Gender Stereotyping and Eating Disorders

Before I continue on with this final post of Psych 13, I just want to say that I have found this course to be very engaging and the concepts easy to apply to everyday life! I know summertime always seems to fly by, but the last six weeks have really gone by in the blink of an eye. I can definitely say that I am looking forward to the psychology courses that I will take in the future as I progress through my college career. In fact, this was my first ever college-level course (I will officially be a Freshman next month) and this course was a great way to kick it off!

My inspiration for this week’s post is based off of the Buzzed article linked in the most recent post on our class blog.

Particularly, I find number 11 on the list (with the girls’ onesie displaying the words “I hate my thighs”) very troubling. This message pretty much shows an EXPECTATION that most girls will grow up to loathe their bodies, when most of the problem is from such environmental factors! Sure, there can be a link be a genetic link for eating disorders within families, but they can be reasonably attributed to external forces within society. These forces, especially due to the rise of social media, can include photoshopped “fitspiration” pictures, triggering sayings, bullying about one’s weight/appearance, etc. The onesie basically normalizes this serious mental condition and makes a joke about the seriousness of it.

The stereotype here (that most young women deal with eating disorders) has sadly been true for so many women that now society pretty much projects the same beliefs and behaviors onto others, almost unconsciously. In some ways it is done consciously though, in the way in which clothes are marketed and models are so highly praised for their unattainable looks. Overall, idealized body images for women do go in cycles, but their will always be a “gold standard” to try to achieve at any time period. Stereotypes about women and eating disorders don’t always hold true, but unfortunately they commonly are–thanks to societal influences! A main issue with this stereotype, however, is that since this issue is so prevalent, many people don’t get help. I understand that the disorder itself is partially to blame for this, but since so many of one’s peers deal with the same feelings, a person may not think of the disorder (and its terrible health consequences) as “such a big deal”.

Another stereotype that relates to eating disorders is that it only effects women and rarely ever men. But in fact, there are many cases (though historically not reported nearly as much) in which men fall victim to eating disorders as well. Just as women try to be as thin and toned as possible, men may feel the need to be as “ripped” and muscular and strong as possible. Men aren’t immune from stereotypes after all. Men are generally expected to be tall and lean and athletic and “better” than others in many ways, with looks being no exception. Especially since men are expected to conceal their emotions and not be so forthcoming with their struggles, many don’t get the medical help their need to deal with their eating disorders. Yet another example of how stereotypes are harmful.

Overall, stereotypes are simply a menace to their victims’ mental and physical well-being.

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