The President-Elect and the Future of Fat-Shaming // Jen Trimpey, M.S.
jpeg from: http://thesheaf.com/2014/01/31/you-count-more-than-calories-eating-disorders-illuminated/
I’m an 8+ hours of sleep type of person. When I wake up in the morning, I have a tendency to be irritable, confused, or just generally disoriented. Back home for the holidays, my mom will tentatively ask me every morning if I’m “the beauty or the beast.” Usually it’s the beast: I stumble around, make copious amounts of coffee, and sit cross-legged in front of a mirror on the floor foggily forgetting that I’ve only applied mascara to one eyelash.
I do one other thing in my morning routine: I talk to myself. I tell myself I am beautiful even though I might have eaten too much pizza the night before. I tell myself that I have value even though I ate 3 donuts that someone brought to work. I tell myself that I am not fat even though, some days, I struggle to believe it. Sometimes I forget that talking to yourself isn’t necessarily the norm. But for me, my emotional and physical wellbeing rely on these personal accolades. I stay healthy and grounded this way; I love and appreciate myself this way; I model these behaviors to teach little girls how to love themselves this way.
This election shook me for too many reasons to be thoroughly and accurately described in this blog post. Of the many, the most personal relates to my eating disordered past. All that self-talk I do in the mornings is simply my response the parts of me that, at one point, unquestioningly believed that societal standards of beauty were my standards of beauty. In my adolescence, these standards dominated my view-of-self, which eventually resulted in the development of an eating disorder. My rural upbringing in Alaska didn’t protect me from absorbing media and/or social portrayals of “femininity” and “beauty.” Now then, what do we do to protect children growing up in the mainstream United States with a president who endorses the (untrue) societal, gendered standards that espouse oppressive views directed towards women and girls? How do we help them understand that what their president thinks about their bodies is not indicative of their actual value?
The morning after the election, I felt as though the world was ending. I woke up a mere 4 hours after I fell asleep (not necessarily the best thing to happen to an 8+ hours-of-sleep woman), scrolled through the News application on my phone, and then tried to cry myself back to sleep. It didn’t work. Reluctantly, I went through my groggy, stumbling-for-coffee morning routine, but couldn’t seem to shake the fact that this election’s results meant more to me than I expected. I thought he had no chance, so I never questioned what it would mean if my President told me, albeit implicitly through his words to other women, that I’m “Miss Piggy,” “fat,” “ugly,” or that I need to “suck [my] gut in.” Turns out, it meant quite a bit. As I tried to process what had happened, I couldn’t seem to stop thinking that the election results meant that my country had told me that I’m nothing if I’m not thin, perfect, and beautiful. I cried for myself that morning. But mostly I cried for all the little girls (and boys) who will grow up with a president who—whether he meant it or not—told them that they aren’t good enough simply the way they are.
Grasping for hope in the throes of my mid-election blues, I decided to re-read The Feminine Mystique. In the introduction to my edition, Freidan cites a quote she wrote in her first autographed copy of the seminal piece, which stated, “Courage to us all on the new road.” While the quote was not initially directed at the new president-elect’s term, it still appeared to give me the courage I needed to hope and advocate for something different. It seems so easy (and much less tiring) to give up, but we are on a new road and in dire need of courage. Even though I’m not quite sure how yet, it now seems more important that I advocate for the children who may internalize their future president’s words. My hope (among many other hopes) is that we teach children from both red and blue families that their worth isn’t connected to their appearance or weight, even if that might be a tiring endeavor. And, since our president may hesitate to remind children of that, the responsibility now falls on us—on me—to not complacently follow my tiredness, irritation or frustration. Rather, now it’s my time to fight: not only for myself, but also for everyone else out there experiencing similar emotions or sentiments.
Written by: Jen Trimpey, M.S.