Today, msnbc.com reports that anorexia is worse when it happens to men. Gee, where have we heard this one before? Everything is always worse when it happens to men, especially things that are dehumanizing and degrading. Because boys and men aren’t used to being dehumanized and degraded, so when this happens to them, there’s a plus-one: the event — whatever it is — conflicts with their gender role as men. Because masculinity isn’t dependent and built on dehumanization and degradation. Unlike women’s feminine gender role, which is.
From the article:
The assumption that anorexia can only affect girls and women not only increases the stigma for young men fighting the disease, but it also means that they are often too ashamed to seek help. That leads many to become even sicker than their female counterparts.
See what they did there? Anorexia, when it happens to women, is “X”; when it happens to men, it’s “X+1”. As the language of “shame” and “stigma” indicates, the conflict with the masculine gender role is the plus-one, and it’s apparently vewy vewy traumatic in itself, not to mention having something of a snowball effect which is certainly men’s fault, but we are somehow left with the impression that women are to blame for the flaws in the male medical machine and men’s safety net, which they built to benefit themselves, at women’s expense.
So while everyone else is busy pandering to the poor, poor boys and men who are unfortunate enough to have been degraded and dehumanized for what is probably the first and only time in their lives, and crying about how these things challenge the masculine gender role, the rest of us are left to ask ourselves, how and why are anorexia behaviors, symptoms and treatment consistent with and supportive of women’s gender role, and what does this reveal?
Well, stupidity is said to be consistent with women’s gender role, and this theme is always running just below the surface in mainstream reporting on eating disorders, is it not? How stupid would one have to be, the subtext inquires, to starve yourself to death when there is no shortage of food, and everyone knows that human beings need to eat to live?
And self-care is not said to be consistent with women’s gender role: we are always expected to put everyone else first, and to not care for or about ourselves, at all. So, when we neglect our own wellbeing to the point that we are at serious risk of dying from it, women’s gender role is supported, not challenged.
And self-hatred is completely consistent with the feminine gender role, no matter how it’s expressed. Self-deprecating humor (or finding misogynist humor funny), shitting on other women and destroying feminist groups and projects from the inside, and internalizing hateful media images aimed at women specifically are consistent with femininity, and the feminine gender role. Femininity is supported by self-hatred and internalized misogyny, it’s not challenged.
And being a patient, a sickly person in need of medical intervention is consistent with women’s gender role. Girls and women are said to be defective and inadequate males, where men are the default humans always. Being sickly and dependent on the male medical machine, when you are as young and healthy as you are ever going to be, is women’s role, not men’s. That’s why we have gynecology! Get with the program, self-starving males! You are making this all too obvious.
And I’ve probably missed some, but you get the picture. Think of all the qualities and behaviors anorexia embodies, and understand that all of them are consistent with women’s (made-up, patriarchy-mandated and enforced) gender role, and understand that they are supportive of women’s gender role, because these things are what femininity is. These things are not what masculinity is. And *that’s* why we see this language identifying and addressing the ways masculinity challenged, when these things happen to men. It’s because men are human, dammit, and they expect to be regarded as such. It’s definitely *not* because poor teh menz. Not even when they can’t get a bed in an all-female in-patient eating-disorder treatment center. No, it’s not.