Thursday, March 26, 2009

Can I be a feminist and anorexic?

Finally reached GW1. 123.4 (OMG. it's [Hana's] dreaded number)! Scared myself this morning because with my pajamas on I was 124.2, so I had the genius idea of weighing myself in my skivvies. It worked! Told myself that I would post my measurements, but maybe I'll do it when I hit 118. I'm shy and not nearly thin enough to feel good about my measurements. So, I haven't done *any* work on my thesis this whole break, so I read everyone who posted this morning, and I'm going to try to stay off Blogger until I get some real work done. Leaving you with what I hope to be a good post:


I'm taking a course on sex and gender. Our department chair is teaching it. She is literally the smartest person I have ever met.

Four days into the course--I'm sure during a bad day--she was talking about body issues, and how you can change your body through will. I think she used the example of a woman changing from a triangle shape (pear) to rectangle shape (celery?) through exercise or something to that extent. Anne Fausto Sterling's Sexing the Body goes into a lot of the biology/cultural blah blah blah of this. Surprisingly interesting.

Anyway, I think that people started getting a glazed over look and she did like one of those "I'm feeling awkward I'm going to laugh and make a joke" and she said something to the extend of "You know, like anorexia"... I think one or two people laughed, I cracked a smile but couldn't manage to laugh because I didn't want people looking at me, but I felt really bad because I LOVE this woman (I'm literally obsessed with her). Then she was like "Oh my goodness, I can't believe I've just made an anorexia joke, it's really not funny." She doesn't stop there. She's still feeling awkward and vulnerable. She continues, "I don't know why I said that; I know it's not funny. One of my brothers was anorexic as a teenager, and we couldn't do anything about it. He was a hockey player! He wouldn't eat and it was horrible." Now everyone feels awkward and vulnerable. Class ends a minute later, and we all leave.

This made me wonder about the implications of being a feminist and anorexic.

There's a lot wrapped up in mainstream media about anorexia being tied up with the fashion industry and being pressured by modern Western standards of beauty. So feminism in the 70s claimed that you had to burn bras and not conform to looking feminine. 3rd wave feminism, however, reclaimed the right for women to be whatever they wanted to be. If you wear blue jeans and Converse shoes or stilettos and red lipstick, that is your right and you are just as much of a feminist. Women didn't have to look and act like men in the workplace to be taken seriously. It is about personhood. You are a feminist if you believe in any of the following: privacy and reproductive rights, that there isn't just one type of family, derogatory words can be reclaimed, or that you always have the right to say "No" regardless of what you are wearing. Third wave feminism has taken on a number of different largely-grassroots agendas.

What does this have to do with being anorexic? Well, for me at least, anorexia does have a lot to do with the way I see myself, wanting to look/feel better, and striving for perfection. But it's a great deal more than that, and I've met anorexics who aren't in their teens or twenties, who know they won't look like supermodels, and don't give a damn about the fashion industry. Anorexia is complicated. Feminism is complicated. I'm not trying to confound the two, but I can be both. For now, anorexia is my problem. No one else's. Why I'm disordered is complicated, but society can't make me feel like less of a woman, or less of a feminist, for it.

I must admit, as a side note, I entered college thinking that feminism was a little out there, that "Vagina Monologues" was inspiring but tired, but I have been converted (not hard if you knew where I ended up going to school) and am a proud third-wave feminist... and have an eating disorder. I didn't choose to be mentally ill, but I am, and though the world will continue to pass judgment, I choose to ignore it.


Stina said...

I really enjoyed reading this. I admit that my eating disorder directly conflicts with my anarcha-feminist beliefs and its something that actually causes me a lot of internal grief/guilt. Its so confusing. Even more confusing is the newest brand of "choice-feminism", meaning "whatever choice I make as a woman is a feminist choice." I feel like that can sometimes be an excuse for behavior that is actually influenced by culture at large - like you don't choose anorexia, it chooses you because we're all influenced by the advertising industries concept of beauty, etc. I hope this makes sense, I'm a little wonky on pain meds right now, haha.

Maggie said...

I think youve proven your point - "I didn't choose to be mentally ill, but I am" - and yet you are also a feminist. There is no necaessay co-relation between your ed and you political/social biefs.

So whilst this might be a personal dielma with regards to your beliefs and how they contradict -and I personally can see why you think there could be a conflict between the ed/feminist [you could almost see it as a dichotomy] elements/ideas/thoughts/etc. but I do not think that it is a problem.

So my answer to the question you posed is: yes you can be a feminist and anorexic. [I could write an entire essay on why I think this - but i think its time for me to sleep before I elaborate ~ its been over 24hrs again].

Anyway, before I sleep:I want to say thankyou for your kind comments to my last post =)

STill trying to recover from the event - it really messed up my eating patern [i cant seem to eat anything]. Oh well. Tmro I'll feel better.

Jess said...

I really enjoyed this post and I can see a lot of myself in it too. In university I was a Theatre major and a Women's Studies minor and now I'm a makeup artist and I sometimes think about my feminist beliefs and my current obsessions and career choice and how they should be conflicted but they aren't for me. I'm definitely more of the 3rd wave of feminism.

hey.hana said...

First - I laughed out loud at the first line and thanks for the shout out ha ha

Second - Although I've never given it much thought, feminism seems to be such a touchy subject to some! I guess I've always thought my mindset has more to do with our generation being "enlightened" and consider my beliefs to be more futuristic. Basically, imo anyone can do whatever the fuck they want as long as it's not affecting me negatively and in a direct way... The whole "you have rights, but only as long as they don't infringe on others' rights" deal.

This was an interesting post. How refreshing to know people are actually learning something at uni (:P) - or at least asking questions

hey.hana said...

p.s. congrats on the gw! Give measurements when you feel comfortable... although I can't say I wouldn't like to compare :]

Anonymous said...

Feminism = Berkeley.

Just my guess. :P

Anonymous said...

I loved this post. I have very similar thoughts but would not be able to express them nearly as clearly as you have.

Ana said...

This is a really good entry. I love your writing. But yeah, anorexia isn't about conformity to traditional societal ideals about feminine beauty...There's more to it than that
Though if I go into a long thought process I might end up contradicting myself
Thanks for this entry :)

nadja said...

thank you for writing this, i definitely struggle with the same thing and the same questions. ♥

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