In Summary
  • Girls as young as six were being conditioned to think about cosmetic surgery, she added, with a host of industries fuelling and profiting from body insecurity.
  • Faced with the reality of modern life, many women were turning inward, obsessed with diet and fitness or embracing being overweight as a sign of rebellion.
  • Orbach, 72, said the inevitable outcome was the creation of a society where women would divert their energy and focus inward, rather than trying to change the world.

Girls and young women are under more pressure than ever to achieve the perfect body in an oppressive social media-driven world that could never have been imagined by 1970s feminists, says psychoanalyst and bestselling author Susie Orbach.

Forty years after the publication of her seminal book Fat is a Feminist Issue, the British writer -- who was once Princess Diana's therapist -- said women were commodifying their bodies as they tried to conform to false images peddled by online beauty influencers.

Girls as young as six were being conditioned to think about cosmetic surgery, she added, with a host of industries fuelling and profiting from body insecurity.

Faced with the reality of modern life, many women were turning inward, obsessed with diet and fitness or embracing being overweight as a sign of rebellion.

"It's much, much worse than we ever envisioned," Orbach told AFP on the sidelines of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival, where she was speaking about her new book In Therapy: How Conversations with Psychotherapists Really Work.

Orbach has recently been involved in a year-long international campaign to force Apple, Google and Amazon to remove cosmetic surgery apps targeting primary school-aged girls, in which cartoon-style characters can be modified with procedures such as liposuction.

"This is not just a problem related to girls and women, and it's very, very profitable if you can destabilise people's bodies," she said. "There are all kinds of industries both creating and feeding off these insecurities."

SELF-FOCUSED

Orbach, 72, said the inevitable outcome was the creation of a society where women would divert their energy and focus inward, rather than trying to change the world.

"We're so self-focused now, we produce our bodies, rather than live from them. Your body is your product."

She added: "If you just dropped in on any conversation, the amount of mental space that people take up with what they're eating, what they're not eating, their yoga routine, is expressive of the level of distress in our society.

"It's not about contribution, it's about how I manage this horror I'm personally living with."

Orbach has spoken about the liberation women felt from the late 1960s when they began to challenge beauty pageant objectification and rebel against body expectations.

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