A Hunger so Wide and so Deep

A Hunger so Wide and so Deep: A Multiracial View of Women’s Eating Problems

Becky W. Thompson
Copyright Date: 1994
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 176
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.cttts6ds
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  • Book Info
    A Hunger so Wide and so Deep
    Book Description:

    Based on in-depth life history interviews with African-American, Latina, and white women-both lesbian and heterosexual-this book chronicles the effects of racism, sexism, acculturation, and sexual abuse on women’s bodies and eating patterns. By demonstrating how these girls and women use eating to “make a way outa no way,” A Hunger So Wide and So Deep dispels popular stereotypes of anorexia and bulimia as symptoms of vanity and stresses the risks of mislabeling what is often a way of coping with society’s own disorders.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8586-8
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Making “a Way outa No Way”
    (pp. 1-26)

    Compulsive eating, bulimia, and anorexia have taken on complicated symbolic significance in late twentieth-century culture in the United States.¹ Those suffering from eating problems invariably are thought to be young, middle- to upper-class, heterosexual white women desperately trying to mold their figures to standards created by advertisers and clothing designers. The most popular terminology used to describe these problems is “eating disorder,” which suggests that some psychological frailty or inadequacy is the agent of the illness. In short, those suffering from eating problems are thought to be decadent, self-absorbed, and heavily implicated in their own troubles. Such conceptions are misguided,...

  5. 2 Childhood Lessons: Culture, Race, Class, and Sexuality
    (pp. 27-45)

    If there is one story that is an integral part of the folklore of growing up female, it is the chronicle of the onset of menstruation. These accounts are often embarrassing—a thirteen-year-old girl has to ask her father to tell her what to do, another is sure that people can tell from her face what is going on in her body—and many, like that of the young teenager who gets a red cake with red candles from her mother to celebrate her first period, are funny. Usually told only in the company of other women, these stories of...

  6. 3 Ashes Thrown up in the Air
    (pp. 46-68)

    Childhood sexual abuse is a devastating crime that is capable of forever changing children’s relationships to their bodies and the world. Nearly 8 million adults in the United States—more than the population of the entire state of New Jersey—were sexually abused as children.¹ At least one out of four girls and one out of seven boys are sexually abused, most often by a man they know and trust.² Although public awareness of sexual abuse has increased in the past ten years—largely as a consequence of feminist organizing and the courage of thousands of survivors—common perceptions of...

  7. 4 Hungry and Hurting
    (pp. 69-95)

    What girls grow up thinking is acceptable—how they can move, who they can play with, who they can touch, what they can eat and wear, and who they can trust—is determined as much by their femaleness as by their race, class, and sexuality. Understanding this offers essential clues about why many girls grow up distrusting their bodies and their appetites and why, when their bodies are belittled and manipulated, food often becomes their drug of choice. The women I interviewed not only draw significant connections between sexual abuse and eating problems, they also link these problems to several...

  8. 5 A Thousand Hungers
    (pp. 96-106)

    The connection between trauma and eating problems raises a key question: Why food? Why do women turn to food rather than some other way of coping? A common thread running through the stories of the women I interviewed is the power of food to buffer pain. Women across race, class, and sexuality began to diet or to binge to help them numb difficult emotions—rage, anger, loneliness, anxiety, fear. Like liquor, bingeing sedates, lessens anxiety, and induces sleep.² Describing the effects of bingeing, the women said it “put me back to sleep after a nightmare,” “made me numb out,” “helped...

  9. 6 In the Mourning There Is Light
    (pp. 107-128)

    A holistic healing process—involving the mind, body, and spirit—draws on innovative and creative strategies. The healing methods developed by the women I interviewed reflect tenacity and a willingness to recreate what was injured or destroyed by trauma. Healing mirrored—was the reverse of—the trauma, a discovery of aspects of themselves long lost or hidden from view. Only a few sought medical or therapeutic help; many of their strategies are not considered in medical and psychological scholarship on eating problems.³ Their insights have important implications for future treatment and prevention.

    The diversity of backgrounds and the range of...

  10. Biographical Sketches
    (pp. 129-136)

    All of the names are pseudonyms. In order to protect the women’s anonymity, some details have been changed or intentionally left vague.

    Antonia is a thirty-five-year-old white Italian-American lesbian who grew up in West Virginia in a working-class Catholic family with her mother, father, two sisters, and several of her extended family. She began to eat compulsively when she was four years old; she now believes this was a response to incest. Her bingeing as a child was exacerbated by being a cultural outsider (an Italian-American growing up in a WASP town) and the humiliation she endured as a chunky...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 137-156)
  12. Index
    (pp. 157-162)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 163-163)