What construct that is built upon the notions

What is the relationship, according
to Bordo, between femininity, notions of control, and illnesses like anorexia
and agoraphobia?

Femininity is a
social construct that is built upon the notions of control over every aspect of
females including their appearance, lifestyles, diets, and bodies. Bordo brings
up the connection between the control of the female body and illnesses like
anorexia nervosa and agoraphobia.

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In today’s
society, media is continuously enforcing the concept of femininity through
images that depict the ideals of today. Seemingly normal to us, having been
habituated towards advertising and media, we don’t notice the underlying
meaning to these images. Masculinity and femininity are in, what Bordo refers
to as, a “double bind.” A double bind is the idea that neither masculinity nor
femininity can exist without the other as they act upon one another. Here,
masculinity can be seen as a frame that provides an outline for what the
ideology of femininity should fit in to. The contrast between how both are
portrayed allows us to see how masculinity is a notion of control over the
female body.

Femininity is
described as being docile and submissive, welcoming the manipulation of their
minds and bodies. In media, women are usually laying down in a recumbent
position in which they are unable to defend themselves, rendering them
powerless and requiring protection offered by men (Sully 2012). Meanwhile, men
are portrayed as powerful and dominant, usually poised over women, standing
upright and confident. They are active and alert, ready to react
instantaneously. Femininity also means being delicate, emotional, careless, and
dependent. In advertising, women have a “feminine touch” which is delicate and almost
weak (Sully 2012). Delicacy is also associated with a slender figure which
contributes to the powerless look of a woman. Women are perceived to be less
socially oriented and more egocentric, focusing on self-modification (Bordo
2017: page 79). Often in photos, women are shown as if they are not paying
attention to their surroundings, instead are drifting off or day dreaming. This
makes them seem dissociated with reality and too careless to see the dangers of
the world.  In opposition, men are
strong, in control of themselves and the world around them, aware, and independent
(Sully 2012). So this shows that because men are so capable, women don’t need
to be. These are just a few of the ways femininity has been illustrated for us
to see. The female ideal having been formed already, women are now encouraged
and are compelled to fit within the ideal through societal norms and media.

However, it is
apparent that not every woman will want to fit within this narrow construct of
what it means to be a woman. It isn’t an easy task to actively break these set
of rules that govern gender in a judgmental community. Despite anorexia and
agoraphobia being illnesses which are often frowned upon, Bordo argues that
these illnesses are a form of backlash to the control femininity and society
has over women. Similar to the stereotypical appearance and behaviors mentioned
earlier, there are certain roles associated with femininity that were developed
from the sexual division of labour. Women were expected to be nurturing of
others and not themselves (Bordo 2017: page 81). The ideal woman was to stay at
home, cook, clean, and take care of her family. Agoraphobia started in “a
period of reassertion of domesticity and dependency as the female ideal” (Bordo
2017: page 81). Agoraphobia has been described as a “strike” against this
domestication and the housewifely chores they were forced to do (Bordo 2017:
page 83). The illness would render them unable to perform these tasks assigned
and it is perceived as a form of rebellion. Likewise, anorexia isn’t just about
being slender, it holds the same concept of insubordination. Bordo suggests
that our society encourages the control of female appetite, literally and
figuratively. The female appetite, consisting of the hunger for public power,
independence, and sexual gratification, is contained, silencing the voices of
women (Bordo 2017: 81). Due to this, many feel as if they are not in control of
themselves. Ideally, only men are portrayed as if they have mastered self-control.
Obtaining a slender body would therefore allow women to embody masculinity. Many
anorectics wish to have their breasts removed as after obtaining this slender
body, it is the only aspect of them that links them to femininity. Anorexia
involves extreme dieting and exercise, which would require “resisting both the
hunger and desire to soothe the body” (Bordo 2017: page 82). These practices make
women feel in control of their own bodies, adopting the virtues of masculinity.
In some ways, this is the only way women can break free from the social
construct of femininity. Having made these conclusions, Bordo still recognizes
that these illnesses are self-destructive and harmful to the body; so
inevitably it isn’t as beneficial as assumed. 


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