Some people wait until they are older to get published while others start young. This is an article written by a young lady from New Orleans who got started early. Sydney Eden Gold asks some questions that hit most of us right between the eyes. I’m sure this is not the last that we will hear from this young New Orleanian.
How can I call myself a feminist if I continually reduce women to nothing more than bodies?
Sydney Eden Gold in Lifestyle on Mar 21, 2016
Does my body dysmorphia make me a bad feminist?
I think I’ve always known the answer, but I just didn’t want to admit it.
I’ve spent years fighting for a persona, an identity. The stereotypical teen angst colliding with low self-esteem creates a cataclysm of desperation and confusion, and thus I decided the only natural progression is to find a label for myself; at least before anyone else has the chance to.
From before I can remember, I have always loved performing. Singing, dancing and acting all helped me create fake identities on the stage. Sadly, theater is not the “coolest” of all hobbies, and thus identifying with it was out of the question. Maybe it’s the identity for someone else, but not for me. Quite honestly, I did everything in my power to cover up my biggest secret, to distract from my one impediment, but, if anything, it drew increasing attention to it.
It is at this point that I come across a far too common identity that eagerly awaits many fat girls somewhere down the line in their development. I could be funny. So I developed a sense of humor.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am truly thankful to have a powerful and intelligent sense of humor. Humor is now a tool I have mastered and can implement at any time. It’s a perfect ice breaker, and it allows me to exude a welcoming and friendly aura. It’s a gift I now have for life. Still, it stings me every time someone calls me funny. You see, it feels unclean. There’s always a sort of guilt associated from perpetuating your own stereotype. I know deep down that while I am truly funny, it is not what I really want to be known for.
What is worse, even though I had the humorous capacity, I never shared it. I used it to keep my small group of friends with me, and didn’t share it beyond that. Why should I? I will only be further subjecting myself to unwanted attention and, by consequence, judgement.
A few years ago I found a new title to add to my arsenal of identities: feminist. New wave feminism’s reach has been ever expanding in the last few years, and it finally grew to reach my small school community through social media. As an avid reader and writer, I learned all about the topic. Slowly, I moved away from the shy girl who felt the need to hide, and began to allow myself to share my personality I had spent so many years crafting so delicately. I allowed myself to be funny. I allowed myself to enjoy theater, and dance around the halls of school. I allowed myself to be smart, and to speak up in class without worrying what my arm looked like while my hand was raised. I was empowered and found my voice.
And then my friends started kissing boys.
How could they?
Why couldn’t I?
(Those are rhetorical questions. I know exactly why.)
Slowly, all of those insecurities began to resurface. Consequentially, my body image issues became further exacerbated than they had ever been.
I spent the back half of my eighth grade year wearing the same sweatshirt and leggings because I didn’t want to have to pick out my clothes.
I skipped meals.
I dreamed of unzipping my skin, and being able to rip off my body. I would stitch it back on when it was smaller.
Simultaneously, my identity as a feminist was only growing. It was because of these feelings that I so wanted to help other girls learn to love themselves. Additionally, while I felt as though there was no worse fate than being a fat girl, I had the capacity to recognize my privilege. I am white, able-bodied, heterosexual, cisgender and upper-middle class. I gained the introspective ability to take a step back and realize that if this was how I was feeling, other people must have it much worse. I wanted to help them. I didn’t want anyone to live in the word that made me hate myself.
Even with these passionate beliefs, I couldn’t shed the idea that I was nothing more than my body. My talents, intellect, and sense of humor all meant nothing to me. All I wanted was to be skinny. Moreover, while I didn’t hold other women to this standard, I did objectify them. I couldn’t look at a woman, be they a teacher, a friend, a family member, or a total stranger without mentally dissecting the minutia of their bodies, all of things I liked about them, all of the things I would take if I could.
That leads me to my question. How can I call myself a feminist if I continually reduce women to nothing more than bodies, a practice I would condemn in any other circumstance?
I don’t know.
I’m not going to stop calling myself a feminist. I believe far too much in the movement to give up on it, and will not relinquish this title that has become such a fundamental part of my identity. Likewise, it feels hypocritical to denounce those who objectify women, while I do the same.
I suppose it’s up to me to decide. I will acknowledge my shortcomings as an activist, and speak out about my situation. I will acknowledge my flaws. I will acknowledge that I might not be a very good feminist. It will become another almost identity. Another label stuck on me with dried up glue.
I will not stop fighting though. I will not stop fighting for control over my identity, for control over my self-esteem, and control over my perception of women. I may never be able to look past a woman’s body, but truly, how many people can?
I am not a perfect feminist. I might not even be a good one. But what I am is a good start.