I hadn’t had a single cup of coffee to appropriately wake myself up when I first saw the headline. My immediate response was denial. “This is The Onion, of course.” I scrolled past it on my screen.
The third time I saw the headline, I looked more carefully. Is that… an xojane link? Yes. Yes it was.
Looking back on that moment, I like to imagine the scene in black and white, with only muted hints of barely distinguishable color tones peeking through. There is a cigarette dangling from my disinterested fingers (I don’t smoke, but work with me). A lone violin painfully strums my feelings. My eyes widen, and I drop the cigarette as I yell “noooooooo” in slow motion. A single blood red rose falls somewhere in the distance. Fade to black. End scene.
“It happened to me: I Lost 40 Pounds And Now I Feel Like a Terrible Feminist.” This is the real headline for a real article that a real person really wrote. On purpose.
Brianne Benness, the author in question, sets the scene by laying out the moment she found contemporary feminism. “I was single for the first time in my 20s and just starting to think about sharing my body with unfamiliar men, so I made a conscious decision that I wasn’t going to apologize for the stubble on my legs or the curve of my waist or the oil in my hair,” she wrote.
Last October, Benness discovered itchy patches on her body. After attempting, and failing, at several medical remedies, she decided to embrace the Canadien Diet. After a two week trial period, her skin began to clear up. However, in addition to helping with her skin, the diet was also causing her to lose weight – as most can expect to result from cutting out sugar, fruit, starch, grains, caffeine, cheese and alcohol. However, Benness did not expect it.
“So, OK, I know feminism is about choice,” Benness wrote. “But up until this point I had chosen not to personally engage this body image quagmire by assuming I wouldn’t ever get smaller unless I was trying, and that I wouldn’t ever try because that would involve conforming to cultural standards of beauty that didn’t align with my feminism. Things started to get a little cyclical.” She also hated the fact that she liked the way that she looked.
“That part of me who used to apologize for my stubble and my waist and my hair was beaming now. She liked the thigh gap that emerged during downward facing dog,” Benness wrote. “She liked the way my formerly tight boyfriend jeans were now sagging over my emerging hip bones. She liked when the number on the scale went down. She was secretly pleased when I had a 700-calorie deficit one Sunday. She was not a feminist. For years, I thought I’d evicted her from my brain. Feminism had helped me evict her. But now she was back.”
According to Benness, one cannot enjoy having a slim frame or a healthy weight while continuing to be a feminist.
The fascination with weight in respect to feminism is an interesting topic. Slender models are blamed for eating disorders. Fit celebrities are seen as the cause of low self esteem in young girls. Billboard ads that depict a skinny woman, while selling weight loss and fitness supplements, are accused of fat-shaming. And all of these people, and those with similar proportions, are told they are not “real women.”
Many want the world around them to change in order to align with their comfort, instead of adjusting to the world they live in. Exposure to anything different – from thought to body type – is treated as a direct and personal attack on them.
If your argument is that being a healthy weight is bad, you’re probably not sharing the most “empowering” message. Thankfully, the article is listed under “issues” – exactly where it belongs.