Trigger alert: Eating disorders.
Chloe has a brave post at Feministing today, in which she admits that despite the fact that she was an Eating Concerns Advisor at her university, and despite the fact that she is a professional feminist… she has been starving herself.
The main focus of Chloe’s piece is the contradiction between her feminist beliefs and her bad-feminist behaviours, but as a friend of Chloe’s - and a fellow former eating disorder sufferer - the thing I found most striking about it was that once you tell people that you’re starving yourself, it’s much harder to continue starving.
One of the saddest things about our collective relationship with bodies and beauty is that while we pay lip service to the “badness” of eating disorders (so sad! so crazy! so gross!), we also celebrate their results.
Many (if not most) women and men who starve themselves or purge their meals look little like the hyper-thin anorexics and bulimics that are presented to us in after school specials, magazines, and even medical discourse. They just look a little bit thinner, and then a little bit thinner still; a little bit closer to the Hollywood ideal. They don’t just “pass,” they are praised: for their “bikini bodies,” their "Chanel girl" lines.
When I was dealing with an eating disorder, a decade ago now, I kept it a secret. Partly because I was painfully aware that it wasn’t “cool,” that girls with eating disorders (particularly my brand) were considered “headcases.” But also because I knew that if I admitted to it, I would have to stop doing it. I would no longer be “So thin! Such a diet role model!” but just plain old me.
Which is why I found Chloe’s post so brave. Once the people who care about you know what’s going on, it’s harder to get away with "Oh, I’m not hungry" or "I’ve already eaten." It’s harder to chug half a bottle of water with your meals and then slip away to the bathroom. These acts, previously unnoticed, begin to take on a new significance.
And that you can no longer get away with it - or perhaps more importantly, that you choose to give people the information that means they no longer let you get away with it - is an important step in recovery.
Related: We’re all bad feminists, really.