Bordo, Susan, and . Anorexia Nervosa: Psychopathology as the Crystallization of Culture

1993, In her Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Diversifying Syllabi: Bordo claims that the recent increase in women with Anorexia is a symptom of the “central ills” of our culture. Bordo discusses three sources of this “cultural illness” which leads to anorexia: the dualist axis, the control axis, and the gender/power axis. She spends the bulk of the paper discussing each “axis” or problematic component of society which is reflected back to us in the increasing diagnosis of anorexia. These “psychopathogolgies” are expressions of the culture, she claims.

Comment: This text is most readily applicable in teaching feminist theory and social philosophy. However, it is also very useful in at least three other contexts: (1) as a critical approach to mind-body dualism, especially when teaching on Descartes or Plato's Phaedo; (2) in teaching on the ethics of mental illness and the anti-psychiatry movement, as an example of socially constructed disorders; and (3) more broadly in teaching on personal and collective moral responsibility.