Entries by Dr. Harriet Fraad (37)


Hold That Tiger – Tiger Woods

From Tikkun Daily, February 2010.

Tiger Woods’ scripted apology for cheating on his wife has been a riveting topic for the US media. On the newsstands on February 20, 2010, every US newspaper carried stories of Tiger Woods’ confession. It was a bold full-page headline in the Post, and Daily News. It appeared on the cover of The Wall Street Journal that carried three stories and front-page photos. The New York Times alone did not post the confession as front-page news but carried two stories and photos on the cover of their Sports Section. Why is this so riveting? In many ways this post continues the theme of my last post, “Morality- It’s Strictly Personal.” Hopefully, this provides new insights.

Americans seem to be fascinated when their idols have feet of clay, their own clay feet not withstanding. Data on infidelity is not reliable. Many women lie to deny infidelity to make themselves look better and some men exaggerate it for the same reason. However statistics that seem to take this into account report that about 50% of men and 30-40% of women have affairs when married. Why are we surprised by Tiger Woods? I believe that we are not at all surprised. Rather, we have displaced our right to judge behavior from the political and social arenas to the personal one. After all, JFK was reputed to have the ideal of sex with a different woman every night. He may not have lived up to that ideal but it appears that he tried. Eisenhower and FDR had mistresses. That fact was not newsworthy. The sex lives of our great athletes similarly did not used to make the news. Indiscretions were not reported. Confessions were not necessary.

What has changed? We now hold our leaders responsible for their sexuality. Only sexual transgressions merit the transparency that other nations demand from their political and social leaders. Actually, on what other occasion than being caught sexually “cheating” does a leader or a hero for the US population stare straight into the camera and hold himself accountable. Woods’ confession sounded like the fourth step in a twelve-step plan to recovery, a fearless moral inventory accompanied by apologies to those we wronged.

In the words off Tiger Woods “Every one of you has reason to be critical of me.” He confessed that he has “betrayed our trust” in him. Did Bush consider that when he lied and caused death and destruction? Does Obama when he betrays his promises to end the Iraq war, protect the environment, provide universal, single payer health care, and bring lasting change to address America’s increasing injustice and inequality? Of course not.

At President Mitterand’s funeral in France that both his wife and his mistress attended with their children, the press asked for statements from the wife and mistress. Both women refused comment saying, “We are not in the United States. We are here to honor a great leader.” Perhaps they could manage that dignity because they can and do hold their politicians accountable for the impact of their policies on the lives of the French people and the world. Perhaps they still believe they can have an effect on their leaders’ policies because they actually have a democracy.

They, like the Germans and most other Europeans, have stringent laws prohibiting any private money in elections. They have a choice of many parties including several non-capitalist parties. If 12% percent of the electorate votes for an anti-capitalist party like they voted for the Linke party in Germany, that party has 12 % of the seats in the governing body. They can and do influence their government. They are in a democracy. America is now, in Greg Palast’s words, “The best democracy money can buy.”

It is tragic that we, as a nation are reduced to holding our leaders to sexual standards while giving up on holding them to their promises for social justice. So many of us feel helpless. Only money seems to talk. Those who have no money and at the moment have no organized mass voice are effectively silenced. When people are or feel that they are helpless, they may save themselves the pain of consciousness and create escapes. Those escapes provide a kind of freedom that is its own prison. Perhaps our national investment in our hero’s sexual fidelity to the promise of marriage absolves us of the very difficult struggle to hold our leaders accountable for fidelity to campaign promises and stated human values. Maybe we need to have a national fearless moral inventory of our war crimes and our criminal economic system and its impact on America and the world. Maybe the fascination with Tiger Woods’ transgression and confession is a sad symptom of weakness and a fear of the road to recovery which begins with the truth?


Morality - It’s Strictly Personal

First published as a blog post February 19, 2010. Part of the Economy and Psychology series at rdwolff.com.

Obama seems like an upstanding, morally righteous American. He respects his wife, is kind to his children, and attends church, the small details of permitting torture, deadly bombings and a six billion dollar a week budget for wars not withstanding. One in four American children is on food stamps and experiences hunger. One out of two of our children will be hungry at some point in his and her childhood. People are desperate, jobless and without a home. Three hundred Pakistani civilians, mostly women and children died from Obama’s unmanned drones. He is a moral man, an articulate, literate, sexually faithful, good guy.

Kenneth Starr was responsible for smearing Clinton to the point of suggested impeachment for his “crime” of sex with a congressional page. Starr’s star Christian ideals were cited as a reason to grant him the presidency of Baylor University, a Christian school of higher learning. Naturally, “moral” Christians are not alone here. Senator Joseph Lieberman, the congressional poster child for Orthodox Judaism reversed his positions on every liberal platform and greatly assisted Connecticut’s insurance industry in gutting the now almost fatally weakened US Health Care Bill. No doubt Lieberman’s morals will reward him financially.
Was social morality ever a priority in our great democracy? That is a complicated question. Our democracy, which was a great advance in 1776, was built on ethnic cleansing of Native Americans. Thomas Jefferson who owned slaves drafted our remarkable Constitution. In both cases, America’s democratic ideals were radically separate from war and finance. Democracy never did apply to the US work world where people who are lucky enough to have jobs have no voice in what they produce or where the profits go.

There was a recent time, during the 1960s and 1970s where racial injustice, the unjust war in Vietnam, and sexual discrimination caused such ethical and social outrage that people rose up, protested, and changed America. The basic economic system and capitalism’s undemocratic structure was largely unquestioned but war atrocities and discrimination moved Americans. What has changed since then to narrow our definitions of ethics and morality to personal and sexual behavior? Why were Cheney and Bush not accused of perjury and mass murder for lying about the reasons for the war against Iraq and causing the deaths of over 4,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis? Maybe we can figure out that mystery by looking at what has changed in American life.

In the 1960s America was still king of the world. We were the only industrialized nation to survive World War Two with an intact economy. There were ample jobs and opportunities for advancement, as long as you were white and male.  The civil rights and women’s movements may well have been in part attempts by groups marginalized in our time of unparalleled prosperity, to share in the American dream. That dream began its slow death in the 1970s as Europe, Japan and China were able to compete, jobs were outsourced, sophisticated, computers replaced workers, and costs increased. (This economic development is developed and elaborated by R.D. Wolff’s economics writing on this website.) Wages froze. The ever-increasing living standard of US citizens died.

With the death of the American dream of every generation earning and consuming more, than its forbearers, earnings became more and more unequal. In 1970, we were the most egalitarian nation in the Western industrialized world. Now we are the least egalitarian. The mass of the American people may correctly understand that money talks and they have an ever-fainter voice in the political decisions that shape their lives. Americans may have retreated from their own sense of helplessness. People do not want to face their own helplessness. Rather than face that painful truth, Americans may be colluding with their oppressors. The great ethical moral decisions that effect American life seem out of the control of those without money to pay candidates or fund issue campaigns. People may not want to ask painful questions such as, “Is our money used for the ethical purposes we believe in? Where are our taxes going and to whom?” Americans may now assume as given a tax structure that favors the richest Americans. After all, taxes on the rich have been halved while taxes on the middle class have exploded. They may not want to pay taxes at all and just say “No” as the Republicans, and Tea Party members do. They, in the words of Sarah Palin may be “going rogue.”

Sexual morality with its focus on the minutia of use of one’s genitals, may feel like an ethical moral decision Americans can make. Their judgment is important. It governs their lives in that area. Maybe personal and sexual ethics are the one small area in which average US citizen can control his/her life. In personal relationships Americans are less overwhelmed and helpless. That is where their ethics still count.
If that is the case Obama can still be a moral ethical leader as well as a war criminal perpetrating crimes against humanity. Bush and Cheney are not being charged with high crimes such as perjury, treason, torture and mass murder. Clinton may be almost impeached for a sexual breach.

This is a question to ponder.


American Depressions

First published in Tikkun Magazine, January/February 2010

An unnatural economic, moral and psychological disaster has struck America. Five contributors, each interacting with and shaping the others, have devastated the American, economic, psychological, ethical and social landscape. Each is fed by related streams, but each contributes its own force to the disaster. The American dream in which each generation surpassed the previous generation in real wages has all but disappeared, along with the dreams of an intact family, a steady job, a home, and an honest supportive community.

This article looks at each of five collaborators in the crisis in order to answer the following questions:
How did this happen? What forces are responsible?

Why are Americans passive as millions lose their homes, their jobs, their families, their hopes of justice and the American dream?

Why do Americans remain disorganized at home while their European and Asian counterparts flood into the streets and strike in militant, organized protest? Why do others believe in their potential to reclaim their lives while we do not?

What Happened?

What happened is a result of at least five major, interrelated forces. One is a transformation of American morality and with it the loss of belief that the social and political realms could be shaped by morality, ethics and secular spirituality. Another is an economic depression. A third is a transformation of the family that has been the foundation of American emotional life. A fourth is decimation of American’s social participation in all areas from bridge clubs and PTAs to political parties. A fifth is the tranquilizing and numbing of the American population with psychotropic medications.

1. The Crisis in Morality and Social Ethics

Let us begin with the first of our contributors, American ethics, morality and spirituality. The same forces that decimated our economic, psychological and social landscapes have transformed our sense of morality and social ethics. The shared dream of an ethical moral society that dominated the U.S. until the 1970s has systematically eroded. In the 1960s it was common to believe that morality and spirituality include a concern for all human beings, rich and poor alike. The biggest push against those social ethics began with Reagan’s presidency in 1981. It continued in Reagan’s second term and was reinforced by each president until its hopefully final act in the Presidency of GW Bush.

