What are women hungry for? We know diets and body-changing plans are popular. Starvation is admired on some level in our modern time.
The obsessions and behaviors women engage in to fit a marketed ideal have little to do with the body. They have little to do with a number on the scale or what size dress a woman wears. They have everything to do with trying to assimilate to and accommodate shifting cultural and social norms that put a woman’s value in aesthetics. These norms have confused many women about how they are empowered even though we have more access to societal privileges than ever. The behaviors women exhibit to satisfy idealized aesthetics are survival behaviors used to fit into expectations that accommodate a virtual reality more than a realistic and humanly comfortable standard. They are behaviors used as defiance that is exhibited as compliance against a still strongly pervasive and influential patriarchal core.
So, is it that women are hungry for food they painfully rebel against or are they hungry for a feasible answer to invisible empowerment? Are we looking for a voice and finding it only possible through bodies we do not even feel fully autonomous in?
It is strange that purposefully emaciated bodies get the most voice and visibility in our culture. This is disconcerting and unacceptable. It is funny that we praise emaciation, yet richness is a yearned for cultural value. In impoverished countries, emaciated bodies symbolize desperation and desolation. So, why does our current beauty culture admire it? Why are we seeking richness through deprivation?
I believe we admire starvation because the body is but a symbol and there is a meaning behind the hunger that so many force themselves into. We chase an ideal because we want to feel the surge of satisfaction that comes with the accolades of a diet or exercise plan well done. The beauty ideal of today always seems to run on a plan. In the same respect, women crave validation of their intellect, hard-work, and perseverance in realms that have nothing to do with bodies. Is it a coincidence or a masterfully contrived outcome that many want the praise that comes with pushing the human body past it’s limits?
A starved body is a troubled body and a troubled body is a disturbed mind. Aesthetics are fleeting and if women continually strive to fit into a picture of a contrived and futile physical ideal, then their human value is waived as insignificant.
An unheard voice is a starved voice.
When I hear passing conversations about why women want to lose weight or change their hair color or fix something about their image, an often used reason is something like “I just want to feel better about myself”. But, the painted womanly ideal of today is natural to very few women. That means that to gain the body ideal of today, most women need to go hungry to an extent. Is this worth it? To many, it is and I believe that even if a woman is not striving to fit a certain image, she still might understand why some go to great lengths to change themselves. Even if we find our purpose, we still must push past the steel barriers of dominant male egos that attempt to defeat women through superficial insults.
“Nothing tastes better than thinness” some might say. The irony is that physical hunger fills a gaping hole in the qualities we lack and women are taught to believe that the satisfaction of fulfilling a diet plan transcends any physical needs we might have. In other words, we are taught that starvation fills the true hunger we have: to become better than what we were born as.
But, come on, does it?
Perhaps the true hunger is not what we are told.
Maybe what we really want is to close the gap between the macho power-wielding tyrants that believe we do not have a choice what we do with our pussy and the feminist vocalists of the 21st Century. Maybe what we really want is to read a magazine, drive down the expressway, or walk into our doctors’ office without being given a prescription to “feel better” about ourselves through the latest beauty trend.
Are we hungry for a voice louder than our silence? When Dr. Jekyll at a podium sings loud and incoherently about hate, the burning echo of his speech strikes a nerve past the point of understandability. Sometimes there really are few words that can combat blinding misogyny and contempt.
Maybe we are actually hungry for real food. Reduced to nothing but a body instead of a person, anyone will surely obsess over their most deprived instincts.
But, maybe the hunger in disguise is a chance to be different than the mothers before us who had little choice. Perhaps the sexual revolution deceived its own purpose. We took a chance to make our bodies and thus, our personhood as powerful as those that shut them down. But, women then made our bodies collectively shiver with weakness when starvation became the new symbol of female desirability and success.
Perhaps we are hungry for our own voice that asks, rather than tells us, what we want?
Maybe we are hungry for vulnerability that allows us to be unconditionally human, without promising to fix ourselves.