The Role Men Play in Causing Eating Disorders in Women

April 3, 2019 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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Some men play a role in causing eating disorders in women. When I first began to experiment with the behaviors that would morph into a severe battle with anorexia, my 15-year-old self had no idea I was about to be complicit in a systemic intersection between eating disorders and the patriarchy. Even as a teenager, I admired the ethos of feminism—I was drawn to independent, fierce, opinionated women, and I sought to become one myself. But I also harbored a secret, a paradox that challenged the same feminism I tried to be part of. I was determined to curate a body that mirrored cultural standards of beauty which had been impressed on females like me from the time I could remember. So with each calorie I restricted or meal I avoided, I reaffirmed the subtle power of gender inequality. I was not aware of this back then, but since I am now, I want to explore that men can play a role in causing eating disorders in women.

How the Patriarchy Can Cause Eating Disorder Behaviors

Patriarchal institutions have a deep-rooted history of normalizing the mistreatment of female bodies. Women are taught to define themselves based on their appearance. They are conditioned to measure their societal cachet in terms of how slender their frames are, how much space their bodies occupy. Small and narrow is preferable, women are instructed to believe. The more delicate they look on the outside, the easier they are to tame and control—this is how the patriarchy seeks to disarm females, and an eating disorder is just another tool to maintain that dynamic of power. Moreover, what makes this such an insidious tactic is it drives women to commodify and objectify their own bodies under the pretext of eating a healthier diet, losing five pounds, or toning that waistline. This is how men cause eating disorder behavior in women.

When Considering Eating Disorder Causes, Resisting the Patriarchy Matters

As I gave myself the permission to heal from anorexia, I learned that in order to be effective in dismantling patriarchal systems, I needed to stop centering my whole existence around the allure of a "perfect body." I had no business espousing the rhetoric of a woman's freedom to self-identify however she might choose if I was still emphatic about boxing myself into someone else's definition of beauty and femininity.

So here is what I declare instead: I am no more or less of a human whether I eat a salad or a piece of fried chicken. My worth does not fluctuate based on my size, weight, and level of fitness. This culture wants to distract women like me from caring about the real injustices and inequalities of the world by ensuring they remain preoccupied with their body insecurities. But the stronger, braver, and healthier I become through my own process of recovery, the need to expose—and ultimately, break down—this intersection between eating disorders and the patriarchy is a cause I will continue to pursue. I owe it to the millions of women and girls who suffer from a belief that an emaciated figure is the benchmark of their value.  

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2019, April 3). The Role Men Play in Causing Eating Disorders in Women, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, January 24 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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