‘Blindness to the obvious’?: Treatment experiences and feminist approaches to eating disorders

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Eating disorders (EDs) are now often approached as biopsychosocial problems, but the social or cultural aspects of the equation are often marginalised in treatment - relegated to mere contributory or facilitating factors. In contrast, feminist and socio-cultural approaches are primarily concerned with the relationship between EDs and the social/ cultural construction of gender. Yet although such approaches emerged directly from the work of feminist therapists, the feminist scholarship has increasingly observed, critiqued and challenged the biomedical model from a scholarly distance. As such, this article draws upon data from 15 semi-structured interviews with women in the UK context who have experience of anorexia and/or bulimia in order to explore a series of interlocking themes concerning the relationship between gender identity and treatment. In engaging the women in debate about the feminist approaches (something which has been absent from previous feminist work), the article explores how gender featured in their own understandings of their problem, and the ways in which it was - or rather wasn’t - addressed in treatment. The article also explores the women’s evaluations of the feminist discourse, and their discussions of how it might be implemented within therapeutic and clinical contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)464-486
Number of pages25
JournalFeminism and Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date7 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • Eating disorders
  • Anorexia
  • Bulimia
  • Feminism
  • Treatment

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