Reagan’s basic ideology was that poor people are not wealthy because they lack incentives. Their noble drive to get rich has been eroded by social programs that permit them to survive or in his term “freeload.” With income tax cuts, the incentive to work and get rich will increase and all will benefit. In 1980 the highest incomes were taxed at 73%. In 2009 those same high incomes were taxed at half that rate, 35%. Of course the percentage of tax on the highest incomes is actually even lower since the wealthiest Americans can hire tax accountants to help them evade taxes. Reagan used his famous veto power to cut a huge range of social programs from biomedical research, to social security for disabled Americans, to clean water to expanded Head Start. At the same time he increased the military budget while decrying big government.

That pattern has been repeated ever since, which is how the United States went from being the most egalitarian western industrialized society in 1970 to the least egalitarian in 2009 (OECD 2009). Slowly there has been a transformation of morality and ethics from a requirement that U.S. society should empower people with programs that give all citizens the social and economic possibility for decent, productive lives, to a morality that consists of requiring conservative personal and sexual behavior. Within that morality Clinton committed an impeachable crime by having sex with a page while Bush and Cheney did not commit impeachable crimes permitting torture, or by lying about the threat from Iraq and thus causing the deaths of over four thousand U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. It is not considered immoral to spend between six and twelve billion a week on the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, while cutting schools and social programs for needy families because “ there is not enough money.” The secular morality which made America a proudly democratic and egalitarian nation has deteriorated. We are experiencing a national moral, ethical and spiritual crisis.

2. The Dying of the Economic Dream

A second contributor to American passivity is the economic crisis from which we are suffering. Let us look at our history in order to understand what happened. From 1820-1970 the United States experienced a unique period of ever increasing prosperity. For 150 years U.S. salaries rose together with ever increasing worker productivity. For 150 years, each generation was able to afford a better standard of living than the generation that preceded it. That was the American dream (Wolff 2009).

Unlike their European counterparts, Americans did not enjoy working class solidarity with other workers whose families and social organizations, unions and political parties were inflected by a history of overt class struggle fought as proudly permanent members of the working class. Europeans organized their working unions along political lines. They fought for better conditions as part of the ideology of long term communist and socialist struggles for ownership and control of their work places. The U.S. labor movement is not informed by a struggle for worker ownership of the businesses that produce U.S. goods and services. Decisions about what to produce and the right to appropriate and distribute profits are left to corporate boards of directors. Americans accepted the capitalist system in which each generation had relatively prospered. American labor fought for an increasing amount of income that would permit workers to consume more goods and services, a system in which each generation could move to jobs considered more prestigious within the capitalist hierarchy. Blue-collar workers’ children could become white collar in the next generation. U.S. growth permitted ever-increasing real wages and possibilities for consumption. Even in the Great Depression from 1929-1939 real wages, the amount that one could buy with one’s wages, were able to rise because prices fell even faster than wages (Resnick and Wolff; Wolff 2003, 2005).

That ever-increasing prosperity stopped in 1970. By 1970 the introduction of computers, better telecommunications and more efficient transportation enabled jobs to be outsourced to lower paid workers overseas. Competing factories in Europe and Japan, which had been decimated by World War Two, were now vying for U.S. markets. China emerged as a manufacturing giant. Competition reduced the U.S. share of both domestic and global markets. The outsourcing of American jobs to cheaper labor markets was not stopped by our weak unions. They were unable to achieve the powerful “runaway shop” laws that were won in other nations. Nor did militant unions force the creation of a tight safety net to catch workers in financial distress.
For a long time, there was a relative scarcity of white male workers available for the jobs reserved for white males in America’s racially and sexually segregated job markets. White male workers who were accustomed to receiving increasing real wages and living a lifestyle of ever-greater consumption, could no longer support their families on their frozen wages. Americans’ sense of self worth was in large part dependent on their net worth. They became increasingly desperate. Their sense of personal value was cut with their salaries. This happened as the advertising industry burgeoned. Advertising continuously and relentlessly sells consumption as the path to happiness. Consumption was undermined and with it stability, prosperity and a sense of personal success.

At the same time American popular culture shifted to the right. Since US wages were frozen and American workers were increasingly productive, vast amounts of money accumulated at the top. Wealthy corporations increasingly invested in right wing media and culture. Left secular humanist values were marginalized and the left weakened.

3. What Produced the Crisis in Personal and Family Life?

Economic desperation pushed many more women into the labor force to increase money for the household. Previous to the 1970s, most white, non-immigrant American women entered the labor force only in times of particular and urgent family need: a husband was ill, unemployed, he died, they divorced, or he deserted his family (Tyagi and Warren 2003). Women’s labor outside the home provided some safety in times of emergency. In 1970, 40% of U.S. women were in the labor force, mostly part time (Lee and Mather 2008). By the year 2008, 75 % of U.S. women were in the labor force, mostly full time. Many women enjoyed the greater autonomy, personal variation and creativity that jobs could provide. Many others both enjoyed the relative autonomy and were also forced by economic necessity to work long hours, outside of their homes in routinized dead end jobs with scarce assistance from governmental supports for daycare, after school programs, or elder care.

Women’s work outside of the home helped to improve the standard of living for most families, but it did not compensate families for lost white male wages. Women’s wage work imposes not only the obvious expenses of additional clothing and transportation, but also the costs of purchasing some of the goods and services that women previously produced at home free of charge, such as cooking, mending, cleaning, shopping and child care. Those goods and services are crucial. Once they become commodified in the marketplace, they become expensive. The latest figures indicate that if a stay-at-home mother in the United States were replaced by paid domestic products and services, the cost would be $122,732 a year. The domestic products produced and services rendered by a mom who works outside of the home would cost $76,184 per year. (Salary.com 2009).

Even with women flooding into the labor force, families were still financially hurting. Working women were now unable to perform household labor and childcare full time and there was still not enough money for consumption. More money was accumulating at the top while the mass of Americans suffered from frozen wages. The wealthy then promoted the credit card to lend to Americans the money that they formerly would have earned in growing wages. Families became dependent on credit card debt. Since the interest rate on credit cards ranges from 15% to 25%, Americans descended into debt at record breaking levels while their employers reaped huge profits.

The living standard of Americans deteriorated psychologically as well. In American culture women provide most of the emotional labor that makes home a warm and comfortable place for men and children. It is women who usually arrange children’s social lives and activities from play dates to dental appointments. Women are usually the directors of adult social life as well. Women are usually in charge of emotional life for the entire family. The more women work outside of the home without social support in childcare programs and domestic help, the more stressed, overworked, and emotionally unavailable they become. Overwhelmed women have less energy for the roles of social director and organizer as well as emotional and physical caregiver. Households are hurting emotionally. When Bush took office in 2000 he cut many of the already hobbled social programs that allowed families to survive. Families are in trouble.

Women are no longer willing to work outside of the home, do the lion’s share of the domestic work, and simultaneously take care of their children’s and husband’s physical and emotional needs largely unaided either by their husbands or by social programs. For the first time in American history, the majority of women are abandoning marriage. (Roberts, S. 2007). Women now initiate two-thirds of divorces. (Brinig, M. and Allen, D. 2000). Half of first marriages and 60% of second marriages end in legal separation or divorce. These impressive figures do not include the many people who end their marriages outside of the legal system.

When men’s emotional relationships with women break down, they have little intimate emotional support. Women usually count on other women to emotionally sustain them. Women still manage to befriend and support each other on a personal level in a way that few men can. These changes in households and family life are a third tributary to America’s deluge of disaster. Americans have lost both the financial dream of ever-increasing prosperity and consumption, the secular dream of a better world for all, and also the emotional family dream of a stable family connected by a present wife creating emotional connection, and domestic order. In short, Americans have lost the comforts of hope and home.

4. Americans’ Increasing Isolation From One Another

A fourth disaster is closely related. The freeze in U.S. real wages coincided with the beginning of American’s increasing isolation from one another. Beginning once again in the 1970s, almost all social connections between Americans declined. The decay in U.S. social life was an almost total phenomenon. It extended from inviting friends to dinner, to joining bridge clubs or bowling leagues, to volunteering for such non-controversial activities as joining the PTA or contributing to the Red Cross blood drive, to participating in more controversial activities such as working for a cause or a political candidate (Putnam 2000).
There was growth in social participation in evangelical religious groups, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual (GLBT) groups, Internet groups and self-help groups. However, membership in self-help groups, America’s greatest social participation growth area, was outnumbered two to one by the drop outs from bowling leagues alone (Putnam 2000, 150).

In exploring the question of why Americans have dropped out of U.S. social life and civic life, several theories are advanced. All but one account for a small percentage of the drop out rate. Women’s full time work does account for lesser social participation. However women dropping out because of working full time outside of the home accounts for a mere 10% of the drop out rate.

One might attribute U.S. social desertion to the phenomenon of busyness, but that too is an insufficient explanation. The average American watches four hours a day of television, which would be difficult to manage with an intensely busy schedule (Putnam 2000, 222). The Internet may seem like a replacement for social interaction, but the Internet isolates people as well as connects them.

Extensive television viewing may be a culprit since more people relate to their television sets than to each other, and the heaviest viewing correlates to the least social participation (Putnam 2000, 229). But surely this is a symptom as well as a cause of the problems that isolate Americans. I say this because extensive television viewing is reported by the viewers themselves as so unsatisfying that it leaves them “not feeling so good.” (Putnam 2000, 241). Their descriptions convey extensive television viewing as an addiction that compels without satisfying. The overwhelming number of viewers watches for the purpose of distraction, or entertainment. Television functions as an escape from loneliness, changed gender expectations and looming economic disaster.

5. The Drugging of America

The fifth tributary that helped to create our deluge of disaster is both a cause and also an effect of America’s social breakdown. That is, the numbing of Americans with psychotropic drugs. In 2006, Americans, who are approximately 6% of the world’s population consumed 66% of the world’s supply of antidepressants (www.imshealth.com 2006; Barber 2008, 20). In 2002, more than 13% of Americans were taking Prozac alone. Prozac is one of 30 available antidepressants (Agency for Health Research and Quality 2005; Kelly 2005). Anti-anxiety drugs, such as Zoloft, are so widely prescribed, that in the year 2005, the $3.1 billion dollar sales of Zoloft exceeded the sales for Tide detergent (Raber 2006;).

