Beyond body image: The integration of feminist and transcultural theories in the understanding of self starvation




The present study represents an intersection between cross-cultural theorizing and feminist scholarship. It is an attempt to provoke as well as augment prevailing biomedical models that esteem fear of fatness as the primary motivation for voluntary starvation in anorexic women. Method: Recent studies of eating disturbance in both Eastern and Western societies are invoked to demonstrate the ways in which women straddling two worlds, be it generational, work-family, cultural, or traditional and modern, may employ food denial as an instrumental means of negotiating the transition, disconnection, and oppression that they uniformly endure. Results: A feminist/transcultural interpretation of the literature suggests that by construing anorexia nervosa as a body image disorder or Western culture-bound syndrome, extant models miss the broader contexts and varied meanings of food refusal. Discussion: The implications of cross-disciplinary perspectives for theory building and treatment are discussed, acknowledging not only the gendered nature of eating disorders but their embodiment of power differentials as well. © 1997 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Eat Disord 22:385–394, 1997.