Why Having Anorexia Made Me a Diehard Feminist

I am a diehard feminist. Here’s why you should be too.

The first time I ever really thought about the oppression of women was sophomore year of high school. I was taking AP European history and my teacher did an excellent job of highlighting the oppression of minorities and women throughout history. I had never given thought to my foremothers before. I mean yeah, sure I knew women didn’t use to have suffrage, but as far as I could tell all that was ancient history. AP Euro taught me that there has been a lot more inequality between men and women than just not having the right to vote. I started to think about this. And in doing soI become more interested in current feminism. It wasn’t really a big thing for me yet, just something I briefly would think about.

Now fast forward to junior year. I am becoming more self-aware of my feminist mentality. I would say I have been a feminist all my life, but never knew there was a label and a greater movement for it. Growing up in a family where both my parents were breadwinners and had an equal partnership, I thought that inherently men and women should be equal. It was only as I became more aware of the greater world that I learned of how unequal the relationship between men and women can be. Still though, I wouldn’t have said junior year that I was super feminist or anything.

By senior year things had changed. I became really interested in women’s studies. I was a self-declared feminist. I pinned things on Pinterest saying “Women belong in the house AND the senate.” I supported Emma Watson’s He For She Campaign. I read books such as I Am Malala to become more educated.

So what changed?

My development of anorexia strongly correlates with my interest in feminism.


Anorexia is undeniably a feminist issue. When the first page of my US History of Feminisms book talked about eating disorders I felt validated in my interest in women’s studies. Not that I need validation from anyone, but gender studies is not the most common major for college students. I have been shaped by the women’s issues that still plague our society. When you have faced these issues head on, it’s hard not to care. The societal expectation for me as a white, American woman is what dug me into such a dark hole.

By now you might be wondering, so what exactly is the link between eating disorders and feminism? Well, I’m glad you asked. Let me tell you. Actually let Naomi Wolf tell you. In her bestseller The Beauty Myth, Wolf describes in the introduction how “beauty is the last one remaining of the old feminine ideologies that still has the power to control.” Essentially, beauty makes women conform. It is a force that limits the advancement of women. And in so doing, keeps the patriarchy intact. See, told you it’s a feminist issue.


Wolf writes that “the beauty myth is always actually prescribing behavior and not appearance” which shows that the roots go a lot deeper than just what is on the outside (something that should also be true for women). There is a reason the amount of eating disorders has increased throughout the past several decades. The ideal women’s body has shrunk and shrunk and now has gotten to the point where it is not even healthy! From a feminist perspective think about what this ideal body image is telling women: to be desirable is to be thin, to be tiny. This means to not take up space. Which means NOT being a strong independent women who don’t need no man. Tiny girls need a strong man. Don’t worry, feminism is not man hating. Feminism is a male issue as well. Men have to cope with an unrealistic body image too, but theirs is muscular and strong. It is hard for them as well, but in different ways. And usually not mental disorder, starvation ways (90% of disordered eaters are women).

Do you see what I am getting at here? Women=weak, men=strong. It is the patriarchy manifested in literally everybody. Only by changing the way our society looks at bodies can we continue to fight against these unrealistic expectations. Gender roles are not gone. Women are put into tiny, little boxes. The media makes it seem like the only way to be beautiful is to be skinny. Be a rebel and do not accept this patriarchal expectation. If we fight back and work for body acceptance of all types of people, then we will be one giant step closer to helping EnD ED.


Photos via Pinterest

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