"You know, there are men at the bar down the street," she said over the dull hum of music and drunken Friday night chatter at a local lesbian bar. After responding politely that despite my long hair, red lipstick, and floral skirt, I was indeed looking for women, she repeated "But there are men there. Nice men. Do you like men?"
I wish I could say this was the only time that my identity has been called into question on the basis of my choice of dress. But in fact, this happens to me more often than not. From men in muscle tees who feel that it is their godly duty to ask me out while I'm on a date with a woman to the patrons who are genuinely confused by my presence at a lesbian bar, it's hard to navigate a world where feminine defaults you as straight. More insidiously, feminine women tend to be mistrusted, as if our flowing skirts and flushed cheeks signal our submission to the patriarchal world.
I never thought I’d be the girl that needed a guy to tell her she’s beautiful. To make her feel socially capable. To clarify that she’s a good person. That she’s worth knowing. I also never thought that I had an eating disorder. I truly believed that my agonizing, insurmountable battle against food came as a side effect of womanhood. The never-ending diet, the extreme guilt of a binge. It all made my feel like I was hanging off the edge with my knuckles turning white.
Freshman year was a roller coaster of the highest highs and the lowest lows I had ever experienced. Each moment allowed me to discover more and more of who I was, and I loved the girl that was emerging. The struggle made me stronger. But an element of self-doubt also made itself a home in my inner dialogue, proving to be a new and unanticipated stumbling block as I wandered through my new environment.
Get help now. Please don’t wait for the traumatic experience that’s coming to make you realize you how far gone you are. Don’t wait for the screaming and the crying and the sense of purposeless to realize that you have stopped feeling. Feeling anything but the fixation. The obsession.
Right now, as you take your first steps on this campus, you have the traits ingrained in you, the habits and cravings, control and coping mechanisms. You will reach for them consciously and unconsciously. The thinking has already infiltrated your daily thoughts. But for the time being, you also have somewhat of a separateness from it. You and it have not become one and the same. Don’t wait. Don’t wait for the day two years from now-- you couldn’t stop thinking about how uncomfortable you felt in your goddamn bikini, and how hard you were going to run when you got back to the gym-- when then that sound pierced the air.
When the clock struck midnight and the calendar turned to 2014, I made myself a promise. The next twelve months of my life would be different. At the start of each New Year prior, I had resolved to lose weight, to get healthier, to look better. Then, I’d find myself in a mess of self-despair every time I felt like I failed. Having grown tired of this mindset and tired of beating myself up, it occurred to me that I needed to change my approach, and so my resolution for 2014 would be to focus on self-acceptance.
Gender scholars have long criticized the fashion media for glorifying emaciation and contributing to body-image and eating problems. However, they have been relatively quiet about how medical science and news reporting may contribute to the very same problems. This is surprising given a long tradition of feminist critiques of medical authority in other areas. What’s Wrong with Fat? fills this gap by examining how medical research, public health campaigns, and news reports contribute to a “cult of thinness.”
Indeed, the United States, we are told, is facing an obesity epidemic – a “battle of the bulge” of not just national, but global proportions – that requires drastic and immediate action. Experts in the media, medical science, and government alike are scrambling to find answers. What or who is responsible for this crisis, and what can we do to stop it?
Posted by Diana Denza · May 08, 2014 1:51 AM
· 2 reactions
As a young child, I could barely go a day without brushing your weathered fingers against my cheeks or wrapping your perfumed scarves across my dainty shoulders. You made the overwhelming scent of Elizabeth Arden Red Door seem elegant and refined. You go, mom.
It's hard to imagine that I've spent the last 12 years —half of my life— without you. There are still some nights when I mistake the swift turn of a doorknob for your arrival. I can still picture you, with your tired eyes and impossibly heavy handbag, walking through the front door like nothing ever changed.
I won’t be taking my shirt off at the beach this summer
In fact, I have never taken my shirt off at the beach. I'm barely comfortable looking at myself naked in front of a mirror; how would you expect me to be comfortable in front of another human being. I've been overweight for most of my life. At the age of 25 I found myself having to buy size 44 pants because I could no longer fit into my 42’s. I was incredibly insecure, self-conscious, had low self-esteem and had a tremendous amount of anxiety and depression that stemmed from my obesity. Tipping the scale at 280 pounds at 5 foot 10 inches, I had reached my breaking point. I had enough and was ready to finally do something about my problem. It was the first time in my life that I was determined to take back control of my body. I started to eat less, eat healthier and joined a gym. In less than a year I lost over 100 pounds. It has been over three years since I started my weight loss journey. I've maintained my goal weight and today healthy nutrition and regular exercise are staples in my life. In fact, physical fitness has become somewhat of a passion of mine.
A while ago the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) published some research about attitudes to obesity which led to headlines claiming that ‘One in Six Women Would Rather Be Blind than Fat’. The AJPH research asked its subjects to rate obesity alongside 12 other 'social stigmas' including depression, herpes, alcoholism and blindness(!) in order to find out their 'anti-obesity preference'. While many of the responses to this survey have come from 'health at any size' blogs such as Dances With Fat one finding in particular peaked my interest: 14.5% of the subjects involved chose blindness over obesity. The more I thought about this the more I wonder what it's actually saying.
There are two upcoming conferences on weight stigma that might be of interest to practitioners and the public.
1.Obesity Stigma: Psychological, Social, and Medical Causes and Consequences
This is an interdisciplinary research symposium to be held at UCLA on Friday, May 30, 2014. Drawing on the fields of psychology, medicine, and sociology to present a comprehensive view of obesity stigma, this event is free (including a free lunch) and open to the public, and is funded by the UCLA Office of Interdisciplinary & Cross Campus Affairs. For more information and to register: http://www.dishlab.org/obesitystigmasymposium.php.
Speakers include Brenda Major, PhD (UCSB Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences), Abigail Saguy, PhD (UCLA Department of Sociology and Gender Studies), A. Janet Tomiyama, PhD (UCLA Department of Psychology).