To live in America is like living in a world where the dynasties of fast-food companies and advertisements have changed the mentality of people. Particularly, most Americans tend to be driven to many displays shown on marketing billboards and media ads. In contrasting two essays from three different authors, Susie Orbach writes about the reality that many women face with problems of obesity, overweight, social roles, and sex-stereotypes in the US. On the other hand, collaborating together, Carrie Freeman and Debra Merskin write about the surprising connection that advertisements associate meat with men, they present evidences on how media ads portray men and how gender-roles have played an important part in the culture of America.
In “Fat is a Feminist Issue” by Susie Orbach, the author writes in extend to the main problem that women face with overweight in America, how it has become a serious issue in the topic of obesity, and the typical “sex-role stereotypes” differences that exist today (449). Manipulated by media ads and the pressure on women to pursue the ideal physical and beauty appearance, Orbach claims that women have been the target of a “ten billion dollar industry [that] waits to remold bodies to the latest fashion” year after year. (451)
Moreover, from a feminist perspective, Orbach also focuses on social aspects that women play in society. She explains: the relegation of women to the social roles of wife and mother has several significant consequences that contribute to the problem of fat (450). The social roles have played an important role in the American culture, especially in women where it’s always the classic stay home mom, taking care of kids and the husband being the only provider. Under these circumstances, perhaps, women don’t feel the necessity to present an ideal physical image once they are married, or to what she claims it’s a “response to the inequality of sexes” where women feel less valuable and they express some type of rebellion towards the stereotypes that society has created of “being fat” or impulsive eating disorder. (448-49)
In addition to this, Orbach gives us some background history on fashion and how media ads affected the thinking of those young ladies who lived in the 60’s and 70’s, where television started to be a mainstream along with magazines and radio. Orbach writes that in the 60’s, there were only three ways to “feel acceptable” within one’s society: to be skinny, flat chested and straight hair (451). She explained some of the ways that these women obtained such image “by near starvation, binding one’s breast and by ironing one’s hair” (451). By the 70’s the fashion was the opposite. Clearly, this statement clarifies the historical example of the classic American culture, slammed by media ads in which women are bombarded with new fashion styles and new trends every year. The fact of the matter is that Orbach claims that being fat is a “culturally defined experience of womanhood” (449), however, she calls society to make a change in this issue in which women are constantly fighting a never ending war of overweight and obesity.
In comparison to Susie Orbach’s essay; “Having It His Way” written by Carrie Packwood Freeman and Debra Merskin, the authors also focuses on the magnitude of media ads that impact specifically men and their ego in society. Freeman and Merskin argue that fast-food advertisements portray eating meat as an important part of masculine behavior and male bonding. In contrast to what Orbach says about sex-role stereotyping and how women are isolated by society based on their looks, Freeman and Merskin make their point about men from a different perspective saying: the masculine identity of man is defined by meat-eating is still celebrated by media in the twenty-first century, particularly in fast-food advertisements (452).
In the same way, from two feminist perspectives, Freeman and Merskin talk about social roles just like Orbach, but they point out different periods of time. For instance, Freeman and Merskin affirm that males have been the dominant sex throughout history and that there is a biological connection between males and nature where the males are the traditional “hunters” and the females are the “gathers”. In association to Orbach’s essay about women’s role as mother and wife, Freeman and Merskin assert in almost the same direction saying that social roles are determined by sex-genders (455). To prove their theory, they gathered anthropological evidences suggesting that “though most women also eat meat, females are more closely associated with cultivations and consumption of plan-based foods, whereas males are more heavily associated with the killing, grilling and consuming of animals” (Freeman & Merskin 455).
In relationship to Orbach’s historical examples, Freeman and Merskin use more wide-ranging evidences. They researched 17 different television ads to analyze the association of meat with masculinity. Contrasting Orbach’s essay that pressured women to look thinner, these 17 ads promoted bad eating habits and fast-food, targeting men “including: location, music, slogans, narration, colors gender roles, gender relations, demographics, bodily appearance, power level by gender, violent acts, food types and descriptions, relationship between food and gender”. These ads were described as “Coding Masculinity” where they analyzed every detail of the ad and learned how in specific these ads had in common with masculinity and how they affected gender relationships. (Freeman & Merskin 462- 465)
Although essayist Susie Orbach, Carrie Freeman and Debra Merskin focus in gender and food choices, they differ in tone, rhetorical strategies and use of evidences. My feelings on the issue are mixed, I don’t support Orbach because I don’t really think that overweight it’s a “feminist issue” but I think it’s a national and cultural issue that’s been around for many years. I don’t think we can really blame the eater but I think we should blame our previous generations for introducing us to those types of foods. On the other hand, I find Freeman and Merkin’s argument about meat being associated with men to be true because I think it’s something natural that males are born with, it’s like a natural instinct that comes from the inside to be the provider and “hunter” for our families.
Orbach, Susie. “Fat Is a Feminist Issue”. They Say/I Say With Readings.
Gerald Graff, Cathy Berkenstein, Russel Durts, eds. New York; W.W. Norton & Company, 2012. 448-452. Print Freeman, Carrie, Merskin, Debra. “Having It His Way”. They Say/I Say With Readings. Gerald Graff, Cathy Berkenstein, Russel Durts, eds. New York; W.W. Norton & Company, 2012. 454-473. Print