Many of these drugs, which are also, called “cosmetic drugs” or “life enhancing drugs” are diagnosed for loneliness, sadness, life transitions, or concentration on task performance. They have been “normalized” through both extensive direct-to-consumer advertising and marketing to doctors who are financially rewarded for recommending them to colleagues. Regulations which once restrained the widespread promotion and sales of these powerful drugs have been relaxed to the point of near nonexistence (Healy 1998, 2004; Glenmullen 2000; Lane 2007). The United States is the only Western nation that permits direct-to-consumer drug advertising. We are also the only nation without price controls on drugs. Psychiatric drugs are so ubiquitous that the pharmaceutical industry is the most profitable industry in America and antidepressants are their most profitable products (Barber 2000, 24).

The current disaster did not just happen with the recent burst of the stock market and housing bubbles. Americans somewhere knew for a long time they could not pay their credit card bills or their mortgages. Somewhere, unconsciously, they had to know that disaster was approaching. They responded with denial, withdrawal, depression, and dissociation accomplished with the aid of drugs, extensive television viewing and preoccupation with scandals and celebrities.

What Can We Do?

Each of the five tributaries flowed together to drown the mass of Americans in debt, family dissolution, isolation political hopelessness, and drug-induced apathy. In response to the original questions that inspired this article, we now need to ask another question: what can we do about it? Americans may now be looking for change. They elected a president who was a different color and promised change. That change has not happened. Where else can we look?

A Time When Non-Commercial Values Are Attractive

Capitalism needs and breeds consumerism. We are surrounded by advertisements for products. Ubiquitous advertising has a blighting side effect. The presentation of connection carries a price tag for a branded product. Scenes of connection with a group of friends include, for example, Budweiser beer. The devoted mother is washing your clothes with Tide. The sexy woman who men want and women want to be seems to come with the sleek Toyota. Adds appear whenever you turn on your computer or read newspapers or magazines. Product placement is present in almost every film. Television, America’s mass entertainment, embraces product placement and explicit advertising directed to all ages. Capitalist consumerism coveys the message that relationships happen with and through products. There are too few scenes of people trying honestly to connect and surmount their real economic, social and emotional problems through honest discussion and negotiation as they enjoy their connection and work on creating close, mutual, nurturing relationships. They are most rarely shown in political struggle around either social justice or economic issues. How do we manage to effect change within this environment? Where are the contradictions that create openings?

One opportunity is offered by the recent capitalist collapse that has intensified American suffering. People can no longer afford the brand name products seen on TV. Their economic woes reveal the relentless hustling of now unaffordable consumer products. They try generics, unknown brands, and less consumption and often find them just as good. This presents us with an opening to question. New, non-commercial values can form.
Since Americans are hooked on the mass media and the media loves anything new, the left can create media attracting new actions. The anarchist group that formed around the book, The Coming Insurrection, got full media attention when a well publicized group jumped on stage at Barnes and Noble New York for a spontaneous reading which began “Everyone agrees it’s about to explode” (Moynihan 2009). Their action was widely covered for its novelty.

We can look to the four areas that have grown in the current social drought. They are, in order of their growth, self help groups, Internet groups, evangelical church groups, and GLBT groups.

Self Help Groups

The biggest self help groups are AA and NA, (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous). Huge alcohol and pharmaceutical lobbies created highly lucrative individual solutions to problems in the forms of alcohol and drugs that have proved to be a personal and social disaster for millions of Americans who cannot function on the job and suffer havoc in their personal lives. The individual solution of self-medicating with drugs and alcohol – promoted so efficiently by capitalism -- failed terribly. In the face of that failure, millions join together in small groups where they share their pain and suffering within a supportive, non-judgmental collective that operates without salaries, advertisements or financial charges. These twelve step groups give the Left a window of possibility. We can add a 13th step to their 12 step programs. We can add a step to organize against big pharmaceutical and liquor advertising, which profits on false promises. We can learn to incorporate non-judgmental personal and political support and psychological as well as political dimensions to left groups where both non-judgmental attitudes and psychological support have been sadly lacking.
We can also study the contradictions that helped to produce GLBT organizations. Advertising creates omnipresent images of happiness accessed though products that relate to sexual attractiveness. The sexy woman rides in the man’s sleek new car. The sexually virile man drives a big truck and smokes Marlboros. Multibillion dollar industries like the diet, cosmetic and fashion industries promote products to enhance sexual attractiveness. Popular culture celebrates heterosexual coupling and family as ultimate happiness while avoiding mention of collective joys or homosexuality. The GLBT movement works to include those in their identity group who are excluded from the grand celebration of personal couple happiness built around sexual pairing. The very pressure to channel complex desires into heterosexual coupling, helped to create a GLBT movement that worked as a group and opened collective visions and possibilities.

Since most families and relationships are breaking down, American people desperately need connection. Organizing creates connection. Collective dreams have a chance to replace the individualistic desires cultivated in capitalist America.

What We Can Learn From Evangelicals’ Failures… and Successes

Conservative evangelical groups create a collective vision and connection while celebrating capitalist success as God’s blessing. They provide some of what people desperately need and the Left ignores, such as strong verbal support for important work in the home and a focus on the hard work of child rearing. Conservative evangelicals  manage to accomplish this while sex role stereotyping that labor, as well as opposing every non-church-based material support that actually allows families to stay afloat. They typically oppose single payer health plans, Head Start for all, sex education (unless abstinence-based), family planning, maternity and paternity benefits, minimum wage hikes, etc. In the end they cannot deliver the support that families need. In spite of their “prosperity gospel,” the savior they pray to has not saved them from financial and personal desperation or divorce. Red states have tge highest proportion of evangelicals and the highest divorce rates.

Their reduction of morality to personal morality and particularly sexual morality has an embarrassing side effect. Googling “evangelical scandals” results in 3,729,0 000 hits in five seconds. Evangelical scandals have resulted in reduced credibility. There is now an opportunity for the wider ethical spiritual morality of groups like Tikkun and left-leaning evangelicals like Sojourners who develop their social, economic, personal and political morality and see political activity as an expression of morality taken into the world. We on the Left have an opportunity to champion our own moral, ethical and spiritual vision to Americans who desperately need connection with others, morality and hope for a better world. Evangelical promotion of the centrality of personal connection and family gives the Left an opening to advocate material and psychological support for all kinds of families. The Left urgently needs a family program to address the mass breakdown of U.S. homes and families.

The evangelical groups can, ironically show us what we are missing. The failure of evangelical morality which excludes social, economic and political morality may create an opening for a much needed Left program of social, political, economic and also personal ethics and morality for which many hunger.

There are explicitly political possibilities afforded by the net. MoveOn.Org and other political groups organize and mobilize through the net. In Iran, the opposition evaded censors, communicated with each other, and aroused national and international support through tweeting and Facebook. The Facebook account of Neda Soltani’s murder focused Iran and the world on the violent repression of Mousavi’s supporters (Ajemian2009; Talt and Weaver 2009; Time Staff 2009; YouTube 2009). That possibility exists here.

The four social growth groups springing up in America’s desert of political opposition point out possible avenues for a Left that desperately needs direction. Let us return to our original questions: Why are Americans passive as millions lose their homes, their jobs, their families and the American dream?
Why do Americans remain at home disorganized while their European counterparts flood into the streets in militant, organized protests? How did this happen? What forces are responsible?

We can see that the cycles of capitalism with its relentless need for consumer spending and capital accumulation at the top have devastated America. We can also see that unbridled capitalism has created mass suffering and then turned the rage of those who suffer against all who need governmental assistance and an additional group of scapegoats such as homosexuals, feminists, liberals, socialists, and immigrants. We can create new roads to reclaim this nation by organizing and activating the mass of Americans who know that the ostensible “recovery” will not return what they have lost. They dared to elect a president who championed change verbally, who campaigned on unity and respect for all and who preserves the structures that destroyed their lives. They have turned to self help groups, evangelists, psycho-pharmaceutical drugs, and sexual identity politics, which do not solve the multifaceted crisis in which they are drowning. They need another way. Perhaps we can provide it?

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Book Review: The Spirit Level

Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level. New York, 2009. Reviewed by Harriet Fraad.

The Spirit Level brilliantly establishes and meticulously documents the powerful connections between the personal and social tragedies afflicting members of vastly inegalitarian wealthy nations like the United States. Scourges of inequity rob parents of the security and support they need to raise the adventurous, healthy, intellectually advanced children who are America’s future. Here are the 10 scourges of inequity that Wilkinson and Pickett identify:

  •   Increased mental illness in children and adults
  •   High levels of homicide
  •   High imprisonment rates
  •   Lower life expectancy
  •   Higher rates of infant mortality
  •   Lower children’s intellectual achievements
  •   High Teenage births
  •   High Obesity rates
  •   Low levels of trust between people
  •   Low levels of social mobility.

The United States is the most unequal of the 21 richest nations in the world. We also lead the world in each of the social misfortunes listed above. How are each of these afflictions related? How do they work to undermine the psychogenic pump? Let us go down the list knowing that this is only a short book review essay and the Spirit Level  itself merely scratches the surface of the reality it describes. All of the tragedies it describes are comingled. I will discuss them in small groups knowing they are branches growing from the trunk of inequality that unites and sustains them.

