An esteemed psychologist examines how cultural forces have conspired to bring about a crisis in the way we experience our bodies
Noted psychoanalyst and feminist thinker Orbach, author of The Impossibility of Sex, Fat is a Feminist Issue and once-counselor to Princess Diana, takes a critical look at the modern notion that "biology need no longer be destiny." Rather than liberating individuals, Orbach contends that this has only made the body another competitive realm for personal achievement: "The individual is now deemed accountable for his or her body and judged by it." This "obsessive cultural focus" leads to a host of psychological problems, making "body anxiety" as fundamental a threat to the modern psyche as emotional anxiety (leading to self harm, obesity, anorexia, etc.). Body anxiety has also driven the beauty industry to become a $160 billion, fully-globalized industry with customers from the U.S., U.K. and other advanced sector economies traveling abroad for discount reconstruction (Nose jobs in Tehran, eye surgery in Asia). Orbach provides a rich, nuanced context for the present moment, looking through time and across cultures at (among other topics) child rearing regimes, body-shaping techniques (tattoos, bound feet) and standard mechanical activities like walking. Orbach makes a powerful case that, because people today have been seduced by a one-size-fits all Western (celebrity) body image, we deprive ourselves-body, mind and soul-of the body's most simple pleasures and rewards, up to and including sexual intimacy.
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