I don't know about you, but my body and I have been on a long journey. When I was an adolescent, I felt fat and ugly. I remember looking in the mirror at my 'fat' stomach and flat chest. I even remember asking a babysitter if I would ever have larger breasts and a flatter stomach, instead of the other way around. I was desperate yet hopeful. I was 10. Already I knew that my value came from my appearance. When I was 14, I read a book whose protagonist drank only a glass of orange juice for breakfast. I was determined to do the same - wasn't that 'normal', 'healthy'?
Perhaps it was at that time that I began monitoring my food, hopeful that I'd soon become the ideal girl - the skinny, confident, graceful, stylish, controlled, conventionally pretty, self-assured, and feminine girl (the list goes on) - and not the awkward, shy, confused, and uncertain girl I was. Although I never suffered from an eating disorder, I have and do suffer from disordered eating and the idea that I am not worthy in society unless I am (or appear to be) this ideal girl. Even now, with my social privilege and my perhaps 'pretty' and seemingly put-together appearance - even now that I can slide into the category of ideal womanhood - I'm still considered 'Other'.
That's why Caroline Rothstein's performance of her poem Fat spoke to me; because it speaks to not just my own gendered experience, but a common experience that many women face (albeit in very different ways). Hopefully this recitation will inspire and move you as it did me.
If I may, I dedicate this poem to all fellow women - those suffering with body image and appearance and those not - because it also speaks to our resiliency, our resistance, our continual strength. xo Caroline
* Photo taken from this website.