The first group of problems I will discuss are the low levels of trust between people, mental illness, homicide and imprisonment rates. Inequity is the primary factor shaping trust and distrust of others. In those US states and in other nations, greater income equality is directly related to trust in other people (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009 55-62). Partly that is because an important element of trust is a sense of security. If your life is precarious and your livelihood is insecure and inadequate, a sense of well being and confidence in the future are seriously eroded. Those who prosper in unequal economies are threatened by “those others” the have-nots who may steal what you have. In any case “They” are different. “They” live in poor housing. “They” attend different kinds of schools. “They ”dress’ in the “wrong” clothes. “They” do not belong to the same community. “They” are dangerous.

One case in point is New Orleans. New Orleans is a city with gross inequalities in income within a state which is has the greatest income inequality in the United States. When Hurricane Katrina struck in August, 2005, the wealthy did not help the poor, nor did the generally wealthier whites often come to the aid of African Americans whose areas suffered the worst of the flooding. The mortality rate for the poorer blacks was four times the rate for the wealthier whites (Brunkard, J., Namuland, G., and Ratard, R. 2005).

A dramatic cameo of what this means happened when a small prosperous section of New Orleans that was safe, greeted a stream of African Americans whose part of town was flooded (Thompson, Jan. 5, 2005). It happened in a community called Algiers Point. Algiers Point is a neighborhood within a neighborhood, a small cluster of ornate, immaculately maintained 150-year-old houses within the larger Algiers district. Algiers Point is white and prosperous, while the rest of Algiers across a bridge, is predominantly African American and poor. The difference in wealth between the two areas is stark.

When the hurricane hit, Algiers Point was spared. As word spread that the area was dry, desperate people began heading toward Algiers Point, some walking over bridges, others traveling by boat. Facing an influx of refugees, the residents of Algiers Point could have pulled together food, water and medical supplies for the flood victims. Instead, a group of white, Algiers men worked to seal off the area, blockading the roads in and out of the neighborhood by dragging lumber and downed trees into the streets. They stockpiled handguns, assault rifles, shotguns and at least one Uzi and began patrolling the streets in pickup trucks and SUVs. The newly formed white militia shot 11 African Americans who tried to cross to dry land. They forced countless others back into their dangerously flooded neighborhood.

Here gross inequalities in wealth were compounded by race. The scenario presents a dramatic cameo of what happens to trust within a system of gross inequality. Vigilante whites explained when questioned that they were “protecting themselves’ against thefts they expected from “them.”

A similar pattern emerges between nations. Nations with the greatest income equality, have the most extensive trust of others (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009, 52). They are the most peaceful nations. They are also the most generous to other nations and the UN (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009 60-61). The reverse is also true.

Not surprisingly, mental illness also burgeons with inequality. The US is the most inegalitarian among the world’s wealthy nations. The US is only about a fifth of the world’s population, however we consume 66% of the world’s psychiatric medications (Fraad, 2009). As inequality has increased in the US over the past 20 years, there has been a 400% increase in the use of anti depressant pills (Pratt, Brody, and Gu, Oct. 2011).  This is not a sign of our mental health. One in four Americans have been mentally ill within the past year (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009, 65). The wealthy nations with the greatest income equality like Germany, Spain, Italy and Japan report that 8% of their citizens have been mentally ill. Americans are more than four times as likely to be mentally ill than their more egalitarian counterparts. It actually makes sense that people afflicted with the greatest anxiety about making ends meet and the worst prospects for a relatively comfortable family life, people with the lowest sense of trust in people’s goodness, will also be the most anxious and depressed. American children are in similar mental trouble. Six million children in the US are diagnosed with mental illness (Gaviria, January 8, 2008).

This of course relates to another group of the scourges effecting unequal nations those of homicide and imprisonment rates. The “structural violence” the inequality of opportunity, education, medical care, and general life chances in grossly unequal societies has its counterpart in the individual physical violence perpetrated by those members of society who feel denied, shamed, and humiliated by their inability to gain the markers of social status in society, income, legitimate social standing and respect. It is overwhelmingly men who commit violent offenses.

Men commit ten times the homicides that women do (Rank, August 10, 2011). It is also mainly men whose social status confers sexual attractiveness and respect (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009 133-134). In other words the structural social violence of gross inequality of opportunity breeds the personal violence of crimes like homicide. Not surprisingly, the most unequal among the wealthy nations, the US, has the highest homicide rates, more than ten times the rate of more egalitarian nations like Japan or Norway, Denmark, and Belgium.

Personal violence is matched by imprisonment. Here the inequality of economic and social opportunity spurs greater rage and personally violent crime which condemns poor US citizens to prison. The nations with the greatest equality, have the lowest rates of imprisonment. We incarcerate our citizens at a rate six times higher than Canada, England, and France, seven times higher than Switzerland and Holland, and ten times higher than Sweden, Japan, and Finland (Street, 2011).

In a parallel development, more egalitarian US states like New Hampshire, have imprisonment rates that are four times lower than the imprisonment rates in grossly unequal states like Louisiana or Texas  (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009, 148-149). Quality legal representation costs at least $300 per hour. Without the ability to access quality legal counsel, people are far more easily condemned to prison.

CEOs in profit gauging corporations are not liable to prison for theft. Instead, they are lauded for their “success”. They then contribute generously to politicians who serve them by skewing the “justice system” to benefit those at the top.

Just as status is granted to men on the basis of economic standing, status is granted to women on the basis of looks and sexual attractiveness. The result is that the rate of teen pregnancy in our vastly unequal nation is ten times greater than the rate in the most egalitarian nations (Wilkinson and Pickett 2009,122). Not surprisingly, the rate of teen pregnancy in the most unequal states in the US is also disproportionately high (Guttmacher Institute January, 2010). It is no surprise that the poorer the US population, the higher the teen pregnancy rate (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009 122). Teen pregnancy impairs two lives at once.
I will now consider three other interrelated consequences of inequality: Lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, and our epidemic of obesity. Even though the US spends more money for health care than any other of the 21 wealthy nations, we are the top nation for infant mortality and one of the lowest for life expectancy (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009 82). In fact our exorbitant health care system achieves results that are most similar to a poor, third world nation, Cuba. Cuba pays approximately $193.00 a person in health care costs (Fitz, January 6, 2011) whereas we pay over $5,000 a person (Wilkinson and Pickett 2009, 80). Cuba invests in preventative care. The US spends its vast monies on insurance company charges, high physician fees, and expensive high tech treatments.

Stress is a major contributor to illness and lowered life expectancy in the US. As a wealthy nation, the kinds of diseases that used to kill Americans such as Smallpox, Cholera, and Polio have been eradicated through inoculations and basic sanitation. The biggest killers in the 21 wealthy nations are heart disease and cancer. These diseases are in considerable part caused by stress. What are the stressors that put Americans ahead of other wealthy nations?  Unlike the other wealthy European nations, the United Sates does not have worker protection laws, nor do we have a free or subsidized quality education programs for daycare or college, nor do we have childcare supports or subsidy for single mothers even though fully 40% of US children are born to single mothers (Fraad, 2011, 203, Holland, June 15, 2011).

In addition, the highest stress jobs are actually the lowest jobs in status, pay and control. They are jobs such as messengers and doorkeepers. The US is the nation with the lowest union organization which provides a way that workers in low level jobs have a modicum of control. America is also the loneliest of the 21 wealthy nations. Although that may be changing with the rapid spread of Occupy movements, we have been a nation with minimal social connection since the decline in equality in the 1970s (Putnam, 2000). Social connection is an antidote to stress. Obesity is another health risk related to stress. All of these stresses are most acutely felt by the 99%, the dispossessed in America. However, they effect everyone, including the super rich. All signs of lower life expectancy in America point to inequality.

The scourge of obesity is a relatively new phenomenon in the US. America leads the world in obesity. Almost one out of every 3 US adults is obese and fully 75% of Americans are overweight (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009, 89). In 1970 when the US was the most egalitarian of wealthy nations only 15% of US adults were obese. We have doubled in size as we became least equal. How does that work?

People under stress eat for comfort. They tend to eat foods that are high in fats, sugar and carbohydrates which are “comfort” foods. These are foods that most easily contribute to overweight. In addition we are a nation without effective limits on the paid promotion of fast food, no matter what its terrible consequences. The poor in America are particularly afflicted (Trust for America’s Health, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation July 7, 2011, CDC, July 21, 2011). Not surprisingly, the fattest Americans have not graduated from high school and earn less than $15,000 a year. The poorest US state is also the fattest, Mississippi, with other poor Southern states like Alabama and Louisiana close behind. Wealthier and more egalitarian states have fewer obese residents. However, once again, all are effected. There is no US state without at least 20% obese residents. The US is the only wealthy nation with obesity rates over 20%. The most egalitarian nations have the lowest obesity rates. Even our children are overweight or obese. Fully 17% of US children are obese with poorer children in the most unequal states, the fattest of all (CDC, July 21, 2011). Inequality leads Americans of all ages to literally eat our hearts out.

It cannot be surprising that poor educational performance accompanies the other woes our unequal America. As inequity deepens, children’s scores descend. Now that 37% of America’s young families live in poverty (Taverniese, 2011) our children are subject to just the kind of environments that constrict learning.
Optimal conditions for learning include a quiet place to study, educated parents, books in the home, involved parents and an atmosphere in which learning is valued (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009, 103). None of these are present for children born into scarcity and unemployment. Our government does not have the kinds of compensatory programs that other wealthy nations have and some poor nations also have. Among the 21 wealthy nations, America is sixteenth in literacy (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009, 106). The nations below us or on our low level are poorer nations like Portugal, Greece, Italy, Spain and Israel. None of the other wealthiest nations share our lowly position. None share our level of inequity either. That is why we have a lower literacy rate than a poor Island like Cuba (UNESCO 2010) which invests heavily in education for all ages and shares its meager resources in a more egalitarian way.

