It is a finger shoved down a throat, a pizza party invitation declined, a morning spent pumping iron instead of going to class. Eating disorders come in many forms and can affect anyone. They are often under the guise of health; exercising seven days a week is healthy, “it’s not like I’m trying to lose weight” — or so the rationalization goes. On Wednesday, Oct. 18, WRAC had a booth in the Kirby Student Center. The banner above said “Love Your Body Day.” Hanging next to this was a large black sheet with the phrase “I love my body” written on it — this was the photo booth. It was a fun environment meant to encourage women (and men!) to strike a silly pose and make a bold statement. Unfortunately for many women, the concept of loving our bodies is as foreign as Mars. And this is not an accident.
For our entire lives, we are shown images of how a woman should look: thin, white, able-bodied and blonde. It certainly doesn’t help that society has gotten to a point where people genuinely believe we’re living “postfeminism.” Women have the right to vote, graduate college at greater numbers than men, and have entered career fields once off-limits. Now that we are supposedly equal to men, we can focus on what really matters: our appearance. We want to have it all.
Because of this, advertisers frequently co-opt feminist terms to sell products. Now it’s empowering to fight wrinkles and we’re sexually liberated when we wear a push-up bra. (Interestingly enough, these same tactics are not used for men.) It is important to understand what it means to be truly empowered so we do not fall victim to its false equivalent. Rather than spending our time studying, we take an hour to put on makeup and style our hair. This is energy that could be placed elsewhere; there is so much we can do when we free our minds of the need for a perfect appearance.
When our mind becomes focused on appearance, we lose interest in things that matter. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), 91 percent of women surveyed on a college campus attempted to control their weight through dieting. Dieting may seem harmless at first, but as ANAD points out, 95 percent of dieters regain the weight they lost within five years. This is true for studies on the subject across the board. Being healthy does not mean being thin. It means being active and having a healthy diet, but this does not translate to a slim body for everyone due to various factors like genetics and metabolism.
This is simply another way of saying beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. We all embrace this in theory, but our mind tells us “great for them, but I definitely need to lose five pounds and then I’ll be beautiful.” No. We need to tell ourselves we are beautiful right now, because five pounds lighter may never happen, and then what? We will have spent our entire lives feeling like failures and holding ourselves back from pursuing more important work. Let’s stop being a statistic; it’s time for change. As Abra Fortune Chernik said, “gaining weight and getting my head out of the toilet bowl was the most political act I’ve ever committed.”
BY APRILL EMIG firstname.lastname@example.org