Tag Archives: role model

Why I Am Not Angry At Tess Munster

28 Jan

For all you folks just tuning in – for what amounts to about 50% of the time I’ve been alive, I struggled with an eating disorder. And by “an eating disorder,” I really mean several of them, because eating disorders are slippery, wily creatures that’ll change shape on you faster than you, the eating disordered person, can change shape yourself. They’re like viruses, in a way. They mutate at an incredibly fast rate, all in an attempt to stay alive and present and growing faster than your body and your medicine is able to kill it off. I’ve seen anorexia. I’ve seen orthorexia. I’ve seen bulimia. I’ve spent more of my adult life in treatment for those things than I’ve spent out of treatment. I’ve been inpatient, outpatient, residential, full time, part time. I’ve had so many fucking talks about nutrition, science-drawn, evidence-based nutrition, and science-drawn, evidence-based weight/height/body type scaling (no, don’t even talk to me about BMI, the Bullshit Mass Index), and really just what it means to be happy and healthy in general. Mind. Body. Spirit. Biochemistry. Whatever.

As someone who’s gone through all this body image and self-love and plain ol’ health crap and is willing to say she has a fair handle on what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” and what’s “really rather more than 50 shades of gray” area, I jump a little, whenever people start talking about weight and dieting and health and parameters. I will adamantly defend what I know to be reasonable views based on science and the individuality and stochasticity that is biology (which I have a degree in, if you’re in need of further credentialing). If necessary, I will readily jump at someone for their incorrect and unhealthy statements, whether they’re  tending towards the “too strict” or “too lax” end of the spectrum.

Tess Munster is a plus size model. At 5’5″ and a size 22, she is one of the largest models even in plus size to have ever been signed. Cool. History-making. Whatever. From what I’ve seen in general chatter scattered across the internet, the Tess Munster critics point at her and say, “Oh, we shouldn’t to celebrate her as a role model, because that’s clearly unhealthy.”

Ha. Aha ha. I’m sorry, but since the fuck when was modeling ever about healthy?

Models don’t get signed because they’re a paragon of health. They get signed because they look good in the clothes that need to be sold. There are tall, thin people out there who want to feel fashionable. There are short, wide people out there who want to feel fashionable. There are other humans who are 5’5″ and size 22, like, people, they exist, and they deserve a model to show off clothes on their body type just as much as people who are super tall and lanky. Modelings sells clothes. Modeling sells looks. Modeling does not sell lifestyle. Pretty sure that one’s Oprah. At core, modeling is about selling visual aesthetic, not health.

Over the course of anorexia recovery, I learned that the body’s default is to hang around the end of having more weight instead of less. Human bodies developed in order to be able to survive a famine. In most cases, it’s super fucking easy to gain weight. Your body won’t really put up much resistance to that. Gaining weight is natural*.

You know what’s not? Starving yourself for years, even decades on end so that you can get one more contract as a high-profile super model. Taking diet supplements, purging on the down low, exercising obsessively, forcing yourself to behave, to live so unnaturally that eventually you maybe don’t even notice your body whispering please stop. Because it doesn’t matter that you’re tired. It doesn’t matter that you nearly fell on the runway today out of sheer exhaustion and a little too robust a spell of dizziness from not having really eaten in the past three days. It doesn’t matter that you feel like shit. You look like heaven, and you’re getting paid like it. You have stripped and shed and shaved and shanked your body of its natural existence.

But ah yes, after that tanning day you have such a nice glow, don’t you.

Yes children, be like these not-overweight ones. The ones that are secretly, invisibly killing themselves to look good. They are good role models. Do not eat too much and let yourself go. See how unhealthy she is? Never mind that she doesn’t fuel her career with a mantra of self-hate. Never mind that at least she’s the happy one.

Because this game was never about happy. It was never about healthy.

It was only ever about what you looked like.

That’s all that modeling cares about.

That’s all that modeling is endorsing.

Stop pretending like it cares about more than it does as one more excuse for our systemic fat-shaming.

Leave these models to their lives and let us throw other role models at our children. Role models whose message, whose job is to teach children how to be, not just how to look.

And then when the children want clothes, when the teenagers want clothes, when the adults of every shape and size want clothes – let them see the magazines, the ones with people of their body type, whether that’s 6’5″ and toned to core or 5’5″ and a size 22, because both of these body types exist en masse and really just want to buy a fucking t-shirt that’ll look pretty good on them, because hey, these days, it’s damned dangerous to walk around naked.

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*”natural” in the sense of “biological default in the average case”

How Ke$ha Did Rehab Right

28 Jun

I don’t really do celebrity junk magazines. But I do invest a fair amount of my glancing power in eating disorder recovery-related Facebook feeds. And recently, Ke$ha’s been showing up a lot.

I adore Ke$ha as an artist. Her songs are bold and crazy and unapologetic, just like Ke$ha herself. The singer has always put out a very “be yourself and take no prisoners” vibe – which is why I was rather surprised when it went public earlier this year that she was going to rehab for an eating disorder.

Now, like I said, I don’t really keep up with celebrity gossip. I’m more interested in keeping up on the latest book chatter or marine biology news flashes, thank you very much. But maybe if I did stalk the stars like so many others, I would have known more about Ke$ha’s lapse and anticipated her entering treatment more. Maybe I would have seen the signs. Maybe I would have noticed the gossip columns abuzz with slurs about how the pop queen was looking “scary skinny.”

But honestly, I don’t think I would have. After having come across the first article mentioning Ke$ha’s entry to rehab (and holding that up as a model for others who might still be suffering silently), I did some research. By which I mean Googling.

Hey, I’m only human. We are creatures of curiosity.

But that Googling – well, it didn’t really turn up much. No descriptions of paparazzi’s having glimpsed Ke$ha’s rib cage or clavicle or whatever. No star-spirals-downward slurring. Just more of the same sort of bare posts, saying nothing more than that Ke$ha was going into treatment for an eating disorder. They didn’t even say which one.

And that, I think, is incredibly important.

Since leaving treatment, Ke$ha’s put out a few comments on her pre-rehab self and what motivated her entering treatment, but none of the comments that I’ve come across have talked at all about the physical specifics. Unlike so many other stars – and regular ol’ non-famous ED victims – Ke$ha doesn’t indulge in some sort of victorious litany of what her symptoms were, how skinny she got, how much she purged, or anything like that. All she says is that she wasn’t loving herself properly and wasn’t really confident in herself.

Thank – well, thank the stars. Finally, one of them who talks about what eating disorder are really about. They are not a disease of skinniness. They are not a disease of food. They are a disease of self-hatred. Doesn’t matter what it looks like, that is what goes on, in every single patient, underneath the physical symptoms.

I laud Ke$ha on focusing on what eating disorder recovery is really about: learning to take care of yourself and value doing so. Learning to love fighting for yourself, instead of fighting yourself. Finding contentment in being a whole person, instead of in stripping away your very existence.

Ke$ha could have talked specifics. She could have talked diagnosis, labels, numbers, gritty details that would have gone viral on gossip sites. But instead, she clamps down on the triggers and talks about what’s really important. It’s her recovery she promotes, not her eating disorder.

For the millions of adoring boys and girls hanging on her every word, that is so important. For the casual magazine browser at the grocery store check out, that is so important. For the eating disorder victims who are honestly really damn done having celebrity nonsense about our disorder thrown in our faces, that is so important.

For Ke$ha, who will still be fighting to keep her hold on recovery for a while, that is so important. She clearly invested herself in rehab; it’s good to see she’s doing recovery right, too.