There is something peculiarly disheartening and frustrating about previously supportive and excellent online networks perpetuating diet bullshit. The chances are I’m not going to start a catfight about it – I’ve hidden it and moved on – but fucking hell, does diet culture get everywhere? Even groups full of intelligent and driven women? (Don’t answer that, I know it does). No, I don’t want to be informed that I’d be better and magically healthier if I cut out sugar, grains, starches and approximately a million other things. I’ve done that, and it was an eating disorder. Yes, I do think perpetuating that kind of bullshit is ideologically as well as psychologically toxic and harmful.
It’s not even what people choose to eat – I’m basically here for everyone making their own food choices according to their own needs/wishes/desires. I have no desire to police other people’s food intake; frankly I wish we could all just get on with eating whatever we want to eat without assigning some form of hierarchical value system to it all. What I resent so fiercely is a) the moralising undertones of good/bad, healthy/unhealthy (problematically loaded concepts explored somewhat more fully in these articles and papers , in roughly ascending order of scientific rigour) and b) the implication that people who choose not to ‘eat clean’/hand-prepare all their food from scratch/cut out particular food groups/all that jazz are somehow lesser, according to the paradigm of ‘health’ that neatly maps onto the medieval/early modern concept of ‘virtue’ as something we are all (but particularly women) supposed to be striving towards. I loathe the competitive social aspect of it all, the suggestive guilt, the attempts at cooption and coercion, the ongoing reminders even in explicitly professional and intellectual networks that actually, fuck it all, what’s really important about women and about living as a woman is food intake.
I get so fed up – pun intended – with intelligent and doubtless excellent people being convinced that instead of finishing their books and having fun and joining movements and changing the world, the single most important thing they can do for themselves is *control their food intake*. It’s insane. I do realise I am saying this with the massive cultural advantage through sheer genetic fluke of not having this stuff forced on me by aggressive idiots all the time, but that doesn’t make the extent to which people have internalised rather than resisted it any less frustrating.
I mean, I *know* I have all the thin privilege, but I also don’t think lots of brilliant women using up all their time and energy on massively restricting their diets and cooking everything from scratch is the best way to challenge cultural bullshit around size or internalised misogyny. Telling women they belong in the kitchen is not the same as telling them the only way to be “healthy” is to hand prepare all their meals and snacks from fresh ingredients, but the net effect is the same.
And these ridiculous died/’health’/exclusion plans always require that women ‘control their food intake’ specifically in ways that remove anything as threatening as pleasure and indulgence from the metaphorical and actual table. Partly this bugs me because I had to do so much work to unlearn this for myself, but mostly because I fiercely fiercely resent the many ways in which women (in particular) are continually urged to control and repress and sacrifice and deny themselves in order to be culturally accepted. It’s only an illusion of control and I so wish we could all just set fire to it and dance naked around the flames. Metaphorically speaking. Why does this have to be so complicated? Why can we not get beyond the underlying implication that however spectacular and marvellous our brains, what we really have to prioritise and focus on is our bodies?
This isn’t original, but it also isn’t neglible: if our brains are focused on controlling our bodies rather than bonding together and changing the world, we are much less of a threat. Why are intelligent and analytical women still so caught up in the bullshit?
You tell me.