Cover Graphic

Feminist Perspectives on Eating Disorders

Edited by Patricia Fallon, Melanie A. Katzman, and Susan C. Wooley

October 1, 1996
ISBN 9781572301825
Price: $51.00
465 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
Copyright Date: 1994

This important work illuminates the relationship between the anguish of eating disorder sufferers and the problems of ordinary women. It covers a wide variety of issues from ways in which gender may predispose women to eating disorders to the widespread cultural concerns these problems symbolize. Chapters all share three basic elements: The psychology of women is reflected in the concepts and methods described; there is an explicit commitment to political and social equality for women; and therapy is reevaluated based on an understanding of the needs of women patients and the potentially differing contributions of male and female therapists.

“An exceptionally important contribution.... A landmark work [that] deserves to be widely read and debated by professional workers and students in the field. Lucidly written and meticulously edited, its contents will undoubtedly be discussed for many years to come.”

Eating Disorders

“This an important milestone in the field....The entire book is essential reading for graduate students, researchers, faculty, professionals, and practitioners.”


“Exciting and unusual are adjectives that spring to mind when describing this book...The book is fun to read and yet at the end you are left with plenty to think about. It will be required reading for anyone interested in how social and cultural factors shape the individual.”

Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry

“Approximately 90 percent of individuals who struggle with eating disorders are women. Clearly, a volume that is dedicated to a feminist understanding of these disorders is long overdue. Drs. Fallon, Katzman, and Wooley, veteran clinicians in the area have collected a distinguished group of authors who present this perspective. The chapters are all thoughtful, rigorous, and highly readable. This is a text that should be read by all clinicians interested in this area, regardless of their theoretical orientation.”

—Craig Johnson, Ph.D., Co-Director, Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital, Eating Disorders Program, Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Tulsa

“These essays on women's troubled relationship to her body and food are of a high standard. They take as their starting point women's experience in the social, psychological, and political worlds. They express the pain, the rage, and the courage that is women's lives while their scholarship shows our strivings to create better understandings of our lives.”

—Susie Orbach, psychotherapist and writer, author of Fat is a Feminist Issue and Hunger Strike: The Anorectic's Struggle as a Metaphor of Our Age.

“In the grey stream of publications on eating disorders, this colorful book cannot be overlooked by those working with anorexic or bulimic patients. Its contents is so rich and fresh, but at the same time, provocative and even shocking, that no reader will remain 'untouched.'”

—Walter Vandereycken, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, University of Leuven, Belgium

“The editors offer a thought-provoking and insightful overview of feminist perspectives and one rich with clinical implications. The theoretical concepts and technical issues are effectively presented, making this indispensable reading for anyone undertaking work with eating disorder patients.”

—Michael Strober, Ph.D., Director, UCLA Eating Disorders Program and Editor, International Journal of Eating Disorders

“This is a major work. A timely work. A huge contribution. A labor of both love and anger. These authors together affirm the rediscovery that life is not gender-neutral at all. Whether it has to be gender antagonistic remains an unsettled issue. This distinguished group of authors cover the gamut of important material concerning eating disorders from history, sociocultural development, moral indictment, ironic commentary, treatment, and prevention. Virtually every emotion is aroused by this volume. Some wonderfully outrageous chapters are included such as 'The Female Therapist as Outlaw'. 'Alternatives in Obesity Treatment Beside Dieting' fills a necessary void. It is time to accept diversity in weights as we do diversity in almost every other area of life. This is a serious and monumental work, but that the same time eminently readable, almost a page-turner. Agree with it. Disagree with it. Love it. Hate it. Feel justified. Feel guilty. But read it.”

—Arnold E. Andersen, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, University of Iowa

“An excellent, holistic approach to a multi-faceted issue.”

—Rena Pallof, John F. Kennedy University, Graduate School for Holistic Studies, Orinda, CA; Course: Psychology of Nutrition

“A thorough and clear statement of what constitutes feminist approaches to eating disorders.”

—Janet L. Etzi, Immaculata College

Table of Contents

Introduction, S.C. Wooley, Fallon, and Katzman


1. Too "Close to the Bone": The Historical Context for Women's Obsession with Slenderness, Seid

2. ...And Man Created "Woman": Representations of Women's Bodies in Western Culture, O.W. Wooley

3. "I'll Die for the Revolution But Don't Ask Me Not to Diet": Feminism and the Continuing Stigmatization of Obesity, Rothblum

4. Faces of Female Discontent: Depression, Disordered Eating, and Changing Gender Roles, Perlick and Silverstein

5. Hunger, Wolf


6. Four Generations of Women: Our Bodies and Lives, Brigman

7. When Reproductive and Productive Worlds Meet: Collision or Growth?, Katzman

8. Imagining Ourselves Whole: A Feminist Approach to Treating Body Image Disorders, Hutchinson


9. Sexual Abuse and Eating Disorders: The Concealed Debate, S.C. Wooley

10. Alternatives in Obesity Treatment: Focusing on Health for Fat Women, Burgard and Lyons

11. A Collaborative Approach to the Use of Medication, Raymond, Mitchell, Fallon, and Katzman

12. Feminist Inpatient Treatment for Eating Disorders: An Oxymoron?, Sesan

13. Mothers, Daughters, and Eating Disorders: Honoring the Mother-Daughter Relationship, Rabinor

14. "Hi, I'm Jane: I'm a Compulsive Overeater," van Wormer


15. Conflicts of Body and Image: Female Adolescents, Desire, and the No-Body Body, Tolman and Debold

16. The Female Therapist as Outlaw, S.C. Wooley

17. The Journey of Recovery: Dimensions of Change, Peters and Fallon

18. Food, Bodies, and Growing Up Female: Childhood Lessons about Culture, Race, and Class, Thompson


19. The Politics of Prevention, Steiner-Adair

20. Still Killing Us Softly: Advertising and the Obsession with Thinness, Kilbourne

21. Toward a New Model for the Prevention of Eating Disorders, Shisslak and Crago

22. A Feminist Agenda for Psychological Research on Eating Disorders, Striegel-Moore.

About the Editors

Patricia Fallon, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice and a clinical faculty member, University of Washington, Seattle. She serves on the editorial board of Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention and speaks frequently at conferences on feminist theory and treatment of eating disorders. She is co-author of Bulimia: A Systems Approach to Treatment and author of articles in the areas of eating disorders, family therapy, and abuse.

Melanie A. Katzman, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City and serves on the faculty of New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. She is on the editorial board of Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention and lectures frequently to national audiences. The author of articles and book chapters on eating disorders, women's issues, and group therapy, she is the co-author of two books, Treating Bulimia: Psycho-Educational Approach and You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat It Too.

Susan C. Wooley, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology and Co-founder and Co-Director of the Eating Disorders Clinic in the Psychiatry Department, University of Cincinnati Medical College. Widely published in the fields of obesity, eating disorders, and body image, she is especially noted for her feminist orientation to these topics. A consulting editor to a number of journals, who serves on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Eating Disorders and Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention, she is a frequent presenter at national conferences and is currently nearing completion of her own book, Screaming in a Different Language.


Clinicians, researchers, and students of psychology, psychiatry, nursing, and social work, as well as other readers interested in women's health issues. It can also serve as a primary text in courses dealing with eating disorders and the psychology of women, and as supplementary reading in women's studies courses.

Course Use

May serve as a primary text in courses dealing with eating disorders and the psychology of women, and as supplementary reading in women's studies courses.