Feminine Appetites: What Keeps Us from Self-Care

I was just watching this TED Talk on intuitive eating…

[ted id=1900]

… and it reminded me that 80% of American girls have been on a diet by the time they’re ten years old.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that ten is both the onset of puberty, and a very popular time to develop an eating disorder. Disordered eating is usually associated with control issues, but I think that we rarely extrapolate that beyond the control issues of the person with the disorder. We don’t think about what external controls are making it easier for girls to take these particular internal controls to heart. What is the messaging that makes this a viable option? As it happens, we are a culture very much afraid of female hunger.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. The TED talk only kick-started something that’s been brewing for awhile. So far, it’s all a hodge-podge, but it’s in here, so bear with me.

It started when I was having massive self-care issues earlier this month. I couldn’t figure out why it was so fucking difficult, even when I knew it was the better course of action, to just fucking feed myself and take breaks.

I ended up concluding that it was a self-worth issue. That in order to justify my amazing life and career I had to “pay” for it with overwork and personal misery. I was basically balancing the books with my own physical and emotional health, and using a faulty metric to do so.

And part of what drove me to feeling like I was not worth enough on my own to earn a decent day’s rest for a decent day’s work has a lot to do with my childhood and family life. I’ve been pretty well conditioned for low self esteem.

But I’ve also been thinking a lot about the way that our culture encourages women especially to completely ignore their own care. We are professional starvation artists. We ignore our physical, mental, and spiritual needs all in the service of control over the terrifying feminine appetites we so desperately attempt to leash.

Even well-adjusted women with outlier-good self-esteem will say they feel the pressure to forego their own care in the care of others, or in the performance of arbitrary duties around the home and office that nobody had to tell us to do, but that we obsessively do anyway.

The difference between the way a man cleans a house and the way a woman cleans a house is that the cleanliness of a man’s house has absolutely no bearing on his personal worth on any given day of the month.

We forget to eat, to sleep, to fuck. Hell, we even forget to jerk off. We probably forget the last one more than any of the others. How many women stop masturbating when they get in a long term relationship, or consider masturbation a a second-choice act? We let magazine covers tell us how to look, fad diet moguls tell us how to eat, and one or a handful of men tell us when to fuck based on their personal sexual schedule. What exactly is it that I am allowed to dictate for myself? Which of my appetites haven’t I thrown to some outside source at this point?

Moreover, why is the prospect of a well fed, well fucked generation of women so desperately terrifying?

It’s not just about intuitive eating, it’s about intuitive feeding. I have a hunger for life, for food, for sex that I have been taught to tamp down. The urge to stay inside and work myself to death, the urge to be serious, to settle for less than what I want, and what I work so fucking hard for is choking me. It’s choking all of us.

Women still earn 77 cents to a man’s dollar. Women still do the majority of the housework, even when we’re the main breadwinner. Like a peep in a vacuum, we’re bursting at the seams. We’re expected to do everything and take nothing. Well, fuck that unbelievable shit.

On the one hand, it’s easier to blame the patriarchy for my own terrible self-care than it is to deal with my self-worth issues. On the other hand, this is a contributing factor in why so many of us feel inadequate no matter what we do, who we are, or what we have. The women of this world are starving on so many levels, and we don’t talk about it nearly enough.

I was disappointed in myself that I wasn’t engaging in better self care. I should know when to take breaks and I should take them. I should know what my body needs to eat, and I should feed it. I should take more personal responsibility for my sexual needs and not rely on my partner for everything. Yes, these are all things one should do, and that are good for humans of every gender identity and sexual orientation. But I think that the pressure I felt to perform even these tasks admirably, efficiently and with a minimum of fuss is distinctly female. Like if I had to provide for myself, I should do it as quietly as possible and never be wrong. How many other womanly things have we been told to take care of in this way?

Why is it so taboo to be loud about hunger?

And I’m sure that there are a ton of men reading this and being all hurt that I didn’t include them. Your man feelings are totally valid, I’m just not able to write about them because I am not a man. You should start your own blog because you all suffer equally as much from the other side of the coin that I’m talking about in this post.