Whose body is it?: On the intersection between eating disorders and reproductive rights

15 Aug

The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.

Monday morning around 10 am, I walked home from work sick as hell. Nauseous and a fierce case of chills wracked my body, so once home I collapsed on the couch and slept until 4 pm.

I hadn’t eaten in a day and a half.

Before getting up for food, I went to the bathroom. I stepped on the scale and a familiar sense of disgust washed over me. What is the healthiest, least fatty, meal I could consume? And will I be able to keep it down? I need to eat; that was my rational brain talking. An irrational, less coherent feeling told me that my body is disgusting and needs adjustments.
Last month, heroic activists worked tirelessly to stop or at least mitigate anti-abortion legislation that worked its way through state legislatures across the country.

Legislators in Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas  attempted to restrict a person’s right to terminate a pregnancy and attached bills anywhere in any way and shoved ’em through. In North Carolina, a motorcycle bill had an abortion law added to it. Another bill (in perhaps the most ironic action ever) banning sharia law had abortion restrictions added to it. And in Texas, the legislature passed laws creating such expensive and unnecessary rules for clinics providing abortion that only 4 will remain in that state- all others are being forced to shut down.

State by state the message is clear: your body is not your own.

I often think of abortion as less of a medical right and more of a human right. Without access to full reproductive choice and justice, one does not have full access to economic equality or bodily autonomy . We can think of this in terms of unequal pay in the work place, discrimination against trans* people within the legal system, and the lack of educational information about contraceptive choices across the country.

In this way I believe that those who attempt to pass laws, over, and over, and over again, each time restricting more and more of our rights, are doing so as an act of violence and control.

They want to control our bodies and they want to control us.

After a binge or a spell of over exercising and under eating I find myself no more in control of my own body than before.

Years ago a school counselor said that girls develop eating disorders because of the overwhelming number of inaccurate depictions of women in magazines. The models are “not natural,” he said. And I think his words follow common wisdom and data on what can contribute to the development of an eating disorder.

What I think is missing though is what is happening with the introduction and passing of these anti-choice bills, that the message of  “you don’t control your body” is being systematically worked into our consciousness.

How damaging is that message? How damaging is it for people to live in a place that allows a majority of cisgender male legislators to control (through restriction of reproductive access) their constituents’ bodies?

I haven’t read any empirical new data on this, and I’m not sure there actually is any at this point. In the coming years, whether these laws are overturned in court or stand pat, the campaigning, the commercials in favor of anti-choice legislation, and all of the negative messages, will likely prove to have had a negative and damaging impact on how we view and love ourselves.


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