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food for thought

food for thought

This post is about **NAKED WOMEN**!

May 20, 2017

… and about how we as a society unnecessarily sexualize the female body, and how it makes girls and women feel terrible and how it takes a constant toll on the mental health of half the world’s population.

Did I lose you there?

Sorry (but not really though).

Yesterday, I went to see Embrace, a documentary by Taryn Brumfitt. Here’s my review.

Kids, you can play ego shooters, but you can’t see boobs

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the cinema was the age restriction. 16 and above? Really?

God forbid we let fifteen-year-olds see a mothers’ body unretouched and naked. Their poor teenage minds might be corrupted by the sight of breasts that, after nourishing three children, no longer defy gravity. Or the sight of a vulva with actual hair on it.

Give me a break.

When my sister was in eighth grade or so, we got a memo sent home from school saying that smartphones were no longer permitted inside the classroom as boys were using them to watch porn during class. Boys no older than thirteen or fourteen. Maybe we should worry about what that is doing to young people instead.

But I digress.

The perfect body is overrated

Here is the storyline of the film. Taryn Brumfitt is an Australian mother of three. She is never really happy with her body and things get worse after giving birth three times, to the point where she starts considering surgery. She decides against it in order to be a good role model to her daughter. Instead, she starts training for a bodybuilding competition with a personal trainer. She is desperate to know what it feels like to have the “perfect body”, for once in her life.

Taryn makes it to the competition with a very athletic body and very little body fat. She ends up on stage with the other finalists. And in that moment, which she had thought would be one of the happiest of her life, all she can think is one thing.

The effort and the sacrifice and the energy that it took to get to that point simply was not worth it.

She feels no happier.

So, she goes back to her normal, active, healthy life and a normal diet. She gains fat, loses muscle and returns to her natural shape. To document her story, she posts an unconventional before-and-after on her facebook page.

This is the “before and after” Taryn posted on her Facebook page. (source)

The photo goes viral and resonates with an incredible number of people. Taryn starts receiving e-mails from all over the world, from women telling her the story of their own personal struggle. She realizes she has struck a chord and decides to travel the world and meet a number of fascinating women to talk about body image issues.

“Your body is a vehicle, not an ornament”

One of the first people Taryn interviews is an Australian “plus-size” model, who essentially just looks like a normal person. She then goes on to talk to:

  • Mia Freedman, the youngest ever editor of Australian Cosmo, who tells Taryn about how incredibly difficult it is to organize a fashion shoot with women who are not a size 8, and about how plus-size models are viewed as “less than” in the industry.
  • Harnaam Kaur, who, due to polycystic ovaries, has a fully-grown beard. Harnaam went through depression and suicidal thoughts, and has now learned to love herself and rock her beard.

  • Turia Pitt, who, while running a marathon, was caught in a wildfire and survived with severe burns on most of her face and body (“seriously, if I can learn to love myself, anyone can”).

  • Nora Tschirner, a German actress who produced the movie and who takes Taryn to the Romys, a prestigious showbusiness award gala in Vienna, my hometown. This part is mostly intended to highlight the obsessive preoccupation with superficialities prevalent in much of show business and the media. I found this part funny, because I attended the Romys a few weeks ago and one of the first things I noticed was just how much effort people had obviously  put into their appearance.
  • a woman just recovering from anorexia.

There are more women in the movie whose story Taryn tells, but these are the ones that stuck with me most.

Taking all of their stories together, there is one main message in this film, and I can wholeheartedly confirm it.

When you see your body as a vehicle through which you can achieve a number of amazing things, if you keep it healthy and well-functioning, rather than an ornament whose main purpose is to look aesthetically pleasing to a (narrow, heavily brainwashed) group of people, your relationship with yourself, and your life as a whole, improve drastically. 

“If I want to eat the fucking cookie my kid baked, I’m gonna eat the fucking cookie my kid baked.”

There are several scenes in the movie during which I felt like standing up and starting a standing ovation. This quote was definitely one of them. The woman who says this is Amanda de Cadenet, a British actress who shares her body image issues and the pressure she faces from being in the spotlight. She makes the point that when you are constantly thinking about food, and what you can eat, and when you can eat what, and whether you can eat that, and how many calories you have to burn, it takes up so much of your time, and so much of your mental energy. And I can’t tell you how real this is if you’ve never experienced it. I can’t tell you what it’s like to sit through an algebra class after having diet coke for lunch and to take essentially nothing in. I can’t tell you what it’s like to sit at uni and make a food and calorie list in the margin of your notepad instead of listening. I can’t tell you what it’s like to wake up and think “Shit, I have a date later and I need him to think I’m normal, so maybe if I just don’t eat until 6pm I can order a full meal.” and then not perform at work all day. I can’t tell you what it’s like to starve for two days and feel dizzy and groggy and then binge on a family-sized pizza and a tub of ice cream in tears.  There are no words for it, but there is an overwhelming number of girls and women who just know.

