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Book Review: Appetites: Why women want

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January 09, 2015 by Treina Aronson

Every once and awhile I peruse my local thrift stores in search of literary gems. Recently, I took a little romp down the musty smelling aisles to see what I could find. Prompted by the search to find a 5th book for my buy 4 get one free coupon, I found my newest treasure: Appetites: Why Women Want by Caroline Knapp.

At the onset this book is about eating disorders. Upon further inspection the reader begins to understand this book encompasses much more than the topic of a “disorder”. Part sociological and cultural critique, part memoire, with brave honesty and a remarkable depth of insight, author Caroline Knapp unravels the complexity of women’s desires. It’s not so much that women’s desires are complex, it is more the realizing, the exercising of desires which confounds and escapes us.

What do you really want? What do you really need? What in fact do you desire? Simple questions, yet for most of the women I sit with these are the questions which are toughest to answer. “Appetite” gives us an image of how women have answered these questions; an image of an eating disorder – the ultimate way to deny ‘need’ by denying the most basic of needs – sustenance. To hold desire and to be denied; to hold desire and to be ridiculed, chastised, or ignored leads us toward denial that we even hold a concept of desire at all. In the most severe denial of desire is to answer “I have none.” Eating disorders are one way to attempt to reconcile desires gone unrealized. Alcohol and drugs numb us out to the pangs of desire. Shopping beyond our means gives a false sense of realizing desire. Assuming the role of ‘superwoman’ produces a fatigue in which there is no room left to even consider desire. These are other ways women attempt to reconcile unmet desire. Stamp it out, numb it out, deny it out.

Now I ask: How would things be different if we proudly announced our desires…and then demanded they be met? Met not by transient disguised desire in moments of consumer bliss or a good hair day, but real authentic actualization of desire; how would this change our personal lives, the lives of our family, of our community?

Tags: addiction, appetites, desire, eating disorders, needs, wants, women, women's issues,