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Good Days, Bad Days

Sometimes I think I’m over it.

That it doesn’t matter how I look, or what size I wear, or what I grabbed to go from Chipotle on my way home from work because I’ve been pulling 13-hour days a few too many times this month, and sometimes you don’t even care that guac is a dollar more.

But sometimes I feel like I’ve been lying to myself all that time.

It can be any number of things that set the feeling off.

A glance down when toweling off after a shower, which even after all this time I studiously refuse to do, because the wave of sadness I get from looking at my new Buddha belly hurts more than I usually feel comfortable admitting.

Another goddamn rejection letter, when for some reason I really thought we were going to get somewhere this time.

Another lunch break sacrificed to a meeting or a project I don’t feel like I understand, or that I’m good enough to do. Hello, impostor syndrome, my old friend.

Whatever it is, it usually ends the same. Lying flat on my living room floor, staring at my bookshelf without any intention of picking up a book, wondering why my current lifestyle refuses to let me lose weight.

Yes. Yes. I know.

I know that diet culture is a cruel cocktail mixed by capitalism and the patriarchy.

I know that before I chose recovery I was no happier, in fact much less happy.

I know that I still reap the benefits of thin privilege in about a million different ways, and that my health is not in any way connected to the way my body looks.

I can rationalize my way through that. Most of the time I do. I can hit you with a Health at Every Size–based rant at the drop of a hat, literally or figuratively. Like, if you actually throw a hat at me, I will catch it and say “$20 billion annual profits of the US weight loss industry” in the same breath.

But some nights I don’t want to.

Some nights I want to wallow a little in the self-pity I try not to allow myself too often.

I want to acknowledge the weight of a small creature perched on my chest, pressing the breath from me and keeping me here on the floor, this small creature that does not feel exactly the same as my eating disorder did, but is close.

Quieter.

More subtle.

It is the whisper in the back of my mind that says “You failed at being thin. Just exactly the way you fail at everything else.”

I wish I weren’t writing about this. I realize that it isn’t helpful. But maybe the admission that I don’t always have it all together, that I’m not always here to be helpful, maybe that’s worth something. I don’t know. I’m not convinced my thoughts make sense, and I think it might be important to admit that, and edit a little less. Radical honesty does not always make for lucid prose.

But that’s all theoretical. What matters is tonight.

Tonight, I will let these feelings hang there, for the amount of time it takes to write this blog post. Because they are real, and they matter.

And then, also tonight, I will stand up, close my computer, and go do something else. I don’t know what. Sing along loudly to the Sweeney Todd  original cast recording, or finally start the latest Toni Morrison novel, or watch the rest of Season Two of Orphan Black. Anything else.

Because my residual ED feelings are part of my life, but so are all these things.

And they are real.

And they matter, too.

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#StopTheBeautyMadness – A Body Positive Interview

imagesHey folks,

So I’ve been talking about it quite a bit lately, but I’m sure you’ve heard that I’m one of the FrontLine Voices of the Stop The Beauty Madness campaign, an online activism movement dedicated to dismantling the destructive beauty ideals that surround us each and every day. And as the words “FrontLine Voices” imply, I’ve lent the voice to their audio series. This fantastic series features body image activists, bloggers, writers, slam poets, and generally a pretty awesome constellation of folks.

Don’t believe me? Check out the lineup and judge for yourself.

The audio series went live last week, so if you’re so inclined – and you should be! – you can subscribe to the whole thing just by providing a name and email address to the Stop The Beauty Madness website. 30-minute interviews with folks working to end body negativity and oppression in our world, delivered straight to your inbox. What’s not to love?

If you’re looking for a taste, you’re in luck. My interview with Robin Rice went live on Sunday, and I’ve linked the audio file right here in this lovely post. The transcript can be found embedded right below, for those looking for it. Be gentle – it’s my first time being interviewed for a podcast!

https://soundcloud.com/stopthebeautymadness/394allison-epstein-stop-the-beauty-madness/s-vuD2Y

(Also, forgive any errors in the transcript. I’m as accurate as I can be while also drinking coffee at the same time.)


My End to the Jennifer Lawrence Debate – From So Many Heartbeats

Note: Hey there, everyone! This week’s post is, in fact, not from me at all, but a cross-post from Grace over at So Many Heartbeats, a really lovely person starting a really lovely body positivity and feminist blog. Here’s a quick taste of things to come over there, and definitely check out her site when you get the chance! I’ll be back with my own blogging later on, particularly when the madness that is working two jobs and writing a senior university honors thesis calms down just a tiny bit.


