This is something a lot a self-identifying feminists hear (and think) at some point. For me, it was something that become a bit of an existential crisis – how could I champion women’s rights if I couldn’t champion myself?
It took me a long time (months) to come to terms with the fact that acknowledging the falsities of the media and the pressure women and girls face did not somehow make me magically immune to the effects. I’m not immune to body image pressure, I can’t turn my mind off to the pressure to fit a very streamlined and impossible idea of beauty, and I felt like a failure as a result.
When Pinterest opened up private boards last year, I made a thinspo board. In public I wrote here, I wrote for friends, I wrote to friends discussing the dangers of thinspo (and it’s closely related cousin “fitspo,” which has nothing to do with being athletic and everything to do with being incredibly thin AND very toned) and I had my own thinspo collection. I hated myself for it, I cried and I felt ashamed, and eventually I stopped writing, not just here but everywhere. I couldn’t even make myself write fiction that had nothing to do with women’s rights because I felt like a fraud, unworthy of even writing a female character.
A friend of mine who I admire deeply posted a query on Facebook towards the end of the year asking about diet pills. At first I thought she was kidding – this is a woman who works, lives, and breathes fighting for women’s rights – but it became clear to me she wasn’t. I was floored, I was angry, I was so pissed that such a smart and motivated friend was driven to something so harmful and I didn’t understand why or how. I’d put her on a feminist pedestal, I decided for her that she was immune to the exact same societal pressures I couldn’t escape from myself, and I realized how utterly wrong I had been to do so.
Ultimately my “failure as a feminist” wasn’t a failure at all, it was an awakening. We’re all in this together. I deleted the thinspo board. And now, I’ve admitted it existed.
I’m back. Every part of me, every weakness and strength.