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Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain, Book Review Example

Pages: 3

Words: 755

Book Review

A recent memoir written by Portia de Rossi, entitled, “Unbearable Lightness: a Story of Loss and Gain”, chronicles the actress’ struggle with anorexia and bulimia, to say nothing of the additional stigma of being a closeted gay woman in Hollywood.  The extreme pressures she felt to be thin enough caused her weight to plummet down to 80 pounds, almost killing her at some points, yet she acknowledges that what she came to love the most was her anorexia, finding it more fulfilling than any human relationship in which she had been engaged.  After writing the book, Ms. De Rossi has appeared on several talk shows, most notably the Oprah Winfrey show, where she revealed details about her illness, including the benefits that came with it such as the feeling of power and of being in control for the first time.  The television interview, as well as the book itself, vividly portray the incredibly devastating toll that body image can present in particular for white females in our culture (de Rossi, The 82 Pound Actress: Portia de Rossi and the Secret That Nearly Killed Her, 2010.)

In our culture, women rather than men are expected to be thin, which equals glamorous.  Our obsession with being thin dates far back, as the Duchess of Windsor once remarked that no woman can ever be “too rich or too thin.” In the United States, fear of fat dominates in most sections of our culture; the weight loss, medical, and public relations industries have a tremendous influence on women across racial and ethnic boundaries.  The messages from all these sources insist that being white and thin is beautiful and that being overweight is a serious problem that needs to be corrected (Body Image, n.d.) However, some racial or ethnic groups appreciate larger women.  Frequently, Hawaiians consider large women to be very attractive, and studies reveal that African-American women are able to feel more satisfaction with their bodies when they are overweight and are less obsessed with dieting, body size, and weight fluctuations than white women seem to be.

In her memoir, de Rossi describes three themes that played major roles in her becoming anorexic: being the child of a single mother who provided a loving but lonely childhood, her constant doubts about her appearance and the additional complicating struggle about being homosexual.  A frightening aspect of the dynamic was in inner voice that would constantly and cruelly chastise her every time she would ingest any food at all.  It was the first voice that she would hear when she woke up each morning: “What did you eat last night?” (Daunt, 2010.)

It is vital to make an effort to change the cultural values that are underlying body image issues and in order to do so, women need to concentrate on the elements that create divisions between women such as racism, sexism, ageism, and the national obsession with size and body type.  The goal is to create a society in which women can make their own choices about appearance rather than being influenced by the judgment of others.  In order to accomplish change, women need to accept all other women, regardless of body size and shape.  The result of such a change would allow women to value the lives of all other women, and two extinguish the hatred and ridicule vented against women who don’t fit the physical ideal; doing so would eliminate the concept of “not fitting in” which does so much damage to self image.  Creating such a social-change effort that connects all women would allow females to celebrate and take pleasure in their physical selves.  The attitudes that make women despise their own bodies run deep, and they are obstacles to their relationships with others, both men and women.  Ms. de  Rossi’s book is the clearest example of how the never ending discontent and dissatisfaction with body image sabotaged her almost to the point of death, and it was only after she was able to work on detaching from this obsession that she was able to find love both towards herself and in a committed, loving relationship with her significant other.

References

Body Image. (n.d.). Retrieved February 7, 2010, from Feminist.com: http://www.feminist.com/resources/ourbodies/body.html

Daunt, T. (2010, November 2). Book Review: Unbearable Lightness: A Story Of Loss and Gain. Retrieved February 7, 2011, from Los Angeles Times.: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/nov/02/entertainment/la-et-portia-de-rossi-20101102

Rossi, P. d. (2010, November 1). The 82 Pound Actress: Portia de Rossi and the Secret That Nearly Killed Her. (O. Winfrey, Interviewer)

Rossi, P. d. (2010). Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain.. Cammeray, Australia: Simon and Schuster.

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