TW: Discussion of Eating Disorders.
Today I’m gonna talk about something I’ve covered at length in at least two other posts that I can remember: body image. This afternoon my boyfriend threatened to put a sheet over the mirror in his bedroom as I stood in a new pair of trousers, sucking my tummy in to make them fit and muttering under my breath to “look how bloody fat I look urgh for the love of…”
He looked me dead in the face. “Laura” he said “you are not fat, I am covering that mirror as it is fuelling your ridiculous complex.”
I was shocked. “What?! I don’t have a complex?!”
He shot me a look. I sat down with a thud.
“Oh God, I do have a complex, don’t I?”
“I don’t think I have to answer that. Cuppa?”
“Please. A strong one, with sugar.”
In that moment it really struck me; I do have a complex. Somewhere along the line I lost all sense of perspective.
I’m not the only one either; hospital admissions related to eating disorders rose 16% in the UK in 2012. I do not have an eating disorder thank God, but I know an upsetting number of people who do. They are terrible afflictions that warp peoples perceptions of themselves, moulding them through self loathing in to terrible misrepresentations within their own minds. They are hideous, ruinous and dangerous. Whilst most women (I say women because women are vastly more likely to develop eating disorders than men, although I know this is not a wholly female phenomenon) do not develop full blown eating disorders, I’d wager the very vast majority do feel a certain sense of inadequacy when it comes to their own form. We all pick ourselves to pieces; we’re our own biggest critics.
What causes this chronic sense of inadequacy? I am no expert in sociology or psychology or whatever the hell else but I am an expert in being a 21 year old woman who despises her own tummy so I feel I’m fairly well qualified to answer this question. I want to shout it from the rooftops until I lose my voice:
The Media! That’s what’s bloody well causing it!
The bloody, sodding, smegging media, with its thoroughly unrealistic representations of women and how they feel women should look. That’s what’s causing it! I can’t walk down a major road for more than about half a mile without seeing a photo of a scantily clad young woman with perfect skin and hair smiling back at me from a bus stop or shop window. I can’t watch TV without an advert for some miracle product claiming to “tame” my hair, “smooth” my skin, “sculpt” my silhouette popping up and making me self conciously suck in my tummy and smooth my wayward locks. Maybe – and this is a controversial thought so you’d best prepare yourself – maybe I don’t want to tame my hair. Maybe my enormous, frizzy hair is just fine as nature intended. Maybe I actually quite like my rotund little bum and slightly yellow, tea stained teeth. NO NO NO, OF COURSE NOT. The perfect woman shows no sign of aging, no sign of eating cake, no signs of stress or exhaustion or drinking too much caffeine. How silly of me. I’d better work on that.
Some would go one step further. This is symptomatic of a society and system that works to keep women down; keep us preoccupied if you will. Whilst I don’t know if there’s an active conspiracy I would definitely say that this hideous misrepresentation and systematic wearing down of self esteem is symptomatic of a patriarchal society. Women feel continually inadequate. Double standards are forever being applied; in the work place and in society as a whole. More than just being talented at what we do, we have to be smoking hot too. The very existence of the terms yummy mummy and MILF for example. More than just being good mums, we’re expected to be hot too and in a way not applied in the same kind of way to blokes in my experience.
Let’s get one thing straight. I do show signs of stress and caffeine and cake. My hair is frizzy, I have to wear a knee support because I have a cartilage condition and no, it is not sexy.
But you know what media: I’m gonna try really really bloody hard not to care any more. You can bite me.