Note from Mama: I didn’t write about the Victoria’s Secret models because I am solely an advocate for thinness and thin people. I wrote about it because I’m an advocate for women (small, medium, large, extra juicy, all of your beautiful asses) loving themselves and respecting each other. I took on Rush Limbaugh (and the media) when he spoke about Michelle Obama’s body here. I write about loving your imperfections. And as someone who has spent the vast majority of my life obese, being “oinked” at, called names and hating myself for not falling into a narrow idea of what beauty is– I understand the backlash when I suggest we not attack the models. What I’m getting at is that hating each other is missing the point. Masking jealousy with feigned concern doesn’t help. Calling another woman’s body disgusting doesn’t help. Literally; I wanted to kill myself in preschool because I thought I was fat. And I lived through one of the closest people to me vanishing in spirit and in physical body to an eating disorder. I am sensitive to all sides of this issue. But to me there is one side– loving yourself enough to love others. Claiming your beauty. Owning it. And not wasting any of your precious, intelligent, beautiful self on throwing stones. When you look across this “battle field” of women and appreciate another’s perspective you will see that we all needlessly struggle with this. Here is but one very important perspective.
This post is written by someone very close to me. She has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy and to avoid more of scrutiny addressed herein.
(Motivated by “Why women love to hate Victoria’s Secret models”)
When you see a sexy, size 2 Victoria’s Secret model strutting across the stage wearing a few inches of luxurious fabric, how do you feel? Do you feel bad about yourself? Do you resent them? Are you jealous of them?
Maybe you soothe your insecurities and body image issues by saying, “They (Victoria’s Secret models) aren’t real women.”
Why? Because they are fit? Thin? Have amazing bone structure? Because some of them (not all) have an unhealthy lifestyle?
Victoria’s Secret models do live extraordinary lives. The average woman does not work out with a trainer for hours each day. The average woman does not have professional makeup and hair done before work. But these women do, and as Fit Mama said, they are very real. They may not be “average,” but the are real. “They have real vaginas that bleed just like yours and mine” (Fit Mama).
To say that they aren’t real is just plain wrong. We are talking about models, not the Easter Bunny. And attributing their size to eating disorders is not only ignorant but offensive to anyone who has struggled with an ED.
I am a real woman. I struggled with anorexia and bulimia for three years. At my lightest, my 5’7″ frame weighed 102 pounds. I did NOT look like the Victoria’s Secret models. I did not have muscle definition or any trace of boobs. I did not have enough caloric energy to even think about doing their workouts. And most importantly, my eating disorder had little to do with my desire to be skinny. It is SO much more complicated than that.
An eating disorder is an addiction. Treatment is similar to other addictions — alcoholism, drug addiction, etc. You can make the argument that society and thin models contribute to eating disorders, and while I agree that thin images in the media aggravate the issue, it certainly wasn’t a Victoria’s Secret model that made me throw up after every meal or restrict my calories to 250 each day. My brain was sick and not processing trauma I had endured in a healthy way.
You do not see someone drinking a beer and deem them an alcoholic. If you’ve ever been close to an alcoholic, you know it is a disease that should not be taken lightly. It can destroy — and end — lives.
So can eating disorders.
It hurts me that we label thin people as having eating disorders without thinking twice about it … that we reduce this very serious sickness to that … and that the hardest battle I have ever fought (and continue to fight) is discussed by other women in a hateful tone, without compassion toward me and countless others who are fighting the same battle.
Even if the VS models were to blame for my addiction, there are helpful and harmful ways to “help” someone like me.
“I care about you. I really think you should seek professional help.”
“You deserve to be happy.”
“I am proud of you for making progress.”
“You are too skinny.”
“Here, eat this.”
“Aren’t you going to eat anything else?”
“Stop losing weight.”
I have never been scrutinized by women so much as when I struggled with my eating disorder. Women, even some friends, were hateful toward me. They were jealous of my eating disorder. They compared their plates to mine and hated themselves for eating the cupcake when I had two bites of a salad. Though they may never admit it, I know it is true. They wanted to be thin and because I was thin they resented me.
If they knew what it was really like, I know they would be anything but jealous. It is not a glamorous disease. It contaminates all your thoughts and effects every aspect of your life. I was at my weakest point, hating myself more than ever, and constantly being judged and criticized by other women.
Kicking a woman when she is down does not help anything.
I cannot count how many times I was told — ALWAYS by a woman — to eat more, to stop losing weight, that I was too skinny. Do you tell a woman she is too fat? I hope not. It is no different to tell a woman she is too thin.
Perhaps this is why the first two therapists I went to did not help me. They were women. I’m sure they were wonderful women and they did not judge me but I was so used to females scrutinizing me that I did not feel comfortable even with these smart, educated and compassionate women.
It was a man who helped me. Who showed me that my disease was a result of things outside my control. And he showed me that only I could control my future. Only I can determine my happiness.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that instead of looking at a woman who is unhealthy and thin and feeling anger, we should feel compassion. When you see a morbidly obese woman who cannot rise out of bed, I’m sure you do not resent her. You probably feel compassion. Hey, guess what — that morbidly obese woman has an eating disorder too. And the cause of her eating disorder might be the same as the cause of the thin model’s eating disorder. Eating disorders are all treated the same. Even though the outside looks different, the root of the problem is the same.
And when you see a woman who is thin, but FIT, like several of the Victoria’s Secret models, you shouldn’t resent her, either. You should celebrate her. Because she, like you, is a REAL woman, and she looks fucking hot. She worked her ass off to look that way — kudos to her! She is a strong, successful, gorgeous WOMAN. And she is real. For that, she should be celebrated.