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Masked and Latent Misogyny:

Women, Stay Woke

Part 3

Breaking the Legacy of Silence #47

By:

Kim D. Bailey

 

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” – Maya Angelou

 

  • In the United States, an estimated 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from eating disorders, ranging from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and now a new DSM 5 category of OSFED (otherwise specified feeding or eating disorder).
  • In addition, many more cases are likely unreported or underreported, sub-clinical, and untreated. By age 6, it is common for girls to be dissatisfied with their weight and body image. Worse, 40%-60% of girls ages 6-12 are concerned about becoming “too fat.”
  • The rate of increasing incidences of eating disorders has risen since 1950. As we are speaking to women, particularly to misogyny, these statistics will address females. However, please note that boys and men also struggle with these diseases.
  • Anorexia nervosa has risen each decade since 1930 in women ages 15-19, and bulimia nervosa has TRIPLED in incidence in women ages 10-39 between 1988 and 1993. The prevalence is similar among African-American women, Hispanic women, and Non-Hispanic white women, except for anorexia nervosa, where the rates are usually higher in Non-Hispanic whites.
  • What’s more, women and girls who reported childhood and adulthood sexual abuse, physical abuse, and sexual assault are presenting as at least 3x more likely to have disordered eating, body dysmorphic disorder, and clinically diagnosed bulimia nervosa, than women and girls who were not sexually or physically abused in childhood or adulthood.

 

It is common for eating disorders to occur with other psychiatric disorders (comorbidity), such as depression, anxiety, alcoholism, drug addiction, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The public, in general, seems to grasp eating disorders are serious mental disorders and need to be treated, yet they fall last in funding and research for treatment and cures on a list of other mental disorders, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Autism, and Schizophrenia—despite the numbers of those with disordered eating outnumbering all the other above diseases combined.

Our culture has normalized a desired thinness for girls and women that is far from realistic. Body dysmorphia (the perception that one or more parts of one’s body is deeply flawed) is common among girls and women, especially when it comes to weight. Much of this can be attributed to Body Shaming, where women (and men) are criticized and mocked for the size or shape of their bodies.

I can remember when I was a little girl, watching my mother get ready for work or dressing up to go out. She agonized over the size of the clothes, whether she “looked fat,” and how much weight she had gained or lost since the last time she wore those jeans or that dress. My mom still focuses intently on her body and appearance.

With all the statistical findings mentioned above, I had so much against me from the beginning. I was set up to fail, really. I was sexually and physically abused as a child and adult. My family was highly dysfunctional—my mom with body dysmorphia and emotionally unavailable. My dad with his alcoholism, drug addiction, and anger issues.

Our home was strictly patriarchal in structure. Children were to “be seen and not heard” and so were women in most situations.

*The only caveat to this is my dad’s mother and grandmother, who were strong women with strong voices. My dad reacted to their independence and strength by choosing to have control over the women in his own nuclear family.

Okay, so all of this happened and here I am. Next month I turn 51-years-old. I still look at myself in the mirror and, at times, don’t like the woman I see there. She’s overweight, out of shape, and her dark brown hair has transformed into an almost white halo around her face without the help of a bottle of coloring.

When I do this to myself—when I dislike the woman in the mirror—I remind myself of those days when I was a teen and in my early twenties. Back then, I had no voice. What I thought, felt, or believed was highly questioned or shamed back into silence by those around me. My writing was ridiculed. When I spoke up, at all, and disagreed with the status quo, I was shamed for it:

You need to calm down!

What’s wrong with you?

That’s not how you were raised.

Your mouth is overloading your ass.

No man will want you if you keep acting like that.

You’re crazy! You need a psychiatrist!

I can’t talk to you when you get this way.

No, you can’t wear my sweater, you’ll stretch it out!

Just remember, men don’t like fat girls.

Kimberly, you shouldn’t talk like that. (Shaming)

Who do you think you are?

Why can’t you act more like your sister?

 

At 18, I was 5’7” and weighed 120 lbs. I was so thin I could wear a size 8, which back then, was the equivalent to a size 4 or 6 today. Yet, I still looked in the mirror and thought I was fat. To make matters worse, my mom fussed at me for not eating. My dad joked, “You have to run around in the shower to get wet.” And my first husband told me, “If you lost about 20-25 more pounds, you’d be perfect.”

So, what did I do?

I starved myself more. I binged and purged. Sex was only an obligation, and nothing I enjoyed or even began to understand until my late forties.

I laughed at dad’s jokes and ignored my mom when I could. I cried myself to sleep at night. I became depressed, anxious, and suicidal. I sought help and was shamed by some therapists for not conforming to expectations of most girls and women of my age, at those times.

This pattern was perpetuated for most of my young adult life until at age 25, I found myself sitting in an Overeaters Anonymous 12-Step group in Bartlesville, OK.

Every Tuesday night, for nearly 6 years, I attended that meeting. I began counseling and taking medication. My focus changed from hating myself to loving my children and loving myself as a mother. I didn’t want to repeat the damage I escaped with and give my kids any reasons to hate themselves—especially my daughter.

Whether I made any progress there or not, I’m not sure. However, I did start a long journey of recovery to learn to love myself just as I am, and not as others expected me to be.

“Don’t be the girl who fell. Be the girl who got back up.”

Jenette Stanley

Misogyny had horrific repercussions within my family of origin, especially that experienced by my mother and that doled out by my father. As we get older, we learn to let go of a lot of the hurt and damage our parents inflict upon us. We say things like, “Well, you have to consider where they came from, and what kind of circumstances they had to endure.” “It’s how they were raised. They didn’t know any better.” “You parents did the best they could with what they had.”

All true statements, but I contend that anyone can change if they so desire. My children may not realize and appreciate the significant changes I learned to make as a parent, but I know the work I put into being healthier than my own parents. I refused to make my children feel “less than” because of gender, voice, body size, or opposing views.

Unfortunately, patriarchy remains an entrenched system of belief and operation within the United States and many countries around the world. It has religious roots and cultural history, but it is also quite political and has everything to do with power and control.

From the microcosm of a nuclear family in Anytown, USA where a young girl is made to feel ashamed of who she is because she’s a girl, to the macrocosmic political and cultural norms across an entire country where women are paid less than men, devalued, undermined, shamed, and abused—we have a long way to go to reach an enlightened place as a species and culture.

To those who argue that misogyny is dying or “not as bad as it used to be” I challenge you to take a closer look at yourselves, your families, and your communities.

We have a president in the White House who called his presidential opponent a “Nasty Woman” on live television during a Presidential Debate, because she opposed his views and quoted facts to support her opposition.

And he still won!

He continues to spew his hatred and misogyny, and his supporters eat it up. This is the same man who says women are nothing but “beautiful pieces of ass” to be displayed upon their looks, not brains or power; who has verbally assaulted more women than you can shake a stick at and apparently sexually assaulted almost as many—because, we all know he has gotten away with so much more than he’s been accused; and has made it clear that women are objects and there for a man’s benefit, which has nothing to do with her own importance as a human being.

This speaks more about the latent and hidden misogyny in our country than anything else.

Women, men, children: it’s time to wake up. It’s time to do some serious reflecting on ourselves and our society. It’s time to stand up to the devaluation of ANYONE for their gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or financial status. It’s time to disallow those who would perpetuate this culture of disrespect for their own gains to have our ear, and to make us lose heart in the fight for our rights.

Stop believing the lie.

“In every community, there is work to be done.
In every nation, there are wounds to heal.
In every heart, there is the power to do it.”

― Marianne Williamson

 

Women, resist…and stay woke.