Anna Carnegie

Womanhood and the Pursuit of ‘Perfection’

Ever get the feeling that you are taking something for granted? It’s that age old problem: you only miss something when it’s gone. For me, that something just so happens to be inextricably linked to my femininity. For seven years now, I have not gotten my period. I have not suffered the agonising cramps, the moody spells, the cravings. Now, I am in no way saying that women who, for whatever reason, do not menstruate are lesser women – but I struggle to feel a connection with my femininity. In short, for seven years now, I have not felt like a true woman and the punishment I put my body through is to date, one of my biggest regrets.

At the age of 16, I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. I regained some of the weight by 19, but remained in the ‘underweight’ range for years, before things spiralled downwards again. I suffered a devastating relapse at 22 which thankfully I have come through stronger than ever. Why did I do this? Why didn’t I just bite the bullet and get better properly? Partly because I wanted to hold onto a little bit of the illness, but also because, at a BMI just out of the anorexic range, my shape was considered socially acceptable by those around me. I feared what people would think should I get any bigger.

This may sound incredibly shallow, but I freely admit that I thought this way. Sometimes I still do. Furthermore, I suspect I am not alone. Although we may deny it, many of us harbour ideals far away from our current form, often aspiring to an unhealthily thin silhouette. It is an ideal perpetuated by a media which idolises weight loss, bones and which verbally obliterates any celebrity who – woe betide! – may have put on a pound or two. This has a trickle-down effect, whereby men and women alike start to normalise the unrealistic images we see before us.

I recently read an interview in my old university newspaper in which a prospective SU candidate was told that she would only get a particular male student’s vote if she ‘lost a couple of pounds’.

In a world where we have individuals like Kate Hopkins persuading other women that thinness can be equated to success and discipline (hallmarks of disordered thinking might I add), I feel that now more than ever is the time for those of us who disagree to stand up and fight back.

Seven years on and I am now well into the healthy weight range, yet my period has not returned. This, in all likelihood means that I will have to gain a little more weight. Does this scare me? Hell yes. Does it mean that I will be liable to people telling me that I looked better before? Possibly. Will I let that put me off? Not a chance. Because I know that the prize at the end of it is worth all that – the day that my womanhood returns and I finally feel like ‘me’ again.

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