And I never, ever, ever want my daughter to know. 

So, how do we embrace?

Let’s be honest, we have known the problem this film exposes for a long time now. But Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar are not going anywhere, and neither is Victoria’s Secret. Magazines are going to keep printing a certain type of image, despite the fact that their sales are dwindling. We can’t tell other people what to print.

What we can do is flood the world with images of women of all shapes and sizes and body types. We can make sure that our daughters and sisters see as many unretouched images of all kinds of women as possible. If we bombard the world with diverse, multifaceted representations of women, we can drown out the superficiality, the sexualization, the pressure and the narrow, outdated, misogynist beauty ideal perpetuated by certain mainstream media outlets.

There are a number of brilliant projects contributing to this, and since I love writing and photography and creating all sorts of things, I am already thinking hard about how I could start my own.

My final thoughts on “Embrace”

The film isn’t perfect.

For one thing, the journey to self-love is made somewhat easier for Brumfitt – she has a loving, caring family to come home to and give her safety and reassurance. That resource is not available to everyone and, emotionally, it is worth a lot. I can imagine that a daughter who loves you and looks up to you would be an incredibly strong motivation to work through body image issues. I can imagine that a partner who supports you and loves you for who you are would make a big difference in feeling beautiful no matter what you look like. Taryn’s journey was certainly easier than it would be for people in different circumstances.

For another thing, I take issue with this feel-good message that “everyone is beautiful”. I would rather we started deemphasizing external beauty as a concept altogether and stopped caring all that much about what anyone looks like.

But “Embrace” is still well worth watching. More than recommending it to women, I would recommend it to every man who wants to really understand what it’s like to be a woman in this world.

Taryn Brumfitt is also the founder of the Body Image Movement.
food for thought personal

How To Make Huge Goals Less Overwhelming

May 5, 2017

Hi lovelies ♥

Who are you?

How do you define yourself?

The only immediate answers I would give to that question are “daughter” and “sister”. Those are factual and very hard to deny.

At the beginning of this year I was doing an internship at a TV station. Once or twice during that time, I said the words “I am a reporter at a TV station” to someone, but it always came with a profoundly weird feeling. It was almost as if there was a derisive voice in my head asking: “And what on earth would give you the right to call yourself a reporter? Silly little girl.” When factually, that’s what I was doing. I was researching and editing news segments. I was doing the work of a reporter. And yet, calling myself a reporter seemed absurdly presumptuous.

I would call myself a “psychology graduate” but never a “psychologist”. I currently work in communications but I feel odd calling myself a “spokesperson”. I always say “I work in communications”. I have published a few articles but feel uncomfortable calling myself a “journalist”.

(Interesting side note: there is a condition called “impostor syndrome” that comes with very similar emotions, in which high-achieving, highly qualified people, who objectively fully deserve to be where they are, feel inadequate or do not feel like they belong. It mostly affects women, for obvious reasons.)

Per se, this reluctance to define myself through my work is not too problematic. It becomes a problem when trying to set goals. I would like to be a journalist, and even more so, I would love to be a presenter or TV host. But those feel like such crazy goals that I barely dare write them down, let alone pursue them properly. It takes such an incredible amount of luck and work, especially considering the state the media industry is in, to be a journalist, and it takes even more luck to become a presenter.

So how to set long-term, overarching goals? I’m very good at setting daily, monthly, even yearly goals. But how can one define long-term goals so that they are not too scary (“be a journalist”) or don’t hinge 80% on pure, dumb luck or set one up for disappointment (“become famous”)? “Make X amount of money” didn’t seem meaningful or motivating enough. “Work for company / magazine / publisher Y” seemed way too specific and limiting.

I had my “why”, but I needed to define my “what”.

I had a conversation about this with my good friend, Philip. I don’t know whether Philip reads my blog, but I like him either way because he’s one of the smartest people I know and he listens to my whining (which is very nice of him) and actually offers useful solutions. Philip suggested that if defining goals in terms of “what I want to be” limits me so much, why not define them in terms of what I want to do?

I thought that was a brilliant idea. So I did just that. I made a list of “Things I want to spend my ~85 years on Earth doing”.

