Skinny Bitching

Last week I was on a radio program to discuss Skinny Bitch, the vegan/animal rights manifesto wrapped in chick-lit veneer that became a bestseller after Posh Spice was photographed holding it.

posh spice

Yep, thanks largely to this photo, Skinny Bitch has become one of the only books with an uncompromising animal rights message to break into mainstream culture.

And with its success has come a slew of criticism – primarily focused on the mean-spirited tone and relentless focus on becoming skinny. The endless chastizing, critics say, mirrors the self-hatred and inner judgment many people – especially girls and women – already experience when it comes to food and eating.

I get it. I'm intimately familiar with eating disorders and the endless inner judgments when it comes to food choices. The problem is, that's not the whole story. We also live in a culture that breeds outright denial and refusal when it comes to examining our food and eating choices in a broader context, which makes dismissing books that confront people with politicizing their food choices all too easy.

Skinny Bitch sucks on many levels – I'm not denying that. But there aren't a lot of books out there that even attempt to break through the misinformation foisted upon us by the food industry. And for that, I give authors Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin credit.

 

 

Comments

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Great post - I agree. Personally (as a vegan skinny bitch [skinny due largely to genetics]), when reading this book, I found it somewhat delightful in the very beginning, infuriating towards the middle, but somewhat redeeming by the end. I agree it's problematic on several levels, but I think any no-holds-barred critique of food-industry dogma deserves some credit, especially for singling out caffeine early on, which the most pervasive and unregulated drug in our [USA] culture, perhaps in the world. I'm not opposed to drugs in moderation, but I am opposed to the myth of daily caffeine intake as benign/healthy.

As for the criticisms that it is a "sneak attack," I can see that, but in terms of the implied "unfairness," there's a complete absence [in mainstream media] of discussion about where products come from (how they're made, who/what is getting hurt or underpaid in their production/transport), especially in terms of food products. And if sneak attack is the only way to bring facts about factory farming to the discussion, then I say that's what is needed. As Rory said in the first article referenced, how can anyone not be mad that they're cutting off living chicken's beaks just to increase profit margins?

As for the criticisms comparing the tone to the eating disorder mindset, I can empathize (I'm very familiar with eating disorders as well) - there are similarities in overall criticism and super-focus on the what/how, but I wonder if the people making those comparisons really read the entire book, which I didn't find especially eating disorder-friendly (especially nixing caffeine & aspartame, traditional close friends of anorexia [energy with minimal calories]). I really don't think we want to dismiss anything critical of food choices out of hand. How we treat our bodies (including our food choices, activities and our self-image/mindset) can have enormous impact on our lives. Yes, we need more compassionate awareness of the diversity of body types, but no, we shouldn't buy into food industry "pushing" of un-healthy chemicals (or cruel practices).

That said, one of my biggest criticisms is that the book promotes meat and dairy replica-substitutes, most of which are chock full of chemicals (though they may be ethically superior, their health-superiority is dubious at best), just check out the ingredient lists at the supermarket.

The endless chastizing,

The endless chastizing, critics say, mirrors the self-hatred and inner judgment many people – especially girls and women – already experience when it comes to food and eating Ägypten