Dieting and anorexia nervosa are part of a folklore surrounding our everyday attitudes to food and eating. Women who diet to the extreme are expressing their subjectivity in a way that clearly shows how women's embodiment and eating behaviour reinforce gender role stereotypes. Using anorexia nervosa as an example, Matra Robertson explores how aspects of women's lives and behaviour are socially constructed. Her history of anorexia nervosa is a history of eating, dieting and gender relations. Critically drawing on the work of such theorists as Foucault, Lacan and Irigaray, she maps in a new way the process by which anorexia nervosa is organized by the medical profession and lay folklore. "Starving in the silences" explores the feminist and medical responses to anorexia and the issues that emerge. First, how does the label anorexia nervosa make the experience of self-starving explicable or meaningful to the starver? Secondly, what does anorexia nervosa tell us about the experience and meaning of feminity in our culture and our subconscious?
By drawing on the work of Foucault, Lacan and Irigaray, and her own experience in working with women diagnosed as anorexic, Matra Robertson's unique achievement is to shed the layers (as the self-starver sheds layers in search of herself) of a discourse which has created anorexia nervosa and which its sufferers now inhabit. "Matra Robertson is a Health Professional who recently completed her postgraduate research on eating disorders at the University of Sydney. She has been active in feminist politics, women's health and the provision of alternative health services in Australia for many years, and has acted as a consultant to women's health centres, women's refuges, feminist psychotherapists, counsellors and educators. She writes on feminist politics, women's health and the provision of alternative health services.".