 

list of things i wanna do

This is the list.

And there it was. After a suitable amount of brainstorming, I made the list you can see in the picture. If it’s too hard to read, here it is typed out:

  • research and write stories
  • host events, TV shows, present things
  • speak in public
  • have photoshoots
  • make the world a fairer place and fight injustice (I guess I kind of drifted off into my ‘why’ there)
  • meet people and talk about interesting stuff
  • learn about politics, history, policy making, law, international relations
  • create – take photos, make videos, blog
  • write poetry and fiction and share it with others
  • dance
  • kickbox
  • cook
  • cuddle
  • travel
  • read interesting things
  • spend quality time with friends
  • exercise (If I’m entirely honest, I added this mostly out of a sense of duty)

(I did not include “raise children” on the list, on purpose. It seemed too overwhelming – even though I am working towards raising at least one child. More on that in my next post.)

That’s it. It gave me such a renewed sense of clarity to know that if I’m spending most of my time doing things on the list, I’m on track, and if not, I need to change how I spend my time. It also removes any temptation to chase things like wealth or fame, which we are often made to believe are valuable and worth aspiring to, but which I find sort of meaningless and superficial (in and of themselves – I am not denying they can be used as means to some very worthwhile ends). As long as I am spending most of my time doing these things and I have enough money to live comfortably, everything is fine.

I just wanted to share in case making a list like this helps anyone else 🙂

Have a perfect weekend ♥

PS: If you aren’t yet, go follow my instagram @damitablogs. I post every day, and I alternate between photography and poetry/creative writing. So if you like poetry/photography/quotes and/or want to make my day, follow me 🙂 I always appreciate feedback on my writing as well.

food for thought

A case for reading fiction

April 21, 2017

“Look, mom!”

I pull the new book Miri gave me out of my handbag with all the excitement of a five-year old.

“I now own The Little Prince in six languages!”

My mother laughs. “Why do you love that book so much?”

“Because you can read it at any age you like, and you can read it as many times as you like, and you’re always going to discover something new in it.”

Continue Reading

food for thought

Eight TEDxVienna Quotes To Inspire You

October 27, 2016

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since my last TEDxVienna post. It’s been quite a messy, eventful year. But that’s beside the point.

This year, instead of boring you with a chronological account of the day, I picked eight shareworthy quotes from seven different speakers to inspire you and make you think.

Graffiti artists and street artists didn’t wait for a gallery to decide if their work was good enough or not. They were bold enough to just put their work out there and let the public decide. – Martha Cooper, documentary photographer

This first quote resonated with me because I think everyone is capable of creating art. In a way, this democratization of art is happening now more than ever thanks to the internet, and I think that’s a good thing. Art is everywhere, so remember to look around for it – the narrower your definition of art, the more beauty you miss out on, I think.

Our environment plays a huge role in how we feel, how we think and how we interpret the world. – Holly Moyes, archaeologist and cave lover

This talk was actually about darkness and how it affects human cognition. The speaker presented research that showed that the same person will interpret the world differently depending on the lighting conditions. If our own view on reality is so easily distorted by such simple variables, how on earth can we assume that our perception is reliable or that ours is the only way to see or experience the world, and anyone who sees it differently must be “wrong”? We are inherently incapable of objectivity and would do well to remind ourselves that there are as many realities as there are people.

Dark, moody stage shot

For every possible decision, there is a universe in which every option is played out – Ronald Mallett, theoretical physicist

I don’t know anything about theoretical physics and I have no idea whether this could be true or not. In fact, the speaker did not assert that it was, he presented it as one possible theory. But I really liked the thought, because it means that whenever you feel like you made a mistake, you can take solace in the knowledge that somewhere, you took a different decision. There is a universe in which I am a law graduate, and one in which I am studying for a PhD in biopsychology. There is a universe in which I am a married mother of two and there is a universe (far, far away) in which I stuck with cheerleading and became really athletic. There is a universe in which I don’t even exist and my mother is probably a much happier person. (Rest assured, however: nowhere in the space-time continuum is there a universe in which I have ever worn socks and sandals, or anything with an animal print.)

The Nerd Rush is that feeling you get when you first wrap your head around a new concept or when you are writing something and the words fall together just right. – Harry Baker, poet

It was nice to hear someone give a name to one of my favorite feelings in the world. It’s comforting to know that the things that make you happy make other people happy too. It makes you feel like you belong.
The view from the balcony is just so pretty.

 

Learning a new language is like learning to think in another color. – Harry Baker, poet

I have nothing to add to that.