The last of the 10 scourges of inequality in which America leads is low social mobility. This is arresting because for 150 years from 1820 to 1970, our nation was the only nation on earth in which each generation did better than the last. Sadly, that is over (Fraad, 2009, Wolff, 2009). However, the myth of upward mobility continues leaving those who are stuck at the bottom trapped and blaming themselves for their lowly position. In unequal societies people orient their self esteem around dominance over others. In more egalitarian societies people tend to orient themselves towards inclusiveness and empathy (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009, 168). The ramifications for all are evident. Unequal opportunity most powerfully afflicts those who are most vulnerable, children. Living in poor and often violent and isolated neighborhoods usually means danger, inferior schools, and stressed, often desperate parents.

This brings us back to the original premise of The Spirit Level. We are reintroduced to the scourges of inequity in which America leads the developed world. These are the scourges that make the United States a falling star:

  •    Increased mental illness in children and adults
  •    High levels of homicide
  •    High imprisonment rates
  •    Lower life expectancy
  •    Higher rates of infant mortality
  •    Lower children’s intellectual achievements
  •    High Teenage births
  •    High Obesity rates
  •    Low levels of trust between people
  •    Low levels of social mobility.

We have done better. We can now.

CDC. July 21, 2011. “Data and Statistics.” U.S. Obesity Trends.”
National Obesity Trends
 [Data from the National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES)]

CDC Data and Statistics. July 21, 2011
“Obesity Rates Among All Children in the United States.”
(Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES))

Brunkard J, Namulanda G, Ratard R. “Hurricane Katrina Deaths, Louisiana, 2005.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

Fitz, D. January 6, 2011. “Why Does Health Care in Cuba Cost 96% Less than in the US?” Upside Down World. http://upsidedownworld.org/main/cuba-archives-43/2852-why-does-health-care-in-cuba-cost-96-less-than-in-the-us
Fraad, 2009. “What Happened to America.” The Journal of Psychohistory. Fall. V.37, N.2 130-139
Fraad, H. 2011. “A Marriage in Trouble.” The Journal of Psychohistory. V.38, N.3. Winter. P. 198-212.
David Moss, “An Ounce of Prevention: Financial Regulation, Moral Hazard, and the End of ‘Too Big to Fail,’” Harvard Magazine, September-October 2009 (http://harvardmagazine.com/2009/09/financial-risk-management-plan).
Gaviria, M. January 8, 2005. “The Medicated Child.” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/medicatedchild/
Guttmacher Institute, January, 2010. “U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions: National and State  Trends.” www.guttmacher.org/pubs/USTPtrends.pdf
Holland, J. June 15, 2011. “9 Countries that Do It Better: Why Does Europe Take Better Care of It’s People?” Alternet. http://www.alternet.org/world/151312/9_countries_that_do_it_better%3A_why_does_europe_take_better_care_of_its_people_than_america/
Pratt, A., Brody, D., Gu.,Q. October 2011. ‘Antidepressant Use in Persons Aged 12 and Over: United States, 2005-2008. CDC. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db76.htm
Putman, R. Bowling Alone. New York:Simon and Schuster.
Rank. J. August 10, 2011“Gender and Crime - Similarities In Male And Female Offending Rates And Patterns, Differences Between Male And Female Offending Patterns.”  Gender and Law http://law.jrank.org/pages/1256/Gender-Crime.html#ixzz1b8Eb4zWp
Story, L. August 22, 2010. “Income inequality and Financial Crises.” The New York Times. P. WK5.
Street, P. 2011. Race Prison and Poverty. “http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/streeracpripov.html
Taverniese, S. September 20, 2011. “2010 Data Show Surge in Poor Young Families.” New York Times. P.A20.
Thompson, A. C. January 5, 2009. “Katrina's Hidden Race War.” The Nation Magazine.
Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. July 7, 2011.” F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future.” http://www.rwjf.org/childhoodobesity/product.jsp?id=72574
UNESCO Institute for Statistics. 2010. “National Adult Literacy Rates.” http://stats.uis.unesco.org/unesco/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=210
United Nations. June 2011. Statistics Division. Social Indicators: Indicators on Health. http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/products/socind/health.htm
Wolff, R. 2009. “When Capitalism Hits the Fan.” The Journal of Psychohistory. Fall. V.37, N.2, 124-129


Starving and Hungry: Anorexia and the Female Body Politic

Published In Class Struggle on the Home Front. Ed. Graham Cassano. New York: Palgrave. 2009


Marxism's tools were originally designed to chisel meaning out of the military industrial blocks of society. They were rarely rigorously applied to the intimate arena of private life. Because class was considered by many Marxists to be the determining essence of social understanding, Marxian tools could not easily be applied to areas such as gender, emotion, personal life and race without rendering them secondary. However, the Marxian theory utilized in this book views class, gender, personal life and race as each having a unique impact on people and society with no one of them more important than any other.  Each particular process operates in its own ways. This approach permits us to combine Marxian understandings of class theory with feminist conceptions of gender, psychoanalytic ideas of psychology, social constructions of personal life and new Marxian theories of race. All of these different understandings may be interpreted so as to complement each other and create unique windows of meaning within a non-essentialist methodology. The result is a kind of Marxism that considers class, race, gender, sociological, psychological and an infinite variety of other processes as distinct strands in a complex tapestry each transforming and transformed by all the other strands in the tapestry.

In chapter one we brought our analysis to bear on one intimate area, the household.  Here, I explore a different intimate site, that of the female body. On the one hand, I attempt to integrate class, gender, and race with the psychoanalytic theory that traditionally neglects them. On the other, I attempt to integrate race, gender, psychological, social and sexual processes with the Marxian theory in which they have been neglected. The female body is a site on which these different processes reinforce and contradict each other while they mutually shape one another. In the previous chapter, we argued that household class, and gender processes combine with other processes in this period of revolutionary transformation in the household. Here I trace those revolutionary transformations as they shape the current epidemic of eating disorders  playing themselves out on the stage of women's bodies.

Each person can be thought of as a unique site, a special cross section of particular biological, cultural, political, economic, and psychological processes.  At certain historical moments, these processes interact so as to create disorders of epidemic proportions such as hysteria in Freud's time, and eating disorders in our time.  In both cases the female body is the theater, the stage on which contradictory social, biological and unconscious forces play.  It is my contention that eating disorders are one way that women express the impossibility of managing our contradictions within and between the profoundly and rapidly changing class, race and gender processes which shape our lives.

Feminist theorists (Ohrbach (1986), Lorber 2005, Lupton (1996), Bordo (1989), Fallon et al. (1994), Treasure et al. (2003), Gonzalez (2007, Srikameswaren (2006), and Spignesi 1983) have explored and illuminated the powerful role of traditional gender ideology and its psychological and sexual consequences in the genesis of Anorexia. It is feminists who connected Anorexia to contemporary demands on women to be simultaneously traditional housewives and glamorous, slender, liberated sex objects.  Feminists are pioneers in an endeavor to understand Anorexia in order to stop the suffering it expresses. I add overdeterminist Marxian theory to feminist theory to present a way of understanding Anorexia as a means of coping with complex contradictions produced by the wide range of processes in which women participate. In particular while developing an understanding of gender and sexual processes in the tradition of feminist work on the subject, I introduce some new understandings of psychological processes, and a new analysis of the relevance of racial and class processes to Anorexia. As a result, Anorexia, a woman's eating disorder, is understood to be constituted not only from effects emanating from gender, sexual, and psychological processes, but also by effects flowing from class and racial processes as well. In particular, the yet unexplored class aspect of North American life- the production, appropriation, and distribution of surplus labor- play a unique role in helping to produce this modern disorder.

Eating disorders are psycho-physiological symptoms. They are a system of signs of an unconscious disturbance that is unspoken and is therefore expressed in symptomatic behavior. There are three main kinds of eating disorders: Anorexia, bulimia, and obesity. Each expresses a different kind of adjustment to society's contradictory demands on women.

Anorexia Nervosa, or Anorexia is the relentless pursuit of thinness, and, at the same time, a delusional denial of thinness (Bruch 1973). The anorectic is a living proof that all perception is interpretation. She may weigh sixty pounds and be a living skeleton but nonetheless she appears to herself as fat and needing to lose weight. Anorexia is controlled rejection of all but meager amounts of food often combined with uncontrollable urges to gorge followed by self-induced purging. It is an obsession with food and diets accompanied by planning rituals related to which foods and what quantities one can consume at which intervals. It may include compulsive preparation of food for others. An anorectic may plan a daily intake of three hundred calories. This might involve eating an apple and two eggs divided into quarters and eaten in total secrecy every three and one-half hours with water, and a few ounces of yogurt eaten at two other intervals. These foods are often eaten only in particular locations and in complete privacy. Food controls may be combined with another form of body control, compulsive exercise. Anorexia literally means without appetite, but anorectics have appetites which they rigidly control. Eating disorders are variations on one theme, a compulsive preoccupation with food. They involve obesity or "obesophobia" (Brumberg 1988, 32, Harvey et al. 2002), a terror of becoming fat.

