Although the analysis of male body obsession was upsetting and enlightening, I was particularly drawn/reactive to Joan Chrisler’s PMS: A Culture Bound Syndrome, probably because it related mostly to myself. As someone who has struggled with hormone imbalance issues for the past seven years, this article came as a bit of a shock. In my life, from my friends, family, loved ones – PMS has always been a way to justify my emotions, hysteria, body swelling, cramps, acne and so many other physical and emotional expressions – soon enough, of course, I was using it to justify when I was upset or bothered by something or someone. PMS became a very quick fall back if and when those around me felt that I was acting too “outrageously” or “irrationally”. That being said, (and as Chrisler points out), one cannot possibly understand PMS and its social context, without understanding the menstrual cycle – and no one had ever really explained that scientific function to me.
That being said, it was merely something that I used to justify my behaviors and thoughts.. but never something that I sought to remedy. When Chrisler began writing about the efforts that women go through to “elevate” PMS, i was shocked. Progesterone therapy which has not been approved by the FDA? Seriously? This was just so horrifying because it means that women are so intensely shamed to believe that these natural feelings and physical changes are unnatural and should cease to occur, that they go through debatably dangerous medical treatments in order to elevate these symptoms of PMS. A hysterectomy / oophorectomy??
Chrisler argued that this very drastic “remedy” and “interference” with a woman’s body would not be acceptable in other cultures, but in ours it is accepted. This also goes back to the argument of FGM versus cosmetic surgery. Why do we condemn other cultures for have cultural practices that interfere with bodies and turn a blind eye to ours? Especially when it is something that is so natural. How people and even doctors endorse PMS and even PMDD – which are completely constructed concepts, is troubling because it essentially states that our society is uncomfortable with women who are emotional (shocking, I know). We have medicalized women’s emotions so that we can justify why women should NOT have power or responsibility because they are “fundamentally irrational” – specifically at this “time of the month”. This also goes back to that media clip we watched when a male news anchor stated that “There must be some downside to having a woman president.”
Interestingly, while we box women to remain unemotional, irresponsible, and unhealthily thin, The Adonis Complex states that we are pressuring men to obsess over their muscle mass, weight control, and have the “ideal body” which is lean yet muscular. Articles such as:
have constructed “masculine” diets and work outs in order to reenforce the importance of looking a very specific way. These work out articles fail to comment on the intellectual, social and emotional impacts that this kind of pressure has on the person working on… Ugh, so many problems.