When was the last time you did something that scared you? – Jamie Barrow, snowboarder

Now, I am not about to let a car pull me through a snowed-in field at 180 kph. The weights room at the gym is scary enough – breathing in that much testosterone can’t be good for you. But this talk by a snowboarder who overcame multiple severe injuries and kept going was a nice reminder to proactively seek out situations that do not make you feel good. Of course you should be content with your life overall, but I believe going out of your way to put yourself in individual situations that make you feel uncomfortable is how you grow as a person. The simplest way I have found to do this is to start the day with a cold shower. Of course, I don’t have cold water running for 30 minutes while shaving or washing and conditioning my hair because I would give myself pneumonia. But cold showers wake you up, they make you tougher, and if you can stand under cold water for ten seconds when it’s 0°C outside, you can definitely ask for a raise.

99.9% of DNA is identical in the entire human race. – Fei Ann Ran, molecular biologist

I mean, I knew this. I studied biology, and anthropology, and I was aware of this fact. But it wasn’t really something that was present in my mind. This should be one of those facts that we teach children when they are five. Like “red means stop, green means go” or “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. This should be on all those posters that kids have in primary school classrooms along with “wash your hands before eating” and the poster that explains the different traffic signs. Everyone should have internalized this fact by the time they reach puberty. We are 99.9% the same. All of us. And then there are single nucleotide bases scattered across our genome that make some people’s hair frizzier and some noses wonkier and some skin darker. But they don’t matter, because we have so much more in common with any given human being than we realize.

The art of storytelling and creating narratives is more powerful than anything else. – Julia Ebner, policy analyst

Finally, here is my personal favorite. Julia Ebner works at a counter-extremist think tank and her talk illustrated very clearly how far-right and Islamist extremists are telling the same story – they’re in the same movie, just on two different sides. Their narratives are essentially identical, which leads to the fascinating but dangerous phenomenon of reciprocal radicalization. Her conclusion was that we can only win if we challenge both binary world views, both black and white narratives. The topic was exciting, but I picked this specific quote because I think people underestimate the power of “soft skills” like storytelling. Stories speak to people on a very visceral level, they’re an incredibly powerful communication tool, and if you know how to tell a story, you can affect and motivate people and carry an audience wherever you want it to go.

food for thought

Wir sind nicht eure Frauen.

August 28, 2016
Schweden, Deutschland, neuerdings auch
Österreich. Die Berichte über sexuelle Übergriffe an Frauen durch Migranten aus
dem islamisch-arabischen Raum häufen sich. Die populistischen Reaktionen lassen
nicht lange auf sich warten. „Finger weg von unseren Frauen!“ lautet der
Leitsatz in rechten Kreisen, die in Europa immer größer und einflussreicher
werden. Und mit jedem Einzelfall, den die Boulevardmedien breit treten, werden
die Forderungen der plötzlich zum Feminismus konvertierten Wutbürger
eindringlicher.
Die Stimmen, die da laut werden, die
sich jetzt als tapfere Verfechter von Frauenrechten positionieren, sind
dieselben Stimmen, die sich noch vor einem Jahr, kurz vor Beginn der
Flüchtlingskrise, über die Verschärfung des § 218 StGB in Österreich empörten.
Was für ein Unsinn, dieser „Po-Grabsch-Paragraph“, hieß es aus der rechten Ecke
herablassend, als ungewollte Berührungen im Intimbereich kriminalisiert wurden.
Wer brauche denn so etwas, da könne ja sogar schon enges Tanzen in der
Diskothek strafbar werden.
Es sind dieselben Stimmen, die sich mit
Vorliebe über Transgender-Frauen mokieren, das Gendern der deutschen Sprache
kategorisch ablehnen und nicht einsehen, warum die Leistungen von Frauen in der
österreichischen Bundeshymne gewürdigt werden sollten.
Woher also das plötzliche brennende
Interesse für Frauenrechte und sexualisierte Gewalt? Es empören sich nun
Scharen von Männern über eine Form von Übergriffen, die sie noch vor einem Jahr
nicht einmal als Straftat im Gesetz festgehalten wissen wollten. Vielleicht gab
es ja tatsächlich einen flächendeckenden Sinneswandel. Viel wahrscheinlicher
ist aber, dass die Übergriffe einer Gruppe an rassistischen, hasserfüllten
Menschen einfach nur sehr gelegen kamen, um ihre Fremdenfeindlichkeit und ihren
Isolationismus zu rechtfertigen. Ein solch heuchlerischer Opportunismus und
eine derartige Instrumentalisierung des Feminismus sind auf das Schärfste zu
verurteilen.
Ob Menschen aus bestimmten
Kulturkreisen tatsächlich vermehrt sexuelle Gewalt verüben, ist die eine Frage.
Der Staat sollte dieser Thematik auch sorgfältig nachgehen und, falls nötig,
Konsequenzen ziehen. Es steht außer Frage, dass manche unserer neuen Mitbürger
ein höchst problematisches Frauenbild mit sich bringen, welches thematisiert
werden muss. Ebenso außer Frage steht, dass jegliche Verstöße gegen die
körperliche Selbstbestimmung eines Menschen mit der vollen Härte des Gesetzes
zu bestrafen sind. Aber jene Männer, die den schleichenden, tückisch latenten
Sexismus der westlichen Welt eigentlich so gut wie verkörpern, und sich nun auf
die Wahrung von Frauenrechten berufen, um ihre fragwürdigen politischen Ziele
zu verfolgen, mögen sich aus der Debatte bitte heraushalten. Denn zur
Gleichstellung von Frauen werden sie bestimmt nichts beitragen.
food for thought

