More often than I would ever like to admit I have been guilty of outfit and food shaming other women. When walking by a curvy woman wearing leggings I would whisper to the person next to me “Ugh, leggings are a privilege, not a right.” Meanwhile I was wearing leggings as well. But in my mind I had earned the right to wear leggings with all my countless hours at the gym and the myriad times I chose not to eat. My thinness gave me the privilege to dress as I pleased and apparently it gave me the right to judge whether other women had earned the privilege to dress as they pleased.
The same form of judgement made itself clear at restaurants. I would watch a women that I judged to be overweight devour a cheeseburger and think to myself, “Doesn’t she know what she’s doing to her body? She really should have ordered a salad.” Of course, I know that social rules dictate that I can’t make this judgement out loud, but it was loud and clear in my brain. This kind of judgement did make it out of my mouth when I decided to justify my order to the people I was with. “I was at the gym for like 3 hours today. I am so starving! I think I’ll get the cheeseburger.” I needed everyone at the table to know that I had earned the right to have that cheeseburger. Of course, I also needed people to know when I hadn’t earned the right to have a cheeseburger. “I ate sooo much for lunch. I couldn’t possibly eat more than the salmon and veggies tonight. I probably won’t even finish that!”
The saddest part about my judgement of other women’s outfits and food choices was that I ultimately internalized all these rules and was constantly aware that other women might be making the same judgements of me in their heads. When I wore leggings I would think to myself, “Does that skinnier woman over there think that my thighs are too big for these leggings? Does she think I should put on some baggy jeans instead?” When I was out to lunch with my girlfriends I would think, “Do they think I’m fat for getting this sandwich? Should I have gotten a salad instead?” At the height of my eating disorder my own perceptions of other’s judgements of my eating habits became even more sick. On the rare occasions I would eat a “fat food” in public I would want women to be jealous of me for eating that food and being so thin. I wanted them to think, “She’s so thin, but she’s still eating that giant cookie. I wish I could eat giant cookies and be that thin.” Of course, the giant cookie was followed by extended periods of not eating or triple sessions at the gym, so I was not really able to maintain my ideal physique and “get away” with that cookie.
What I failed to understand about all of this judgement was how dangerously anti-feminist it was. I had completely bought in to the idea that in order to be worthy a woman’s body must be aesthetically pleasing, and not just aesthetically pleasing, but pleasing in a very specific way. Her body must be pleasing according to the standards set by the media, a male dominated industry. Through my judgement I was choosing to enforce the ideals and standards that were tearing me apart. Every time I chose to judge a fellow woman I was reinforcing the standards that made me feel worthless. When I realized this was the truth behind my judgement I realized that a large part of the power of the patriarchy is conditioning women to tear each other down. Imagine how much could be accomplished if we stopped tearing ourselves and other women down and started building ourselves and each other up.