Misogyny, Freedom, and My Eating Disorder

Ashley Fairbanks
Dec 6, 2017 · 4 min read
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Grey baseball pants stretched over my belly. There were three buttons. A tight yellow jersey, seams stretched tight. This was my second grade softball picture. I threw the pictures away.

I was already too big in other ways, hovering over the other little girls in my class. Fatness was just a new way to be different in a world where I was already other — too loud, too smart, racially-ambiguous, poor. Fitting in was not my forte.

My parents had divorced and I had started to eat. I remember the shame as my dad fished soda cans from underneath my bed, or god forbid, a can of frosting. Chocolate frosting, scooped right out of the jar, was my favorite treat. My mom would always get so mad. But in the dead of night, I couldn’t resist.

The years passed and I kept growing, both upward and outward. More and more different than the girls around me. The awful bowl cut is the only thing I am still mad at my parents about.

I ate Duncan Hines frosting and read books on the playground while other girls got chased by boys.

The pretty, skinny girls had to giggle and sit on the monkey bars and dress a certain way. But in my fat, bowl-cut body, I was free. I could read books at recess. I could hang out with whomever I wanted, laugh, run, be weird. I didn’t have to be the one that boys wanted.

It wasn’t foolproof. Men in trucks still slowed down to holler at us, barely 12, as we walked back from the convenience store. My fat little breasts developed at an early age. A mauve Victoria Secret training bra that marked my entry into womanhood is burned into my mind. I cried so hard the first time I put it on.

I went to a music festival in high school. I’m writing music festival, but it was really the Gathering of the Juggalos. Are you familiar? A truly midwestern experience of white, clown-faced rappers and debauchery. I was 15 the first time that my mom let me board a Greyhound bus with my best friend and attend. While the skinny girls were pressured to take their clothes off, my fatness gave me the freedom to stay clothed.

I ate deep-fried Oreos and no one screamed show me your tits at me.

Society teaches us, as fat women, that we are not desirable. That is, until men get desperate. We are an object of last resort, but an object none-the-less.

An object that should feel grateful when it is wanted. No matter how that want is expressed. As fat women, we are told that we should settle. Settle for the guy that hollers on the street. Settle for being treated like trash. What a gift, men’s desire is, for us, the undeserved.

He followed me for 10 blocks and I went home and cried into a pizza.

I’m thinking about how I put on this weight, steady over the years.

Break up with boyfriend, lose 10, 20, 50 pounds. New relationship, gain back 15, 25, 60. Trying to shape myself to be lovable enough.

Never getting far enough down the scale where I feel unsafe.

My fat is an illusion of safety.

It does not keep me safe. It hasn’t shielded me from sexual violence, street harassment or stalking.

My fat is an illusion of freedom.

Women are trapped in this life, where it is still acceptable for men to catcall, to sexually harass, to rape. Every time that I’ve gotten more thin, the attention paid to my body has increased so exponentially that I quit working to lose the weight. I never connected the two until recently.

There is this perpetuation of the idea in our society that fat women don’t get raped. When a fat woman comes forward about sexual violence, you can still see the looks in people’s eyes — really, her?

Like we should be so grateful that someone wanted us that we don’t care how they did it.

I want to find peace with my body.

I am a believer in the fat acceptance movement. I believe that all bodies are good bodies. But I also believe that my relationship with my body was build on a false premise — that if I just kept it undesirable, I’d be safe, I’d be free.

With feminism, we argue that women should have agency over their choices in life. Body positivity, to me, should also use this tenet. We should get to have agency over our bodies.

I want to feel like my body is a place where I can do anything that I set my mind to. At my weight, that isn’t a physical possibility. My anxiety is worsened by the stress of the million micro-worries and anxieties that come along with being a fat woman. Things I’m sure non-fats and small-fats never have to worry about.

Will this chair break?

Will I get kicked off this plane?

Does someone think I’m stupid because I’m fat?

I don’t want to be thin, I want to be free.

So I’m stepping into my freedom.

It’s a place where I am able to treat my body with compassion and empathy.

A place where I am truly present in my body.

A place where I understand that food doesn’t keep me safe.

And most importantly, a place where I can know that the only way to protect women from sexual violence is to end patriarchy.

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