Monday, January 5, 2009

Feminism and the Eating Disorder

On a recent post, TwistedBarbie Weighs In discusses having an ED and being a feminist. can they live side-by-side.

ED Deception says, "Living a fulfilling life is not about my body's appearance."

I've always struggled with these concepts and still don't know where to put wanting freedom and equality and strength for women, while skipping breakfast every day until i'm too weak to put on eyeliner, let alone contribute to world peace.

it's always been this way. in my brain, i want a full rich life where i'm productive and smart and helpful. in reality, i've spent most of my life starving or over a toilet, staying home to avoid food or to purge.

i've never had many interests --- for years i only read books about eating disorders. i didn't like anything else -- theatre, ballet, ball games, sometimes i didn't even want to go to movies. I had many beliefs, but never did anything about them. i just wanted to stay home and have an eating disorder.

as a 200 pound teenager with braces, frizzy-hair and bad skin, i clung to feminist literature, hoping that if i believed i was more than my appearance, it would come true. all the time, i longed to be really thin and beautiful. i don't know that much has changed.

getting small and staying that way held a lot of importance. So many successful women are very small/thin-- i'm throwing out names here -- NBCs Andrea Mitchell, ABCS Leslie Stahl, Kelly Ripa, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric most of the women on the Today show, etc. these are tiny, powerful women making millions of dollars. their male counterparts do not have huge heads with scrawny bodies. do strong women have to get very small not to threaten men?

today at work, one of the kids who worked for my brother while in high school, came back to work here on a college break. Marie is terrific and very accomplished -- she's smart, a serious leader in school and she works with needy children in foreign countries every summer. Yet, the first thing i said after not seeing her for a year -- "you look great. did you lose weight?"

the dream to be "beautiful" is oppressive and expensive. i've spent way too much time and money on my looks. since childhood, i've believed i'm naturally ugly. the other kids teased me mercilessly about my looks, my mother kept me on diets and dragged me to dermatologists and hair dressers and bought me colorful clothes. i wanted to be beautiful like the cool kids-- to wear old grungy clothes and look like a gorgeous hippy. instead, i looked like a homeless person. or so i felt. who knows?

my sister-in-law found a photo from when i was 14. she kept it out specially so she could show me and say, "i can't believe you were ever that fat." ouch.

i still think i'm pretty ugly. my therapist didn't realize i really meant it when i said i didn't want to go to rehab, because they'd take my razor away. i don't want ANYONE, including me to see me without a tweezer. i most certainly would risk my health for my looks.

i've spent A LOT of money on my appearance and convinced myself fairly comfortably that it's a necessary expense. i get my hair straightened every three months (VERY expensive), i highlight my hair very often, i get my hair blown out a lot, spend excessive amounts on make-up, get manicures and pedicures. i shave everything every day, pluck extensively, and don't go anywhere without full make-up. otherwise, i don't want to be seen.

who has time or money for anything else? in fact, i dip into my inheritance from my mom to pay for some of these expensives. and i'm okay with it, because it keeps me calm for now. with all that work, i don't think i'm pretty, but i know i'm acceptable.

yet, I DON'T BELIEVE IN ANY OF THIS. i tell my darling thirteen year old niece to go to the library, go out without make-up, wear here curls naturally and forgo manicures. i want her to live life, and i know with that all she is, she'll have a full, satisfying life. and she'll have boyfriends.

i'm interested in this topic. i dream of being a natural woman who's not breaking the bank for her looks. is it possible?


  1. Its ironic you wrote this post as I am experimenting with dont laugh...........
    I am very neat and meticulous with my apperance....I can however go comfortable out of the house without make up.....but, since I was thirteen I shaved my legs and under my arms.............
    The expirement.....NO SHAVING FOR ONE MONTH...
    I dont know why I choose to do these weird things but I do.......
    I have never had hairy legs, but today I do....
    Its sparse, and finally not prickly............
    I was scared to go swimming in case one of the ladies saw and commented on my beastliness..
    Nobody noticed........... point is I feel the same with a wee bit of hair under my arms, and legs like saskwatch...................................
    Talk about natural woman.........
    My b/f is quite disgusted by the thought, but he lives 300 miles away and I will be clean shaven when he arrives Friday night..........

  2. How I can related to this. Feeling so strong for natural beauty and non judgment on appearance. Dealing with PCOS since puberty, literally killed my feeling of being a girl. After loosing almost half my body weight at 19, most of my symptoms disappeared (excess body/facial hair totally completely diminished) Adding in that excess weight exacerbates PCOS symptoms, it makes me fear weight gain even more. I always feel anxious and utterly depressed if I think something on my body looks not the way I want it. It has been like this my whole year, and strangely when I became skinnier it was even more terrifying to appear unpolished. I hid my body then, and now I'm still trying to do the same.

  3. Do you wax your face/eyebrows, chin, lip? I do waxing at the salon. I'd die without my razor though, for my legs and pits.

    I can't believe how society has brainwashed us all to be smooth and hairless. I mean... Hair grows there for a reason, right??? Why remove it? For what? We have the weirdest customs. Seriously. Just think of how a woman from 200 years ago would view us, they'd think we were painted alien monster freaks, for crying out loud. But I'm just as bad as anyone, although I do not waste makeup on my day off. No effing way. If they dont like me natural, they don't have to look. Screw 'em.

  4. ME; very brave. how's it going? i wonder what made you try this? i shave every day too. wish i could be more lenient. still, it's at the point where I prefer to be clean-shaven. but that's not natural. i think we're pretty programmed -- you?

    Oh Sarah, you have gone through so much, and you work so hard. i can understand why you feel like you do. it is such a fine line -- what is the right, healthy place for our bodies? how do we want to look? how do we want to want to look? a lot of pressure! nature and society don't make it any easier either.

    Karen: yes, yes. why do we have to be so hairless -- like children? and why do men love it so much. that disturbs me, but i play along. and i've gotten used to liking it better. what's the next generation of women going to do?

    i love your attitude about make-up!!!! okay, how do I ask this -- it's a weird question. (you'll see how uncomfortable i am, because it takes a week here to spit this out.) i hope you don't find it rude. Clearly, you are very, very pretty naturally. (and maybe this was even a hindrance? did people ever think of you as "just" a pretty girl?) i've seen your childhood photos, high school (!) and current i can only guess you look pretty good (at least"good" without make-up on your days off.) what if you didn't? (was that okay?)

  5. I think I look HORRIBLE without make up, but on my days off, I don't care. Fuck it.

    I do tend to cringe when I see a client in the store, and try to avoid them, but for the most part, I still don't go anywhere with make up on on my day off. Unless it's out on a date.

    I look like I have two black eyes, my dark circles are so bad, and my skin is terrible due to sun exposure and blemishes.

    Oh, and you can ask me anything, any time you want.

    I'm not offended. I really don't think I'm pretty naturally. I think I look like a frog without makeup, but it still doesn't inspire me to wear it on my day off. If they don't like it they don't have to look. LOL.

  6. karen: thank you for the clarification, froggie. i love how we're so brave to go out without make-up. imagine if men had to wear make-up to look normal?they'd never get out of the house. or we'd find them on sunday mornings hiding behind newspapers at coffee shops and ducking down the next aisle at the supermarket if they ran into clients. now doesn't that sound ridiculous.

    by the way, i think frogs are cute.