Anorexia Nervosa
Eating disorders have become an epidemic among American women and Anorexia is a woman's disorder.. As many as 20% of college women have some form of Anorexia or bulimia ( Chiara, 1997, Reichgott 2008). Most American women are in some way obsessively obesophobic. Many diet compulsively. Food is women's "normative obsession"(Wolf 1989,  Seid,1994, 3-16, Nasser et al. 2001). The overwhelming majority of American women have some kind of eating phobia which although subclinical, is a significant disorder ( Seid 1994, 3-16,  Hesse-Biber 1996, Perlick and Silverstein 1994 77-93, Harvey 2002, Giordano 2007, Nasser and Katzman, 2003 139-150).This chapter focuses on Anorexia because it is the most dramatic of eating disorders, it can be fatal.  Like all disorders, Anorexia represents a difference of degree, not of kind. It is an exaggerated example of the torment experienced by most contemporary women.
Whom does it strike? The profile of "a typical anorectic" is changing. White prosperous women were previously considered the prime candidates for the disorder. However that was in part the result of prejudiced research. Researchers “assumed” that since the aesthetic for female bodies is more accepting of greater weight in communities of color and Hispanic communities, women of color and Hispanic women could not have eating disorders like Anorexia. Therefore Hispanic women and women of color suffered from Anorexia without recognition or help (Thompson 1992, 1994, Nasser and Katzman 2003, 139-150) Brodey 2005). Ignorance of sociocultural theory allowed researchers to ignore the influence of hegemonic white capitalist culture on women of all colors and nationalities. Now many researchers acknowledge that Anorexia moves across income and color lines to afflict all kinds of women who wish to advance themselves within our culture (van Hoeken et al. 2003, 11). Anorexia usually strikes women from the ages of fifteen to twenty four. It takes root in women preparing to become "modern women", moving out of traditional female household gender roles It strikes high school students, usually with excellent records, college age women facing a changed female environment at college, women entering professions or competing in what were once male professional spheres, and older women returning to school or the job market. Anorexia often afflicts women who have ambitious educational plans or accomplishments  (Martin 2007, Giordano 2007,13-27, 65-72).
Anorexia is a disorder that captures and acts out for its victim the contradictions of modern women's social position. It is a disorder whose symptoms are paralytic and wildly contradictory. North American women are in a period of class and gender transition. For women with employed husbands current conditions permit neither our former full-time domestic positions in the male supported household nor our new positions in the household and the marketplace simultaneously. For women without employed spouses, this dilemma is deepened by the absence of supports from the now weakened extended families and neighborhood friendship networks which once made it  more possible for single women to manage the double burdens of mothering and jobs outside of the home. For white women and women of color, career expectations have risen without the social underpinnings that make those expectations reasonable.

Anorexia is a disorder that permits its sufferer to express dramatic contradictions. The anorectic rejects her body's needs. She rejects "input", "hunger", desire for or dependence on other things such as food and, ultimately, other people. Anorexia is a desire to be in total control of the female body and totally autonomous. Yet, it is a control that is out of control: a control that renders its victim so debilitated and helpless that she is forced into the hospital dependent on the care of others, to be fed like an embryo through an intravenous tube. It is a disorder of women who often become demanding and controlling. They "demand their space." They "throw their weight around". Yet they "reduce" themselves until they have no weight to throw and occupy very little space. It is a disorder of women who are often obsessed by physical fitness and yet become totally weak.

Anorexia, like other psychological disorders, meets simultaneous, contradictory needs. It is an obsession with food and a powerful rejection of food. It is a disorder of a woman who asserts her will power and mastery over her needs and yet becomes anything but strong and autonomous. Anorectics are women desperate to "measure up" who radically "reduce" themselves. They follow the current maxim for women, "One can never be too thin or too rich" to the point of parody.

In the remainder of this chapter I hope to begin to answer a set of questions about Anorexia. Why Anorexia now? Why does Anorexia almost exclusively affect women?  Given that the disorder has been recorded as early as the Middle Ages (Brumberg 1988, Bell 1985), why is it currently part of an epidemic of eating disorders? Why is it, with other eating disorders, a mass phenomenon, paralleling hysteria in Freud's time? What social conditions in modern North America foster Anorexia as an epidemic? Most particularly how do class, race, psychological and gender processes interact, reinforce, and contradict each other in ways that contribute to an Anorexia epidemic?

Gender Processes As Conditions of Existence for Anorexia

Gender processes are ways of representing women to ourselves, to each other and to men. Gender processes are, as argued in chapter one, ways of producing the socially contrived facts of "women" and "men", and, thus, of their differences from one another. One of Anorexia's cultural conditions of existence is a particular kind of gender ideology that represents women as the sex objects in and of society. Such an ideology acts upon us as a kind of Foucauldian discipline (Bordo 1988). It helps to create us. We tweeze the hair in our eyebrows, shave our underarms and legs, or use hot wax to rip them out by the roots; we apply hot curling or straightening irons to our hair; we painstakingly apply creams and make-up to our faces and eyes; on continuous diets, we starve our selves and push our bodies to slenderness with strenuous exercise or conceal our flesh in tight confining underwear. We endure painful plastic surgeries to reduce, or fat to augment our breasts, and eliminate our wrinkles and sags when we age. These are disciplines for whose infractions the very real punishment is personal, social and sexual rejection. The woman who will not wear make-up, or shave her legs, or be slender, may sometimes maintain or regain her job when threatened, but she may nonetheless lose friendship social acceptance, and the approval of both men and women. Our bodies are usurped through a thousand Lilliputian disciplines typically presented as harmless routines of “self-care.” Thus our desire to please others is confused with our need to care for ourselves. Our fear of rejection is enmeshed with our desire for self pride.

Consider the following description of our lives: "Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves" (Berger 1972,47). Women in our culture learn to experience our bodies as if we were the male spectators to ourselves. "The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object - and most particularly an object of vision; a sight" (Berger 1972,47). We learn via television, movies, magazines, and advertisements what we should look like rather than how to feel and know the sensations of our bodies (Kilbourne 1994, 395-418). We are dependent upon external reinforcement for being attractive and sexy.  Attractiveness is verified by those one attracts. Women's own sexuality, our own desire, is not cultivated as our own experience, but the experience of being desirable to someone else. "Women are there to feed an appetite, not to have any of their own"(Berger 1972, 55).  Food does not experience its own consumption. Thus food may become a medium that represents our alienated situation. Food, like female sexuality, may become something consumed by others, not by a woman for herself. Our appetite for approval as desirable women contributes to our shaping ourselves as objects to be consumed by others' hungers rather than subjects to experience our own desire.
On the one hand anorectics refuse food to reject the role of "object for another". They are literally fed up with being objects of consumption (Manton 1999). Craving for status as a body for male consumption is seen by the anorectic as an abandonment of her independent self. In the words of an anorexic girl, "I can at the same time be choosing to live as the self and choosing to die as the body" (MacLeod 1981,88). Anorexia is thus a deeply contradictory relation to food: controlling and rejecting it both to fulfill the stereotype of the attractive woman and simultaneously to deny and denounce that stereotype.
Women's work on creating "delectable" external images is often understood as narcissism. To this author, it is rather a hopeless attempt to reconnect with a personal sense of physical self and sexuality by imagining oneself as one's own consumer. Because attractiveness depends on others, one can never be sure of one's looks. The resulting sense of insecurity makes women particularly vulnerable to social standards of beauty including external standards for slenderness (Tolman and Debold 1994, 301- 317, Levin and Kilbourne 2008).

The culture’s idealized images of women's bodies are plastered everywhere. Women's bodies sell everything from cars to cigarettes. The idealized omnipresent images are all slim; they have no cellulite. Many female models appear androgynous with bodies resembling the bodies of adolescent males. Their already striking images are further artificially corrected and perfected in photographic studios. They present standards that women can never actually achieve. Nonetheless, they present the objective standard for female beauty. There are considerable social pressures to conform to requirements for female success and sexiness by achieving and maintaining slenderness. Fat is failure as a woman (Weiner 2006).

Trying desperately to regain control of their own bodies from which they as women are alienated, anorectics act out their contradictory relationship to food. They become parodies of the social demand for slenderness by becoming hideously slender while they ostensibly strive to be perfectly beautiful. They strive for a body image as a way to experience personal power and social acceptance yet their Anorexia debilitates and isolates them. They often exercise compulsively, partly trying to feel in command of bodies with which they are out of touch and partly trying to convert their bodies into ideals of fit slenderness. At the same time, Anorexia undermines their physical strength. Anorexics mimic yet they also mock the media's impossible standards for them.

One of many long prevalent female gender processes is the creation and dissemination of the definition of woman as nurturer. Women feed men and children. Women's' bodies sustain children in the womb and our breasts nourish people when they emerge. Beginning in infancy, memories of food and feeding are attached to women. The household kitchen is defined as women's sphere. For family events, and holidays women shop, cook, and serve food, and then clean up its remains. Women are the overwhelming majority of parents who feed as well as low-level professional food service workers. Not surprisingly, women are society's symbolic nurturers as well. They "feed" people through mothering, teaching young children, social work, and nursing, to list but a small selection among women's careers as nurturers. One part of the female feeder role is being the one who gives, while not demanding to be sustained in return.In times of food scarcity, women tend to feed their families, while they themselves go hungry (Edwards 1987, Wolf 1989).

On the one hand, the anorectic rebels against such gender processes by starving herself to the point where she loses female characteristics. On the other hand, the anorectic so identifies with the plight of women that her emaciated form may represent the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual starvation of women driven to extremes in nurturing and serving others (Spignesi 1983). Anorexia is at once a reflection of the contradictions involved in being female today and an attempt, also contradictory, to cope with them.
Another established gender process defines a particular kind of "womanly behavior. Women should be the ones who absorb family tensions while they do the emotional labor involved in caring and obligingly take orders. Anorectics usually start out life as extraordinarily obedient, "sweet" girls (Martin 2007). They take what is "dished out" to them, including food, and "swallow" it without complaint. Anorexia is in part a rebellion against compliance. Anorectics refuse any more "input" from others. They are fed up with external controls. They eat their meager portion only in circumstances under their own control. When they break discipline, they often reject and purge that food. It is as if they can no longer "swallow" or "stomach" submission. They enact in the realm of food the impossible cultural demand on women, that they sustain ("feed") others and are not themselves sustained. They obediently follow the gender rule that "has them by the throat"; they “keep their mouths shut”. At the same time their starvation is a hunger strike against such restrictions.

Another gender process stereotypes women's realm as the body, the flesh, and not the mind or soul. This is an aspect of femaleness that anorexics strenuously reject. The anorexic is not  (to use the significant vernacular) a "dish, peach, chick or tomato or a piece of meat" to be served up for sexual consumption. The anorectic's starved body is a rejection of female sexuality. As she fasts, the anorexic is obsessed by food and fear of the flesh to the point where she can think of nothing else. Her escape route from woman as flesh leads her right back to the flesh.

