and Sondra Solovay. New York: New York UP, 2009. Ix-Xxii. Print.