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There has been a lot of buzz lately of whether or not actress Jennifer Lawrence is a body-positivity heroine or its antithesis. Oddly enough, both sides of this argument cite the same interviews and YouTube videos but interpret them very differently. So, because I created this blog so I could weigh in on topics just like these, here I go.

On one side, J-Law lovers boast about how Jennifer Lawrence is championing over the cruelty that is Photoshop and Hollywood, saying things like she would never lose weight for a role and that society’s ideals for women’s bodies are harmful and unattainable. She talks about keeping her adolescent audience in mind when preparing for her role as Katniss in The Hunger Games, saying she wanted Katniss to be a strong female role model for young girls, instead of another waif of a woman whose main goal is to “get the guy” at the end of the film.

Cool. I’m all about women speaking out and standing up for their bodies regardless of how they look. I’m all about questioning ideals. I’m all about strong female protagonists in films that pass the Bechdel test with flying colors.

But as soon as Jennifer Lawrence’s fans flooded Tumblr in her honor, a whole stream of bloggers emerged saying, “Hold up, your fave is problematic.” Like I did with the first side of the argument, I read their evidence with an open and curious mind. Yes, Jennifer Lawrence did say a pretty trans-phobic statement during an interview with Ellen DeGeneres. Yes, she did kind of say that eating disorders are “dumb” rather than serious mental illnesses (which, I admit, really hurt me personally. We didn’t choose to have disordered eating, and we certainly should not be blamed or labeled as “dumb” for our struggles). Yes, Jennifer Lawrence is still an attractive, white woman. Despite not being the Hollywood size 0, she still generally fits into a mold of being presentable to society.

This is where my opinion of Jennifer Lawrence starts to deviate from this line of thinking. The “What does she know about being a fat and unattractive woman in America?” is thin-shaming and has no role in my body positive movement.Thin-shaming and fat-shaming are two sides of the same coin; both objectify women and deem them incapable of cultivating their own opinions and having their own independent experiences regardless of how they look. There’s actually no difference is saying that Jennifer Lawrence can’t talk about body acceptance because she’s not a size 16 and saying that Melissa McCarthy can’t talk about her favorite vegetable stew because she is. [Note: I have absolutely no idea what size Melissa McCarthy is, nor do I care.] You see? Body-shaming is body-shaming, objectification is objectification. Reducing women to their outward appearances and denying the fact that they– gasp!— are capable of producing independent thought contributes to the continued oppression of women worldwide.

So now, I’m throwing my own argument into the mix. Can we stop idealizing Jennifer Lawrence into being a perfect role model? Can we let go of the idea that “perfect” even exists? Can we stop thin-shaming her into submission by nitpicking every word that comes out of her mouth? Can we recognize that she is just another human being who is brave enough to share her unpopular opinions, but will also make some insensitive comments sometimes, as we all inevitably do? Can we all just relax about Jennifer Lawrence?

6 Deadly Sins of Body Policing and Negativity

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Sometimes, society is exhausting.

The constant pressure placed on our bodies day in and day out can make you never want to leave your bed, where at least your pillow understands that your body is nobody’s business but your own.

But much as I’d like to, I can’t stay in bed for my entire life and listen to body negativity pitter-patter against the roof like a particularly noxious rainstorm. So forgive this somewhat-ranty list of the top six things that irritate me about the way body politics appear in the world and the media today.

If I miss something that really grinds your gears, let me know in the comments! This list could go on forever, but I only have so much emotional energy to expend at one time.

1. The phrase “plus size.”

Plus what? Plus society’s preconceived notion of what size is acceptable for a woman? Here’s my general thought on the matter: “plus” means positive, as in “not a negative number.” We are all plus-sizes if we take up any space at all in the world. So please stop dividing clothing into “acceptable” and “plus-acceptable.” If you have to make clothing sized by numbers, go ahead and do that. Just keep your value judgments out of it.

2. Diet supplement and weight-loss ads everywhere.

facebookadspic1I’ve made a game of it every time an ad telling me I can LOSE SEVEN INCHES IN TWO WEEKS WITH THIS ONE EASY PILL, NO DIET OR EXERCISE REQUIRED!! (For some reason or other, they do seem to enjoy caps lock…) I like to block them, and then when Facebook politely asks me why, explain that they are “against my beliefs.” Which they are. I’d just like to see the article my friend posted on my wall about the French kids who took a llama on the tram. I don’t want to be bombarded with the multi-billion-dollar diet industry. Facebook doesn’t know my body. And quite frankly, it’s none of its business.