Statistics 101 or What I Wish People Understood About Gender

April 2, 2016
In December of last year,
the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science published a study by
researchers at Tel Aviv University, catchily entitled “The human brain mosaic”.
The great thing about it is
that in one single piece of research, it sums up everything that I have ever
wanted to scream at people.
To quote the abstract, “Brains with features that are consistently at one end of the
“maleness-femaleness” continuum are rare. Rather, most brains are comprised of
unique “mosaics” of features, some more common in females compared with males,
some more common in males compared with females, and some common in both
females and males. (…) These findings are corroborated by a similar analysis of
personality traits, attitudes, interests, and behaviors of more than 5,500
individuals, which reveals that internal consistency is extremely rare.“
In other words, we are all individuals with unique brains and
personalities
.
So why is this so difficult for us to wrap our heads around? Why
do we believe books that tell us “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus” and
raise our children differently because “boys will be boys”? 
Probably because
humans love simplicity, and they have a deep-seated need to categorize most
anything they come across. We have to, in order to make sense of the immense
amounts of data our brains take in every day. And gender is a very obvious
category to resort to, even more so because it is immediately apparent in most
people we meet: we are taught to dress, speak and behave a certain way
according to our biological gender, firmly pigeonholing ourselves into one
category or the other.
We’re just now coming to realize that the category is
problematic and harmful to many people’s identities as well as their mental
health. And here is why: The importance of gender as an explanation for our
personalities and our behavior is vastly overestimated by most people.
Gender,
no doubt, in part influences our behavior and women and men, on average, differ
on certain traits and characteristics.
But there are two important caveats to that.
1.)  
Generalizations Are About Means But We Deal
With Individuals
It is true that women, on average, are more religious and
more risk-averse. First of all, though, these effect sizes tend to be small and
unlikely to be noticeable in the interactions you have in everyday life.
Secondly, “on average” means that someone added up a bunch of religiosity
scores, divided them by the number of scores, and then had a look at the result
for men vs. women. Mean differences tell you nothing about individual
people.
They summarize statistical data and are useful for calculating gambling
odds, but they are useless in personal, real-life interactions. So, when you
assume someone that you are interacting with in real life “must be X” because
of their gender, without bothering to get to know them and find out if they really are
X, you are stripping them of their individuality and refusing to acknowledge
and appreciate their uniqueness as a human being.
2.)  Variance
Explained, or Why Gender Explains Very Little
Bear with me while I explain the statistical concept of variance explained to you in the simplest,
most unscientific way I can think of.

I love chocolate. I really do. On a dessert menu, I will always pick the most
chocolatey thing, I will always pick chocolate over a burger or a steak, and
even on a diet I sneak in a piece or two every day.

