Just like every basic female likes to say, I’ve always had trouble with my weight. My body size ebbs and flows more than the ocean and sometimes I can’t even look myself in the mirror. However, I am the worst dieter in the entire world. I’ll stick to “healthy eating” for one day and work out a ton, but the second I see a cookie platter it’s all over. Food makes me happy, food makes me feel good, and good food is not always the healthiest. Here’s why my eating habits are a feminist issue:
The first time I ever went on a real date, the thirteen year old boy’s father (and our chaperone) asked us what we wanted for dinner from the food truck. The unnamed boy got a “Fat Calf”, which is about as greasy as it sounds, and an orange soda. At that point, it was my turn to order and I was so concerned about seeming fat that I ordered only a water. I was starving the rest of the night, and had the worst time on that date. We went out for almost two years after that, and it took me about a year of that to eat more than a salad in front of him. I covered my mouth when I chewed and wouldn’t even think about speaking, which left an awkward, uncomfortable silence at the table. At the end of the meal, I would always leave just enough food on the table to make it seem like those few leafy greens and grilled chicken truly filled me up, despite my painful stomach craving for the big, greasy burger on his plate.
Now I’ve grown and realized that I can eat whatever I want and whoever I am dating should still love me if I’m scarfing down a philly cheesesteak with a side of fries. I know I’m right about that because the boy I’m dating now does love me despite my messy meals. However, I’m now confronted by dirty side eye and hesitant questions of “are you sure” from the waitress when I go out. Since I stopped judging myself, the rest of the restaurant-going female population has decided to do it for me.
1 in 5 women struggle with an eating disorder. 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner. 80% of 10 year olds believe they are fat. 45% of women are on a diet at any given moment.* 57% of teenage girls engage in unhealthy eating behaviors.**
I used to be one of them. Now that I’m not, I feel pressured to be anorexic, or crash diet, or fast unnecessarily. Girls all over the country, all over the world, are afraid to eat for fear of how others will perceive them. When a girl does exercise healthy eating habits and breaks the trend, she’s told she’s unclassy, unfit, unsophisticated, messy, a slob, and undesirable. When did a woman eating a full, hearty meal become offensive to other women? How did it become acceptable for another woman to judge my eating habits?
If feminists are going to affect any change, we need women to stop competing with each other. We will never be able to fight the man if we are fighting the woman, too. Across the world, women are dieting, fasting, vomiting, and judging other women for not doing the same, all to fit the social construct of beauty that was created by men. Until I can stop looking first at the “skinny” section of the menu as if I’m really going to order that 200 calorie tofu burger, until women can be proud of their bodies, and be proud of each other for feeling that way, 10 year olds will still believe they’re overweight, teenagers will still order only a water, and women will still see, not nutrients, but a number.