Eating Disorders and Feminism Topic of Feb. 13 Colloquium

February 6, 2015 - 10:00am

A feminist perspective on eating disorders and their alarming prevalence in society will be examined in a Vancouver Island University (VIU) Arts and Humanities Colloquium presentation on Friday, Feb. 13.

Dr. Janis Ledwell-Hunt, a professor in the English department will present a free illustrated talk titled “Disordered Eating: How Can Feminism Help?” from 10 to 11:30 am in Malaspina Theatre (Building 310).

Ledwell-Hunt examined “the idea, and the ideal” of health in her recent doctoral dissertation, and will draw upon this work to explore how eating disorders fit within a cultural and political context.

“As a political construct, health reinforces racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, ableism, and ageism,” says Ledwell-Hunt. “Perhaps we need to find ways to think about life that don’t focus only on health. But this is incredibly difficult, especially when we’re trying to treat and cure illness.”

Feminist scholarship on eating disorders has moved away from focusing on the lone sufferers, and towards an understanding of society’s role and its cultural obsessions with weight, fitness, beauty and restraint, Ledwell-Hunt says.

"As a result, we tend to understand that anorexia and bulimia are caused and prolonged by patriarchy: women starve so that they can fit into narrow and punitive beauty ideals; women waste away because they have been taught to occupy less space; women strive to control hunger as a misguided attempt to assert autonomy over that part of themselves that never feels free from competing socio-cultural demands — the body,” she says.

Ledwell-Hunt completed a PhD in English at the University of Alberta in 2013 and is in the process of turning her dissertation into a book, tentatively entitled Anorexic Affect: Trans-Ordered Eating and Posthumanism. She has presented this work in the Netherlands, Portugal and the United States, and her work was recently featured as part of Simon Fraser University's Fat Matters public lecture series in Vancouver. 

Mark your calendars for the final presentation of the Spring Colloquium series on March 27, when professor Joy Gugeler of the Departments of Media Studies and Creative Writing presents “Firing the Canon and Hiring the Reader: How to Win the Classroom War on CanLit.” 



Shari Bishop Bowes, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

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