I just finished reading a lot of the comments on an article entitled “For My Mother, Who Runs,” reposted on Jezebel. It breaks my heart to read about how so many women are made to feel bad about themselves, and at the same time, it makes me angry that we’re made to feel about ourselves in the first place.
I don’t know the statistics for eating disorders here in the Philippines or if it’s an issue that is already being talked about. All I know is that a lot of women I encounter engage in disordered eating to some degree. One has a habit of skipping breakfast and lunch in favor of coffee. Some regularly go for juice cleanses. Another one passes on rice and eats a small cupful of the available dish. A great many women fret if they go over 100 pounds. I used to know some women who would only have two crackers and a half cup of tuna for lunch.
Some actually consider these efforts a test of willpower, dedication, and discipline, or a worthwhile sacrifice.
I feel fortunate that my immediate family is made up of women who are mostly fine with themselves and how they look. My mother does have her insecurities about her size, shape, and skin color, but whatever negativity she feels about her appearance, she doesn’t transmit that to us. The most she’s ever said about my appearance is, “Ang payat-payat mo talaga” when I was 11, and in recent years, “Ang daya ng katawan mo. Minsan mukha kang malaki, minsan ang payat mong tignan.”
My sisters don’t appear to have any major issues with their looks either. There’s the occasional disparaging remark about wayward flab or messy hair, and sometimes we’ll laugh about how much food we put away and how we really need to work out. But as far as I know, none of them have developed an eating disorder. I may be the one with the most extreme case of poor body image. For about a month in 2006, I used a diet pill, and for about a couple of weeks that same year, I drank one of those so-called slimming teas that are actually laxatives. I was not happy with how they made my body feel, which was why I stopped taking them.
The worst comments about my appearance came mostly from men. A classmate in college told me I was pretty, except I was fat. A guy I was chatting with online asked me how much I weighed and I answered honestly, and when I did, he said, “Ang taba mo pala,” then immediately logged off. A random kid in a McDonald’s shouted gleefully at me, “Taba! Taba!” And my father most recently told me, with a distinctly disgusted look on his face, “Ang taba-taba mo na. Nagtitimbang ka ba?”
I can’t pretend that negative comments about my size don’t sting. After all, I don’t tell other people what they should look like. So what makes them feel like they have the right to tell me what I should look like?