What Does Equality Have to Do With Your Body?
Today is Women’s Equality Day here in the United States.
This is a day which commemorates “the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits…denying the right to vote…on the basis of sex.1”
I am so grateful that so many people have fought tirelessly and continue to fight for the equal treatment of all human beings and realize that we have a long way to go. For instance, in the United States in 2020, women earned 82.3% of men’s. And for Black and Latina women specifically, they earned 65% of what white men earned, despite comparable levels of educational attainment.2
So what in the world does this have to do with cultivating a healthy relationship to food and body? A lot.
We know that eating disorders do not discriminate and impact all people regardless of gender, age, socioeconomic status, race, and so on. But we also know that, for centuries, a woman’s worth has been located in her appearance as opposed to her ability to generate new ideas and make money. The negative consequences of this reality permeates everything from policy decisions, job promotions, and the day-to-day experience of women. (If you’re interested in learning more, I’ll provide some suggested readings at the end.)
It also impacts the disproportionate numbers of women who develop eating disorders3. (This is not to minimize the male and gender non-conforming individuals who develop and suffer from an eating disorder. The consequences and barriers for these folks are unique and vitally important to build awareness around as well.) For those who identify as women – femininity is synonymous with thinness.
Ask yourself, “What does a smart, successful, attractive woman look like?” What image comes to mind? If you’ve been as conditioned by culture as I have – this woman is likely thin.
I understand that the development of an eating disorder is multifactorial and not simply due to sociocultural factors such as pressures to attain a thin ideal. But I do believe that fewer people would develop an eating disorder if these intensely narrow beauty ideals didn’t have such a death grip on our sense of self, our sense of value, and our experience of safety in the world and in our families.
Continuing to fight for equality (not just equality based on gender) is part and parcel to the work of eating disorders recovery.
As long as there is inequity, there will be eating disorders. I am going to continue to fight for a world in which our freedoms and our safety doesn’t hinge on our bodies. I trust you’ll keep fighting with me.
- More Than a Body by Lindsey and Lexi Kite
- Beyond Beautiful by Anushka Rees
- Fearing the Black Body: The Racist Origins of Fat Phobia by Sabrina Strings
- The Body Is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor
- The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
1Women’s Equality Day (Wikipedia)
25 Facts About the State of the Gender Pay Gap
3Statistics & Research on Eating Disorders