This article was written for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
“There should be Oscars for porn!” This is a comment that I overheard this past weekend in response to the Oscars. Now, I know this comment was meant to be funny, but when you actually think about the abhorrent role the media plays in the lives of women, it’s not so funny anymore. Any of you who have read my past columns know that I consider myself a feminist, but I haven’t discussed the reasons that I am a feminist. Now, I believe that everyone, both men and women, should be feminists. However, I understand how seductive the media can be. In the media, there is predominantly one version of “feminism” present. This version “empowers” women but saying that it’s okay if they take their clothes off…if they are skinny. It’s okay for women to be onscreen…if they are the supporting characters (aka the beautiful accessory of men). It’s okay for women to have intellectual conversations...if those conversations are actually a way to flirt with men. It’s okay for a woman to be “empowered”…just not too “empowered.” Now, I know that I shouldn’t be defining feminism for everyone, but I’m going to argue that the version of “feminism” present in the media isn’t feminism at all; it’s just a way of pretending to give women more clout and space, while at the same time maintaining social order. If this version of “feminism” keeps up, maybe the Oscars will have to include a category for pornographic film. I doubt that would actually happen though, sexism is rarely acknowledged.
I used to feel ugly. I can’t really pinpoint when it started, but I remember looking in the mirror when I was in 8th grade and searching my features, trying to find one that I liked. One that prescribed to what is considered “beautiful.” I would pinch my nose and try and make it smaller. I would will my thighs to be smaller. I would pray for a flatter stomach, which is such a silly thing to occupy prayers, but I just didn’t know what else to do. Sadly, I decided to “control” the situation, and I developed an eating disorder. I thought that if I “controlled” an aspect of how I looked, maybe I would have control over how society perceived me. Maybe I would have a bigger presence. What I didn’t realize was that I was literally shrinking myself. I was doing what society wanted me, and all other women, to do: take up less space.
No one wants to feel shitty about themselves, but often women feel that their insecurity is their only asset. Now, I have overcome many of my physical insecurities, but I’m still hanging onto many of my emotional insecurities. I’m a very opinionated person, but I still edit myself. I still make myself smaller. I still feel uncomfortable looking in the mirror and thinking that I’m pretty. It’s so twisted because, for a woman, being secure both physically and emotionally is considered vain. You’re expected to be secure enough that you don’t complain, but insecure enough that you are still susceptible to the media.
I’m afraid for my generation of women, because I feel that not enough of them will realize that the media is tricking them into being insecure and docile. Tricking them through pornographic movies, the women who get in staged catfights that are marketed as “badass” by reality TV, and by defining our true female leaders as “bitchy.” My generation of women will increasingly believe that their self worth is limited to a smaller and smaller space.