I treat internalized misogyny.
Of course, I don’t call it that. It’s not very catchy and no socially conscious feminist would ever admit to harbouring patriarchal beliefs….but alas, that’s the trick with internalized misogyny – it lives in our tissues: tightening our fascia, shortening our breath, making our hearts race. It’s a byproduct of the patriarchal culture that causes women to shame, doubt, and undervalue themselves and the women around them and it is typically so deeply buried in our bodies that we mistake it for part of ourselves. We carry it, like a virus in our nerve roots, unintentionally spreading and perpetuating the oppression imposed on women for centuries. We, women, do that.
Sound serious? It is. But again, not a particularly sexy topic, so I don’t talk about it like this.
Instead, I talk about body image, emotional eating and binge eating. I talk about the difficult relationship we have with our female form, our obsession with health and food, and the various ways we try to abuse our bodies into submission. Women know that conversation, they resonate. So that’s where I start, with the symptom – I use the open wound as a way in – and then I dig out the rot.
I’m lazy, so I make the woman I’m working with do all the heavy lifting: I chat away about the psychology of eating, the history of the thin ideal, the sociology of fat, and the multitude of ways these stories of have been fed to us. All the while she’s elbows deep in the wound, peeling back the layers and clearing the debris….trying to differentiate between the healthy tissue and the infected; self vs. non-self; her voice vs. the voice of the patriarchal diet culture. Just when she thinks she has it, I wield an imaginary poker stick, leaning over from my metaphorical lawn chair to push on an oppressive thought or stigmatizing belief, shouting “Nope! That’s not you! That’s not the good stuff! Try again!”.
It really, truly is. It’s challenging and engaging and inspiring and enraging. And then there is the magic moment when a woman begins to SEE. When it becomes so obvious that these issues she has with her body and food are not her own. They were not born in her or of her, they were imposed upon her and, miraculously, she SEES it. She sees how these thoughts & behaviours are NOT a personal failure but a social failure, a cultural failure. She begins to see that her flesh is not the problem and that this suffocating story line extends well beyond body and food and into all areas of her life – her intelligence, her worth, her energy, her belonging, her relationships, and her belief in other females.
There are plenty of ways to address body image and eating issues: mantras and mirror work and intuitive eating, but here is what I know – if you don’t dig out the misogyny, if you leave it buried – the wound won’t heal, or it heals all wonky with the infection stuck inside - which is probably the worst case of all. So I press women to do the deep, hard work required for healing.
I PRESS FOR PROGRESS. I expose the limiting beliefs we carry around within ourselves, about ourselves. I provide a counter-narrative that starts with food, weight, beauty, and health, and ends with how being better to ourselves helps us be better to all women. Better to all people.
Pressing for Progress needn’t always be a march on the Mall or a rally or a fight – sometimes it’s just one woman teaching another woman a secret she learned way too late in life: our soul-voice doesn’t talk shitty to us. Our authentic self doesn’t doubt. Our best version doesn’t obsess about macros and micros or the curve of our belly in a tight–fitting dress at the expense of our dreams…..because we have bigger things to do.
PS Have you joined my FREE Masterclass: 7 Days. 7 Stories. yet?
Kicking off on March 21st, for 7 days, we'll be exploring how cultural stories have negatively shaped the female relationship with food and body and how we can use story to get back to the truth of who we are and how to be healthy on our own terms.