Is that because I’m a woman? The stereotype is that women
like sweet things whereas men are more likely to go for a burger or a steak.
And it’s true that women experience a different physiological response to chocolate! So maybe
part of the reason that I enjoy chocolate too much is my gender.
But there are a million other things that could be
contributing to my love of chocolate: the sugar content of my mother’s diet
during pregnancy, how strongly my brain responds to sugar as an addictive
substance in general, my number of positive childhood memories involving
chocolate, the fact that chocolate is readily available in the culture I grew
up in, the fact that my mother would never let me eat it and now I’m
overcompensating…
It’s just that these factors are not nearly as visible as my
gender is. So it’s much easier to think “Of course she loves chocolate, all
women love chocolate” than “This person seems to really enjoy chocolate, maybe
her brain exhibits a particularly strong response to sugary foods”.
If we generalize that, there are a million potential reasons
why people’s liking of chocolate varies. Some of that variance may be due to
variance in brain responses. Some of the variance may be due to variance in
cultural background and upbringing. Some of it may be due to differences in
diet during our mothers’ pregnancies, and so forth.
Only a tiny portion of the variance in our liking for
chocolate is explained by gender differences. And yet, in chocolate and in
life, we tend to focus on that explanation because it’s so easy and so readily
available.
If you are more the visual type, please enjoy this angry feminist Venn diagram (my scanner cut off the grumpy smiley in the lower right corner).
So let’s stop resorting to the easiest explanation! Let’s recognize
and appreciate each other in all our complexity and understand that there are
various reasons for why people behave the way they do. Gender is one small part
of people’s identities and not one that we can reduce human beings to.
food for thought personal

Why I am going without food for 72 hours

March 12, 2016
Do you know what real hunger feels like?
We’ve all said things like “I can’t wait for lunch, I’m
starving!” before. But in the west where food is pretty much always available and
many of us struggle with not overeating, very few people, if any, know what it
means to be truly, gut-wrenchingly hungry. Even the hunger you feel when you skip
lunch on a busy workday is really uncomfortable. What would it feel like not to
eat for days?

Unfortunately, many people around the world know exactly
what that feels like. World Vision
Austria
states that 70% of refugees in Lebanon are at risk for
malnutrition. That is why they initiated the campaign I am writing about. The idea
is that you forgo food for 24 hours and then donate the money you saved in that
time, which they estimate at €15, to pay for a month’s worth of food for a
Syrian child in Lebanon.
I want to take part in this for several reasons. For one
thing, while opinions are divided about opening Europe’s borders to refugees,
most people who aren’t entirely heartless would agree that providing local aid
is crucial. For another, it’s still Lent for a few more days, and I have yet to
give up a single thing – I am clearly an awful former Catholic. Also, my
emotional eating has been really bad lately and I feel like it’s time for a
fresh start. Most importantly though, I want to achieve two things:
1. Practice gratitude
Humans are odd creatures. The easiest and fastest way to
make us feel grateful for something is often to take that very thing away from
us. It shouldn’t be that way, but I’m afraid it is. People who practice
gratitude are happier and healthier overall (there is literature
on this), and I know for myself that when I remind myself of what I do have, the
things I don’t have seem a lot less important. I try to think of things I am
grateful for daily, but these past few days, I’ve had a hard time coming up
with anything. Fasting is bound to make me feel grateful for coming home to a
full fridge (well, metaphorically speaking – my fridge currently contains a red
onion, more cheese than I care to admit and a half-empty bottle of white wine).  
2. Take time
I spend a lot of my time on food, probably an unhealthy
amount. Not just on preparing and eating it, but also on planning what I’m
going to eat, pondering what I should allow myself to eat and debating whether
I should exercise to balance out what I’ve already eaten. I also spend more
time than I would like on other very petty and superficial things. I want to
have the courage and self-assurance not to, but I’m not quite there yet. I
spend time comparing myself to others and envying people and worrying about
what others think of me. This week, I was painfully reminded of how short life
is. In reality, I know I want to spend it doing three things: building a
family, trying my hardest at anything I do, and being kind and generous to
others. I simply don’t think I will find enough meaning in anything other than commitment,
effort and kindness. And yet, so few people seem to find meaning in these
things or even attach any importance to them that I find it difficult to keep
believing there is any value to them. It feels like the world around me
measures me by entirely different standards, ones according to which I mostly
feel worthless.
I am hoping that I will be able to use the time I save on
cooking, eating, and planning my meals, to reflect, refocus, re-prioritize my
goals, and remind myself of what’s truly important to me.
I will be donating €15, but I almost never spend that much
on food in one day. So instead of going without food for 24 hours, I will fast
for 72 h to make the experience longer and more intense (but still medically
safe). I will start tomorrow, on Sunday March 13th, after brunch,
and I will not be eating again until Wednesday, March 16th, at the
same time. Not even chocolate. (The plan is to have mostly water, tea and
broth, but if I start feeling dizzy or like I need sugar, I’ll drink some juice.)
Wanna join? 🙂