Anorexia is a rejection of the gender process that defines the relationship between male and female bodies to be one in which agency and desire are allocated to masculinity and receptivity and passivity to femininity. Anorexia is an unconscious rejection of being the sex that Jacques Lacan refers to as "that sex which is not one." Lacan presents the woman as a kind of female impersonator acting out male fantasies of the mysterious "other" to men. In herself, she is no one (Lacan 1975 138-48, and 162-171).  The belief that women are somehow not fully human, and resemble the characters in males' fantasy lives, not only robs women of our own agency, but also sets the stage for men to dominate women in ways that one can only do if one considers the victim not human, but "other". Anorexia is a rebellion against those gender and power processes which express themselves socially in male control of women's bodies in rape, incest, pornography, and prostitution  Anorectics are particularly pained by their status as potential sexual victims because many anorexic women are victims of sex abuse.  Their bodies have been used against their will. Anorexia, for them may be a way to take back control of their abused bodies (Wooley 1994, 171-211).

When a painfully thin woman looks at her reflection in the mirror and mourns over her fat, she sees and grieves over the body of a fat woman because for her to be a woman is to be fleshy, fat, and thus needy, passive, and helpless. She is possessed by a wish to be active and in control, wishes she often considers male. The inner voice that commands anorexic women to drive themselves and starve is described by them as a male voice: "The little man who objects when I eat"(Bruch 1978 55), "the little man inside me who says 'No!' "(Bruch 1988 124-125)." Here the anorectic rebels against male power while submitting to it. She is at the same time rejecting the role of passive flesh, to be consumed by active men and actively destroying her female body.

Alongside the prevalent traditional gender processes which I have discussed are conflicting, modern, gender processes existing side by side with their opposites. Today's successful business woman or professional is hardly passively awaiting orders. She is supposed to be at the creative edge, innovating and initiating those programs that will offer her or her employer the competitive edge. Nurturance to her professional clients or her employer may well be in order, but compassionate help for her competitors will not be tolerated. She is to look out for herself and her employer only. Sacrifice for the company or her private clients may be encouraged if it is lucrative, but sacrifice of the client and the corporation to the needs of a husband and children will not be suffered. An asset of the "modern" woman is a slender body that is simultaneously sensual and severe in a stylish business suit. She should be sexual but not sexually needy or dependent. She should use her sex, which often counts against her, as a business asset. She should use her body like her head for the purpose of getting ahead.

Current gender processes inspire women as well as define women as capable of becoming the "head" of the corporation, rather than the humble wife who performs the daily labor that attends the bodily and emotional needs of her family. Modern women can be the spiritual leaders of the flock in those religions which permit women to be leaders. They may "head" the churches rather than remain in their traditional roles as the “body” of the faithful. These are roles that today's gender processes compel young anorectics to try to attain alongside of their traditional opposites.

Anorectics are trapped within contradictory feminine roles- defined by opposed and changing gender processes that they just can't "stomach". They are literally "fed up" with being women. Their outrage is expressed through a personal "hunger strike" (Ohrbach 1986). They are "sick to death" of the contradictory roles they see ahead of them. They are traumatized by having to be characterized as the body while they strive to get ahead and be the head of the company. They feel the need to be the desirable object and also the desiring subject. They agonize over their own desire to be passive and to be active, to be what was traditionally female and also what is male.

Political and Social Processes as Conditions of Existence for Anorexia

The Women's Liberation Movement starting in the late 1960s is a political development which provided certain conditions of existence for Anorexia. When women began to "throw their weight around", the campaign for thinness began. At that same time, women themselves began to want to lose the weight that marked them as women in a society in which women were considered socially and politically inferior. It was in the mid-1960s that the current androgynous ideal began to be celebrated. This ideal of the woman without those curves that mark her clearly as a female is taken to extremes in anorexic women.

Ironically enough, the women's liberation movement, which militated for expanded job possibilities for women, has suffered in part from many former activists and potential new feminists pouring their energy into career advancement for themselves at the expense of collective struggle. It is possible that the anorectic's private  protest against the future offered to her reflects the relative absence of the public, social protests that a militant women's movement had earlier made possible and even popular. The political processes that helped to dislodge women from our domestic oppression have changed, leaving us without an organized social or political voice in which to express collective protest.  Anorexia may have stepped into the void as an unconscious enactment of our outrage.

As explained in chapter one, the decline in the male wage, and men's' increasing inability and refusal to provide economic support to women and children, combined with a myriad of other processes to push women out of full time positions in feudal households and into exploitation both inside and outside of the household. The feminist movement was one of the political processes whose effect was to push women out of full time household labor and traditional gender roles.  Since the 1960s, the movement struggled to achieve women's economic, intellectual, and psychological equality with men. The feminist movement participated in increasing female political and economic power as well as some of the conditions of existence for women's exploitation in capitalist enterprises. We won the extension of women's job possibilities, some protection against discrimination in hiring, some small protection against sexual harassment on the job, and some greater means for women to control our own bodies through legislation concerning rape, birth control and abortion. Most importantly, the women's movement combined with the male rebellion against supporting families and with powerful economic pressures forcing women into the labor force. These combined changes transformed social and personal expectations for women.

Although the goals of the women's movement have been, at best, partially won, the scope and expectations for women's professional achievement have been dramatically extended, particularly among the ambitious, educated women who are typical candidates for Anorexia. The former roles of full time feudal housewife and mother are now often perceived as insufficient. In any case, they are financially impossible for most women. The goals for women have been extended far further than have the social and political supports enabling us to reach these goals. Requirements of women are staggering. We should successfully compete against men on the job and at the same time be feminine, non-competitive emotional nurturers, sexual objects, and feudal household serfs at home. We can no longer return to the familiar female role of feudal full time homemaker symbolized by food and the kitchen and yet are unable to assume all the different and often contradictory roles required of us. Demands on women are out of control. Anorexic women respond by taking control of the one thing in life they seem able to control, their own bodies.

A political process that demands that women be treated as the equals of "ruggedly individualistic" men has driven many women to reject the realm of human need, and dependence on others. Instead of being acknowledged as the human condition, dependence is part of a half shameful private life assigned to women and children. Caught up in the ideology of individualism, the anorectic desperately denies her needs, most dramatically and symbolically, the need to eat. She would rather starve than need. Anorexia is a revolt against being relegated to the private world of regressive neediness. It is a protest against and a withdrawal from a society enabling males to pose publicly as without need while women are representatives and fulfillers of everyone's needs. It is a rebellion against and an expression of the impossible, thrice contradictory demands on women: the need to be "feminine", need-centered, and domestically focused in a society in which needs are an embarrassment; a demand to be simultaneously centered on competition and achievement in the social and political realms in which we operate at a disadvantage, and a requirement that we be sex centered and glamorous in a public world in which just such behavior is unsafe.

Anorexia is also, in part, a revolt against political and other social processes that push women into a sexually predatory public sphere. American females are increasingly subjected to sexual molestation and rape. Sexual assaults are increasing four times faster than the overall crime rate. The influential Playboy philosophy of appropriating women's sexuality without long-range commitments to support wives and children has enhanced women's sexual and economic vulnerability. Women are pushed to enter political and social life within a rape culture which sexually harasses us. The anorectic rejects the flesh that marks her as a target for sexual oppression.

Within their social positions as helpless children, many anorectics have experienced childhood sexual abuse fueling desires to escape the female bodies that have made them sexual prey (Bordo 1988, 88), Wooley 1997 171-211, Sanci, et al. 2008). The anorectic repossess the body that her childhood abuser usurped for his pleasure. She starves her body to the point where its sexuality is invisible to potential predators. Yet again, contradictorily, she joins her abusers by both abusing herself through starvation and "reducing herself" to a body by channeling all her desires and ambitions into her body.

Psychological Processes As Conditions of Existence for Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is an exaggeration of the obesophobia experienced by most North American women. We may therefore look at the psychology of women to gauge some of the psychological conditions of existence of Anorexia. Women in our society are the primary and often almost exclusive care givers for young children. Children spend their earliest formative years in a virtual matriarchy presided over by mothers, female day-care workers, grandmothers, nurses and baby-sitters (Dinnerstein 1976). Because of the relative social isolation of US. families, mothers become awesomely powerful figures in this matriarchy. In order to be separate people, children need to differentiate themselves from their seemingly powerful and often overwhelming mothers. The project of separation is enhanced for boys by the realization that they are different from mother because they are a different sex (Chodorow 1978, Dinnerstein 1976). Parents tend to push their male children towards independence faster than they push their female children (Fraad 1985, 22-23, Stevens and Gardner 1994, Hyde and Jaffee 1998, Gurlan 2002 ). Different sex and child rearing norms help both boys and their mothers see males as distinct from mother and as separate people.

Girls do not have these opportunities to separate. Many girls try to turn to fathers as models, but that way out is often barred. Most families lack a genuinely involved father figure. Other families include involved fathers who are seductive (Chodorow 1987, Fraad 1996/97).. Closeness to these seductive fathers is often reasonably perceived by daughters as too dangerous to pursue. Another obstacle may be the presence of fathers whose male identity is a negative identity based upon not being female. Threatened by identification with their daughters, such fathers discourage their daughter's identification with them and encourage its opposite. They treat their girls as cute little creatures very different from themselves (Bernstein 1983). Girls' relationships with their mothers as both the same sex and the sex that is encouraged to be more dependent, tend to encourage empathy, merging, and continuity at the expense of individuality and independence (Chodorow 1978, Hyde and Jaffee 1998, Stevens and Gardner 1994, Martin 2007).  

