I love to tell people that I go to a pretty amazing school. I go to a school where students stand against social injustice. I go to a school where we rally against gun violence and raise awareness for mental illness. Students are involved and passionate. I love that my friends see their educational and organizational involvement as an investment to the world, not just their career and academic resumes. I love all these things, and I am empowered by the people I surround myself with. However, despite everyone’s big plans for the world, I witness these same big dreamers succumb to the pressure of society to take be small.
The other day I was at dinner with friends when everyone began the dreaded discussion of dieting. I listened to friends I had never thought to be self-conscious around food feel the need to explain to everyone how they generally do not eat that much. The conversation creeped into everyone discussing how they liked to graze instead of eating meals or how they only ever ate one huge meal a day and otherwise simply forgot to eat. I wish in the moment I could have told my friends how they do not need to explain their eating habits to others. I wish I could have expressed to each one how amazing they were, and that their bodies need adequate fuel to make them function. I wish I had mentioned how everyone is different and requires different fuel. I wish I could tell them that it is okay to “admit” you eat. It does not make you weak. It is okay to take in food and it is okay for our bodies to take up space, but I did not say anything, and for that, I am sorry.
Although I could not deliver the message then, I hope these words can reach my friends now. It is horrible that so many women spend so much time wondering how we can shrink ourselves. We walk with bent shoulders. We diet and exercise to be small. We tell others we do not eat because we see this as morally superior. We agree with opinions that we don’t necessarily embody to avoid conflict. In a society where women are already delivered the message that we should take up less space both physically and emotionally, it is more crucial than ever that those of us who are privileged, whether by race, income, education, etc. take a stand to show that we are deserving. Not only are we deserving of equal pay and respect in society and the workforce, but we are deserving of food to fuel our minds and bodies. We are deserving of the right to feel confident and to feel unashamed to express our realities and beliefs. Despite how simple and innocent it seems, my little dinner dilemma may symbolize a much larger issue. However, this issue is one that I believe we can face as long as the already incredible women I know make the effort to take up the space they deserve in all aspects of their lives.