Love,
Damita
food for thought

Body Positivity is So Goddamn Important

February 28, 2016
When I started this blog, I thought I’d just write about whatever
seemed interesting to me, and I didn’t really plan much further. Now, I am realizing
that apparently, what interests me is mostly smashing the patriarchy. I really don’t
want to come across as the stereotypical angry feminist who doesn’t shave her
underarms (not that there’s anything wrong with that, either). But some things
just piss me off, you know?
Like the other day when I was scrolling through my Facebook
feed. A German magazine had posted an article about the #DropTheTowel campaign encouraging women of all body shapes to enjoy the summer, the sun and the beach
without obsessing over who might judge them or hiding inside their
towels. It was accompanied by a beautiful picture of women of all shapes and sizes showing off their bodies in bathing suits.
Awesome, I thought, maybe I can manage to do that this
summer, too. And I would have kept scrolling, but then the comments caught my eye. Basically,
it was a bunch of women, mostly, pointing out that obesity is unhealthy and
shouldn’t be glorified, and the idea that overweight or obese bodies could be
beautiful is just ludicrous.
And then I thought, that is SUCH bullshit.
First of all, the #DropYourTowel campaign doesn’t glorify obesity
or suggest that it is a desirable ideal to aspire to. I don’t think any sane
person would argue that there are no significant health risks associated with
being obese. In fact – news flash – I’m pretty sure obese people themselves are
well aware of this and there is no need to berate them. Do these supposed
health advocates open their whiny little mouths when smokers are portrayed in
movies or the media? No, they don’t, so they should quit their hypocrisy and
stop pretending this is about anything other than the fact that they don’t like
to look at people who don’t conform to their twisted beauty standards. Thanks.
Secondly, there seems to be this stupid misconception that
obesity is self-inflicted and therefore overweight or obese people don’t
deserve anything good in life. That’s also incredibly misguided. There is such
a thing as susceptibility to obesity, and also to food addiction. Genome scans
have been finding susceptibility factors for decades. It’s quite simply more difficult
for some people to maintain a healthy weight in today’s obesogenic environment, and for many people is not just a matter of “going to the gym once in a while”. 
And even if excess weight was entirely people’s own fault, every human being deserves to feel accepted.
Even unhealthy people. Even people who are unhealthy “because of their own
choices”. All that body positivity campaigns hope to achieve is that everyone
will be able to go outside and enjoy the sun and the warmth and the water
without worrying what people might think, regardless of how much or little they
may weigh. Why can’t people just see the value in that and shut up? Do they
really think some of us deserve to enjoy life less and constantly feel shit
about themselves because they don’t look a certain way? Besides, overweight
people are much more likely to be motivated to lose weight, and do so
successfully, if they do it because they love their body and want the best for
it, rather than because they hate their body and are ashamed of it, thank you
very much for your altruistic concern.
Another great campaign on the topic, by the way, is #BodyLove, in which women of all shapes and sizes strut around city centres in their underwear. How is that not awesome?! Imagine you are a 14-year old girl obsessing about your love handles, and the positive impact that a campaign like that could have. This also got a bunch of mean-spirited comments. 
I read a quote somewhere on
the internet recently that said “Why can’t we all just read books and be nice
to each other?” Seriously, though, WHY?
Love,
Damita
food for thought

A Letter Every Man Should Read

February 7, 2016
This is an open
letter. I am writing it in light of the recent rise to notoriety of self-styled
“pick up artist” Daryush Valizadeh and the ideas he propagates, and in response
to the mindset of the “seduction community” as a whole.

Dear Reader,
My body is not your fortress to conquer.
My belt buckle is not your lock to pick.
I am not your game to bring down.

You might feel lonely, or frustrated, and I am sorry about
that. You were likely influenced by a media machinery which has taught you that
sex and sexually available women are everywhere, up for grabs. They are not. Society
has likely led you to believe that your worth and your masculinity are determined
by how many women you “manage” to sleep with. It is not. You might feel
entitled to my body. You are not.
I don’t care what you believe the “natural order” of things
should be. I don’t care whether you think I am naturally weaker, or less, than
you. I don’t care about your testosterone levels, and I don’t care about your misrepresentation
of evolutionary psychology.
I am a human being with the right to self-determination and
the right to decide what happens to my body. You cannot trick me or talk me into
sleeping with you. You may be able, in my weak moments, to take advantage of my
emotional vulnerability, or my loneliness, or my inebriation. That is
psychological violence.  You are being
emotionally abusive to another human being.
I am not the scantily clad model on the billboard you see on
your way to work. I am not a sexualized, dehumanized body. I am not a pair of
legs waiting to be pried open. I am your mother, your sister, your daughter,
and your wife.
I understand that in many ways, being a man is difficult.
Your worth in the eyes of society is often measured by how much you earn, how
shiny your car is and how attractive and numerous your sexual partners are. Your
masculinity is only intact for as long as you don’t show emotions. When you
grow attached to a partner, you are mocked for being “whipped”. That
representation of what it means to be a man is just as false as the idea that a
woman’s worth is determined by her exterior. We are fighting the same harmful
gender roles. We are on the same side.
So please stand with me. Please treat me with respect. If
you would like to sleep with me, your best bet is to take a genuine interest in
me as a human being. If you would like to have casual sex, please be honest
about your intentions so I can make a fully informed decision. If you feel
obligated to have sex with me in order to feel manly or to validate your ego,
please reconsider.
It will not make you any less of a man.
Love,