It is also the case that mothers, particularly mothers who do not have satisfying independent lives in which they are needed at work and desired by their partners, i.e., most mothers, need their daughters to need them. Daughters enact their mothers' needs by staying dependent upon their mothers. Such unsatisfied mothers are rarely capable of articulating their own needs and asking that they be satisfied. Part of the daughter's identification (and often fusion) with the mother follows from the daughter's learning to intuit her mother's needs and becoming the voice for those needs. Often mothers are so fused with their daughters that they attribute their needs to their daughters and meet their own needs in the guise of caring for their daughter's needs. At the same time, daughters, following their mothers' leads, also confuse their mother's needs with their own.  What begins as the daughter's normal infantile need for maternal, nurturing connection symbolized as food becomes a dangerous fusion in which the daughter's need traps her into a confusion between her desires and her mother's. In addition daughters may feel guilty at seeking out lives their sacrificial mothers could not have. Between guilt and fusion, a daughter’s separate self feels as if it is starving.
Since mothers are markedly associated with food, feeding and love, women may try desperately to control suffocating neediness for their mothers or others that they love through rigidly controlling what they eat. Thus they may become anorexic. They act out their starvation as independent selves by literally starving themselves. The attempt at such total control represents a desperate attempt to break the dependency which may feel like a threat to the daughter's existence as a separate person. Ironically, literal starvation becomes a strategy for psychological survival.  

Racial Processes As Conditions of Existence for Anorexia

Following Gabriel (1990 69-78) we may consider racial processes as the systems of meaning attached to people of color. My argument here is that changes in these racial processes have interacted with changes in other social processes to enable minority women to join white women as anorexics  (Garfinkel and Garner 1982 102-103, Thompson 1994, Brodey 2005). From the mid-1950s to the end of the 1970s the civil rights movement helped to create some increased possibilities for Americans of color, particularly those whose economic privilege or extraordinary talent and tenacity permitted them access to an elite education. However, by the 1980s the energy for a broadly based civil rights movement had markedly decreased. As it was with women as a whole, just enough new opportunities combined with new raised expectations to place heavy pressure on minority women to add new social roles in addition to their traditional roles. Civil rights gains allowed new opportunities for women of color within the white world of achievement and ambition. A fashionably thin body helped women to achieve those ambitions.

Many minority women have always worked double shifts inside and outside of their homes. What has changed is that with a new window of opportunity came a powerful pressure on significant numbers of minority women to do more than sustain themselves and children. For ambitious educated women, there is now an additional imperative, to succeed in a high power, professional career in a white, male, capitalist, world while caring for children and doing the domestic labor for their own households. It is among those minority women who aspire to professional success that Anorexia strikes. Racial processes here combine with gender, class, psychological, political, and economic processes to push minority women to join their white sisters in anorexic disorders.

Economic Processes As Conditions of Existence for Anorexia

As we explained in Chapter One, the economic process of selling labor power yields for women systematically lower wages than men obtain. Although the gap between women's and men's earnings had, until recently, slowly decreased, we still have a long way to go before earning what men earn for full-time work. Women's overwhelming responsibility for childcare and our preponderance in the lowest paid labor, i.e., part time work without benefits, combine to induce us to attract men and their wages to escape poverty. Women who work full time earn 76.9 percent of what men earn (U.S. Women's Bureau and the National Committee on Pay Equity 2006).) One of four US women works part time (United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Women’s Bureau 2007). Most part time workers are wives and mothers (Kornbluh 2004; California Women’s Law Center 2006; Toscano 2006) working part time in order to fulfill our disproportionate responsibilities for childcare and housework. Women's attractiveness, defined in terms of slenderness, becomes a means to the greater economic security provided by male wages. Thus, economic considerations may contribute to women's quest for slenderness.

Both the legal and illegal pornography industries are multi-billion dollar industries (Sun 2008) devoted to portraying woman as bodies and desirable women as slim. The diet industry is a forty billion dollar industry (Reisner 2008) convincing women that happiness can be achieved through slenderness. The advertising industry is a multi-billion dollar industry feeding women's insecurities about our looks and bodies in order to sell products. Fashions are designed for slender women with the standard shapes that fit mass produced clothing styles. With sales in mind, the cosmetics industry seeks to convince women that our looks are crucial to future happiness. The fashion/ cosmetics/diet industries combine with the legal and illegal pornography industries to create a chorus of different voices extolling slenderness as female success and defining fat as failure. The anorectic takes the barrage of advertisement/ fashion/ cosmetics/ women's magazine and diet advice to heart. Believing that her problems will diminish with her flesh she is relentless in pursuit of that slenderness that will make her the person of her dreams

The economic processes that provide conditions of existence for Anorexia include certain class processes. Our first chapter described class processes in the household. To review briefly, in what we call "the feudal household", the husband, is the lord of the manor. He provides the home and the funds for cleaning agents, cooking, shopping, etc. His birth right as male gives him the right to compel his wife to provide housework and childcare. The housewife transforms raw materials into goods and services. She transforms cleansing agents into cleanliness and (more importantly for the anorexic), she transforms raw foods into meals. She produces more cleanliness and meals than she alone consumes. Some of her domestic production goes for her own sustenance (necessary labor), the rest, (the surplus labor), goes to her husband who distributes it to himself and/or others.

In other households, particularly households of women living alone or with roommates, domestic labor may fit the description of the ancient class process where women individually create their own domestic surplus and individually appropriate and distribute it, as do individual small business people or professionals who work for themselves. In households of groups that do their domestic labor together as equals, household labor may fit the description of the communal class process. It is important to note that none of the household class processes we have described is a capitalist class process. All take place outside of the capitalist marketplace. Capitalism requires the payment of a wage for workers who produce surplus labor, which is appropriated and distributed by others.

As young women develop in households they define themselves in terms of the values and behaviors they perceive. Most young women model themselves in part on the feudal, ancient or communal value systems their mothers adopt in relation to household class situations. These values often are a detriment to success in the capitalist marketplace. Young women are caught between their deep identification with their mothers, whose non-capitalist models they learned to follow as unconscious young children, and the demands made upon them to play capitalist roles for which they may be educated, but they are not emotionally prepared. They are unconsciously functioning within one set of psychological, gender and class processes, while they consciously try to live within a different set. They are wrenched between two worlds each with a different, contradictory set of values. One attempt to resolve this conflict is Anorexia.

Currently, ever more women in the United States work outside of feudal households. They function within different class structures at home and at work. Their adjustments to the different class processes in which they participate are overdetermined in part by the self-definitions and attitudes of the women involved. If a woman defines herself as what we call a feudal housewife, and sees her work outside the home as an extension of her work within it, she may define her capitalist job as a temporary family duty assumed until no longer necessary. In this case, she may work outside of the home without forming either a commitment to her job or any kind of deep identification as an extra-household worker. In such a case, the woman's self definition is not split by dual identification.

On the other hand, double demands are particularly contradictory in the case of the ambitious women who become anorexic. These are women whose identities are split between the demands for dependency, sacrifice, and nurture in feudal or other non-capitalist households and ruthless competition in the capitalist work world. It is these women who are expected to work both a psychological and a physical "second shift" . They expect themselves to compete successfully in the capitalist world of exchange value outside the home as well as to maintain their feudal, ancient, or communal, use value producing roles within the home.
The non- capitalist, and particularly the feudal world of women, its ties that both bind and choke are symbolized by food and its preparation.  Anorexics refuse the need for food and with it the need to belong to the non-capitalist world of the household. However Anorexia's victims obsess on the food they cannot have. In this way the disorder enacts the need for connection and continuity with a frequently feudal past symbolized by need, food and mothering. Anorexia also enacts the drive for personal independence and control in capitalist careers which have little tolerance for personal need. Anorexia denies and controls women's needs for two contradictory roles, each impossible to fully achieve or to relinquish.

To compete in the capitalist world in modern North America, women need to have vastly different characteristics from those needed within feudal, ancient or communal households. Career oriented, educated anorectics will be competing for executive roles like their male peers. For these roles they need to get others to serve them and their corporations. If they become industrial capitalists, they appropriate the surplus labor of others. If they become capitalist managers, they order others to produce surplus labor. They cannot be concerned that each person receive her or his due, but that the corporation may successfully exploit its laborers. In fact, their corporate executive success depends upon insuring that employees receive little of the surplus they create. Capitalist managers need to deny needs both to nurture and be nurtured while they foster their needs to exploit and compete.

Anorectics focus on controlling diet as a displacement for controlling the competing, contradictory foci within and between career advancement and feudal or communal nurture. In extreme cases, anorexic women end up so distracted and physically exhausted that they are forced to drop out of both class processes and to die. In this way they opt out of both controlling class systems, the one at home and the one at work.  They literally sacrifice their lives to gain control of themselves.

Anorexia has become an epidemic as the demands on women to perform as men in the capitalist work place have escalated without creating the social services that would relieve women of their role as nurturers in non-capitalist households. The seeming contradictions in anorexic behavior express the conflict between current expectations of women and a largely feudal past from which we are now breaking. For hundreds of years, women's primary labor has been socially defined as the production of household goods, services, and nurturing for men and children. Generations of women raised their daughters to fill their feudal household roles. Now women are expected to maintain their roles as homemakers while succeeding at labor in the market place all the while disciplining ourselves to fit media images of feminine attractiveness. Whereas formerly we had one feudal master, the male lord of the household, now we have three masters: men, bosses, and the media, all giving simultaneous contradictory directives. The radical break in ambitious, modern, women's three ring lives erupts in the form of eating disorders expressing the rupture between generations of daughters and their mothers whose non-capitalist home-circumscribed lives can no longer serve as viable models.

Anorexia is an expression of women's agony as we grapple painfully, and with few supports with the contradictions crowding in on our lives. Eating disorders are a social metaphor chosen as the stage on which we as women, defined as bodies, act out on the site of our own bodies the revolutionary transformations of our age.

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