How Cultural Expectations for Femininity Influence Eating Disorders

How Cultural Expectations for Femininity Influence Eating DisordersOne of the most interesting aspects of humanity is the abundance of different cultures, each with its own identity, beliefs, values, and traditions. While there are often a great deal of positive cultural beliefs and attitudes, there are also many negative cultural expectations that can impact individuals. One of these is the cultural expectation that women look and act in prescribed ways at all times, which can cause women to develop eating disorders.

How Do Cultural Ideals Cause Eating Disorders in Women?

Different cultures define femininity differently. In some cultures, being feminine is directly tied into appearance, while in others it is linked to behaviors. Within many of these cultures, women find it increasingly challenging to uphold specific standards of femininity, and may develop an eating disorder as a result. Some of the many of expectations of femininity that can contribute to eating disorders in women include the following:

  • Specific manners – In some cultures (and different social classes) women must live up to a highly detailed set of manners. For example, in some countries (like China) women are expected to stay silent while their spouses speak for them. This type of repression can cause women to begin experiencing loss of self-worth, making them more likely to take their dissatisfaction with themselves out on their bodies through the development of an eating disorder.
  • Physical appearance – Each part of the world champions a different type of physical appearance for a woman. In the United States, this body type is slender and fit. In Africa, however, this body type is curvaceous. Women who are constantly struggling to fit in with these socially accepted body types could easily begin starving themselves to lose weight or overeat to gain more curves.
  • Gender expectations – In today’s world, the majority of cultures encourage women to join the workforce. However, many men may still be threatened by or uncomfortable with powerful women and may consciously or unconsciously seek to undermine their success. As a result, women may overeat or under eat in order to deal with career-related stress.

Women within many different cultures struggle with cultural expectations of femininity, such as upholding specific manners, maintaining an accepted appearance and overcoming sexism and obstacles in the way of their success.

Importance of Eating Disorder Treatment

It can be extremely complicated to admit to having an eating disorder, especially when cultural expectations are causing the development of these issues. However, it is vitally important for individuals struggling with anorexia, bulimia, binging and purging behaviors and/or eating disorders not otherwise specified (NOS) to get the treatment they need. By participating in behavioral therapy, as well as traditional psychotherapy, these individuals can begin uncovering how the expectations of their culture have played into their eating disorder development, and begin obtaining skills needed to overcome these associated pressures.

Do You Need Eating Disorder Treatment?

Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline right now to get the help that you deserve. Do not let the expectations of your culture threaten your wellbeing. Treat your eating disorder by calling us today.