A Woman
food for thought

On Male Privilege and Just Eating the Damn Cake

November 29, 2015
This week, I decided to work on my relationship with food.
My goal was to have three healthy, reasonably-sized, balanced meals a day, and
I would allow myself a small amount of chocolate at around 3pm. 
This was a plate of Costa Rican food I had. nomnom <3
On the face of it, that seems like a stupidly mundane goal
to set yourself. Surely that’s just what everyone does. Or, as I’ve been asked several times before, mostly by men, “Why are you so weird with food?! Why can’t you just eat
normally??”
Sure, let’s “just eat normally”. Would you like some fries
with that male privilege?

As with most little girls, my first female role model was my
mother, who was constantly on some diet or another. I remember one week, all
she would eat was stale bread and warm milk. The diets were marked on the
calendar, too, followed by lots of exclamation marks, right next to my school
outings and overdue bills. I must have been around four or five. How many
little boys watch this kind of behavior in their fathers?
When I started primary school, I quickly learned that chubby
girls get made fun of. In fact, one literature review (1) finds that in school, overweight girls are more
likely to be bullied and stigmatized than overweight boys. As I remember it, at
my school, girls were much more likely to be bullied for their looks in general,
and their weight specifically. Boys would be bullied mostly for crying, or not
being “tough” enough, and I’m not arguing that this, or the unhealthy ideal of
hypermasculinity that it stems from, isn’t awful. But I don’t think boys get
bullied for the way they look very much. 
In middle and high school, I watched my girl friends go on
yoghurt-only diets, heard of people having competitions at lunchtime to see who
could eat the least, and listened to my male classmates, who by that time had obviously
adopted society’s overall attitude on these things, deliver their judgment on
women’s bodies. 
“Ugh. She’s fat.” 
“Wow, look at that perfect little ass.” 
“What a fucking whale”. 
At a time when having a boyfriend made you cool, and fitting
in was most everyone’s primary concern, the message was very clear. No one will
like you if you’re fat. 
Meanwhile, boys did not receive that message, and instead
were encouraged to see their bodies as instruments that would help them throw a
ball further, run faster or jump higher. I would hypothesize that this
contributes to the disconnection between body image and self-esteem in males.
They are taught to see their body not as a reflection of how much they are
worth, but as a tool. In fact, it’s been shown (2) that whether boys are
satisfied with how their bodies look has nothing to do with their  self-esteem. You know
when men look in the mirror, go: “Oh, I seem to have gotten a bit of a belly,
better cut down on beer for a bit”, then go about their day without it
affecting their self-worth at all? I have NEVER seen a woman do that. 
Instead, I have seen close friends tear up and tell me that
they’ve been trying to, or succeeding in, throwing up their meals. I have seen
brilliant, beautiful, kind girls subsist on eight hundred calories a day and
run for two hours, because they thought they weren’t good enough. I have seen
them fade away, losing the sparkle in their eyes along with their beautiful
curves. And I have fought with myself for over a decade, constantly going from ‘I
will be skinny and pretty and perfect and I will never eat again’ to ‘FUCK the patriarchy
I will eat five pizzas and three chocolate donuts’ (neither of which, by the
way, I would recommend).
Because a lifetime of body-shaming, being
judged for what you put on your plate, and seeing the fashion industry label
perfectly healthy women as ‘plus size’ makes it incredibly difficult for a lot
of women to “just eat normally”. I think men, or really anyone who has never
had to face these things, should be aware of that. 
(1) Tang-Péronard, J.L.,
Heitmann, B.L. (2006). Stigmatization
of obese children and adolescents, the importance of gender. Obesity Review, 9,
522 – 534.
(2) Furnham, A., Badmin, N., Sneade, I. (2002). Body Image Dissatisfaction: Gender
Differences in Eating Attitudes, Self-Esteem and Reasons for Exercise. The
Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 136, 581 – 596.