In “The Hunger Artist” by Kafka, the willing starvation of a man is viewed by outside persons as a noble form of entertainment. Instead of voicing concern at the emaciation of a man making his livelihood by abusing his body, the crowds observe and even mock him, implying that his fasting is an acceptable behavior and even one to be rejoiced rather than condemned. Had the character of the hunger artist been a woman, the story would have read differently to a modern-day audience, particularly with the emphasis placed upon women and eating disorders in modern society.
On principle and as a reader, I would have displayed a greater internal outrage had the character been a woman. Not only because of the differing views the crowds would undoubtedly portray, but also because of the prevalence and publicized incidences of eating disorders amongst women. The control that the hunger artist attempts to inflict upon his life by restricting his food intake is one that would be much more disturbing had he been a woman due to my bias as a reader. Because female anorexia permeates the media, as a reader, I would have been more likely to view the hunger artist’s “craft” as a form of eating disorder rather than an art of self-control. As Kafka illustrates, one of the main drives of the hunger artist’s behavior is to prove to the spectators that what he is doing is right in every sense of the word; he becomes irritated when he assumes that they believe that he is sneaking food and later even apologizes for his emphasis upon his desire for the crowds to admire him for his masochistic actions, ” “I always wanted you to admire my fasting.” Additionally, the way his death was treated, although horrendous regardless of his sex, would have been much more profound had he been a women. The victimization of the hunger artist, significant as it was, would have been heightened had he been a woman.