(For those who are interested, the llama on the tram is real. Click here.)

3. Tabloids like these:

mary-kate-olsen-119waity1originalFirst off, tabloid reporters have zero way of knowing whether or not one of these celebrities is or is not struggling with an eating disorder. That’s not something that you can tell by picking them out on the street. Eating disorders are mental illnesses (I’ve discussed this before…), not diet plans. And making it something you have to continuously deny only adds to the shame. The last thing we need is celebrities having to repeatedly assert “I’M NOT ANOREXIC!”, as this only heightens the stigma on an already dangerous disease.

And let’s not even talk about those little arrows on the left image, pointing out Mary-Kate’s “stick thin legs!” Because that’s so helpful, Star.

4. Tabloids like these:

originalenq012207vh41 xkim-kardashian-in-touch-cover.jpg.pagespeed.ic.gEmlI1yY_5No. No no no no no no. Other people’s bodies are literally none of your business. Cellulite is not like Sugar Ray Leonard, and you cannot “lose a fight with it.” Cher “packs on 26 pounds,” and that’s entirely her business. Please stop making other people’s body size news.

You want to show me “eight pages of shocking new photos”? How about some pictures of the cleanup efforts around Hurricane Sandy, or the continuing conflict in Syria. Not Britney Spears’ thighs. The only person to whom Britney Spears’ thighs are important is Britney Spears. And I doubt she’s reading this magazine to find out what they look like.

5. Fat-Shaming Week

I didn’t make this up. This is actually a thing. October 7-11 was apparently hailed by some self-absorbed douche canoes on Twitter as Fat Shaming Week, otherwise known as five days of the year when people with nothing better to do provide unsolicited, ineffective, rude, and cruel advice to anonymous strangers whose weight they determined was unsatisfactory. Here is part of their actual mission statement:

Mocking someone for lazy and slothful behavior is one of the best ways to motivate them to change and appear more pleasing before our presence… Hurting people’s feelings is the quickest way to get them to change… We have decided as a group that fat shaming is essential in creating a society of thin, beautiful women who are ashamed for being ugly. Let the fat shaming begin!

I’m actually so angry about this that I want to throw my computer across the room and let out a war cry. I won’t do that, because 1. my laptop is very expensive, and I’m unemployed, and 2. I’m in a public library and that would be frowned upon. But seriously? This is the world I live in?

I don’t think I actually need to say what’s wrong with this, but let’s do it briefly anyway.

First: THEY ARE WRONG. Fat-shaming isn’t even effective. Studies have shown this. (Yes, there were studies on this. I’m linking only a few sources that confirm it. Tiger Beatdown puts it best, I think: “Guess What? Shaming People for Being Fat Doesn’t Magically Make them Thin!)

Second: Some people still seem to be laboring under the delusion that women are here to “appear more pleasing before men’s presence.” Excuse me while I laugh so hard that I actually vomit up a lung.

Third: “Lazy and slothful behavior” are not direct causes for someone’s body type. Fat does not equal unhealthy. Thin does not equal healthy. Neither of these equal beautiful. Besides failing basic human decency, it appears that someone also failed science.

Moving on, before I actually get so angry that I break something expensive…

6. Photoshop.

If you haven’t seen the 37-second video that explains why Photoshop gives us an unrealistic view of what the actual human body is supposed to look like, I recommend you click on this link and check it out. You can spare 37 seconds to see in glittering detail how fashion magazines and advertisements are airbrushing us out of existence.

If you want to sell us clothing and accessories, please show us how it would really look on an actual human’s body, not on some computer-generated cyborg that you whipped up in your laboratory. I don’t want to see what pants will look like on someone made of toothpicks and papier-mâché, I want to know what they would look like on me. Because unless I’m very much mistaken, the average consumer is, in fact, human.

The only plus side of Photoshop in the fashion and advertising industry? The fails. Photoshop fails make my day.

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I could go on for days and days and days, but as I mentioned earlier, that would only result in me breaking things. Is it possible to live in a society where women’s bodies aren’t placed on the dissecting table and picked apart by strangers and CEO’s? Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But I live in eternal hope that someday I will turn on my computer, switch on the TV, and flip through a magazine without once feeling the need to flip a table.

Until then…