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Double Standard: Sociology of Jockeys and Eating Disorders

Year: 
2010
Researcher(s): 
Samantha Licata
Institution: 
Ohio Northern University
Discipline: 
Sociology

Typically speaking, eating disorders are viewed as a psychological problem caused by external social forces, however there is a double standard when a male jockey has an eating disorder as opposed to an adolescent female. Females strive to keep their weight low due to distorted views of their body and consequently applied with the stigma of being an anorexic or bulimic. On the other hand, jockeys are striving to keep their weight down in order to maintain the lowest weight possible so they can race horses. It has become a socially acceptable act in the world of horse racing to abuse one’s body by means of starvation, purging, sauna abuse, or drug abuse. This receives a double standard because this exposed phenomenon is expected out of jockeys. Teenage girls prefer to keep their disordered eating a secret; thus it is viewed as a psychological problem that requires help. Help is not an option for jockeys, because their behavior is acceptable; it is either keep the weight down or never race again. Jockeys view their behavior as an occupational necessity and they understand it must be done. Furthermore, ideologies from classical social theorists Emile Durkheim and Charles Horton Cooley can be applied to explain the nature of this behavior. Durkheim’s ideas about social facts, solidarity, and the collective conscience all contribute the group dynamic amongst jockeys with eating disorders. Additionally, Cooley’s ideas about the looking glass self and of primary groups provide an additional explanation for the behavior of the jockeys.

North Central Sociological Association; Chicago, IL