CALLING ALL GEORGIA FEMINISTS: Why we should walk with NEDA
By: Caitlyn Beatty
The rate of new cases of eating disorders has been on the rise since 1950, yet the level of funding, advocating and knowledge of eating disorders is dramatically lower than less pervasive mental illnesses including Alzheimer’s, Autism and Schizophrenia. National Eating Disorders Association is a non-profit that provides support and resources for, and advocates on behalf of, families affected by eating disorders. This weekend (Feb. 28th) there will be a walk to raise support for NEDA in Athens, Georgia. Here’s why all Georgia Feminists should register for the walk.
Feminism is about supporting anyone who is struggling, marginalized or silenced.
My favorite thing about feminism is that it never meets a cause it doesn’t like. Feminism is not about one single issue concerning women. Feminism didn’t end when women got the right to vote. Feminism will not be over when we achieve equal pay. Feminism covers a spectrum of issues ranging from body image to equal access to education because the main goal of feminism is equality for all. Therefore, the feminist community gives its voice to anyone struggling, marginalized or silenced. Men and women struggling with eating disorders are marginalized in society and silenced by shame or lack of understanding and empathy from the general public. Being a part of the NEDA walk gives Georgia feminists a chance to tell our brothers and sisters that we will support and listen, because feminism seeks to create a welcoming society.
It is an investment in the future
42 percent of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner. 81 percent of ten year old girls are afraid of being fat. Girls deserve a childhood free from shame and self-hate. Through the over-sexualization of cartoon characters and unachievable standards of beauty set by toys like Barbies, our girls are taught that there is no such thing as “too skinny.” They are told at too young of an age that there is always something that they should change about their appearance. Through this logic, they are taught that their appearance is their most defining trait.
But imagine a society where young girls are not thinking about dieting, being thinner, or altering their beauty. Imagine girls who are more concerned with doing their best at a sport or academic achievements. They would have the freedom to achieve their dreams. They would have the freedom to engage in healthy and happy relationships with themselves and others. They would have the freedom to be equal.
Eating disorders are in many ways the product of a sexist society.
The average BMI of Miss America winners has decreased from around 22 in the 1920s to 16.9 in the 2000s. The World Health Organization classifies a normal BMI as falling between 18.5 and 24.9. Our society has created a standard of beauty that is not only unattainable for most women, but is also unhealthy. Women and men are pounded with “examples of beauty” that encourage risky behavior and unhealthy habits like fasting, skipping meals, binge eating, taking laxatives and smoking cigarettes to curb hunger, and in fact over one-half of teenage girls and one-third of teenage boys participate in these unhealthy habits.
Men and women find themselves affected by this pressure because our society is obsessed with having strict standards for both men and women. We enforce a binary that says this is what a good woman does and looks like, this is what a good man does and looks like. And if you do not fit in that box then you need to take whatever steps necessary to change. But enforcing this binary has dangerous consequences. It pushes men and women into developing dangerous habits. Then (because disorder in itself is stigmatized) society silences people struggling with eating disorders and keeps them from getting help.
This is happening to UGA students
Eating disorders and body image concerns are not a problem isolated to the models walking the catwalk or the actors and actresses in the tabloids. An estimated 30 million Americans are struggling with eating disorders— and there are UGA students making up some of those numbers. Our peers are struggling with eating disorders too. Participating in the NEDA walk says that you are advocating for the student sitting next to you in your class, for the kid standing next to you on the bus and the girl you sit next to when the Bulldawgs play at home.
This is the mission of WORC.
If you are reading this blog, chances are you believe in the mission that WORC has set out to achieve. If you are wearing a “Georgia Feminist” shirt then you represent the WORC mission. The WORC Mission is to be a collaborative community for advocates of gender equity and social justice.
If we are serious about providing support and advocacy and community for social justice, then what better place to start than with a walk on behalf of those affected by a sexist society? The NEDA walk seeks to provide community and support and understanding to those who are underrepresented.
I have registered for the NEDA WALK 2015 here. I will be the one in the Georgia Feminist shirt and I hope to see the rest of you there.