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dear.abby's picture

This article and the many many subsequent comments has made me think about a part of feminism, or at least my understanding of feminism, that hasn't come up in class so much--the "feminine" body image. This particular article (I never found the original, but only articles about it) concerns the personal response of a mother whose female 7 year old child is considered morbidly obese. Also this article was featured in the annual "shape issue" of Vogue, which may be why it attracted so much attention, and could be tagged easily as "Vogue article about fat seven year old girl" et cetera.

It appears that the overwhelming response to this particular mother's reaction is negative. Most comments cite her as narcissistic and effectively preparing her second grader for a plethora of eating disorders, and passing on her own personal psychosis.

There is a lot that could be discussed in the area of feminism related to this article but I would like to concentrate on the idea of womanhood as passed on from the women of one generation to the women of the next. I thought about this idea last semester after reading Sandra Bartky's article, Foucault, femininity, and the modernization of patriarchal power. This article and Bartky continue to make me wonder what role women play in the disciplining of female bodies, and even further how much of sexism, patriarchy, and the general oppression of women is perpetuated by women against women.

I am not sure if I aggree with all of the negative comments regarding this mother's actions, mostly because I view them as benign in the grand scheme of potential motherly "emotional abuse" (some commenters called this mother's actions "abuse" and wondered "where are the child protective services when you need them"). Now, my reaction might have more to do with the type of mother I had, and the life I shared with her which eventually led to an adolescent eating disorder among other things. So perhaps I am not the best judge of what constitutes "emotional abuse" or good mothering. Also, I do not speak to my mother...

I don't see this article as inherently problematic because it calls a seven year old "fat", I think the problem mothers face in childhood obesity is definitely a growing one, and one that has a place in a womens' magazine like Vogue. The physicality of weight allows for a visual picture of what it means to pass down or create (psychological/emotional) problems for one's children and if we pay attention to the inherited-ness of obesity we might notice the inherited-ness of other issues.