42 responses to “No, Actually, “Eat a Sandwich” is Not “Feminist Activism”…”

  1. meloukhia

    Yes.

    Yes.

    YES.
    .-= meloukhia´s last blog ..Acidification =-.

  2. thetroubleis

    Thank you for this. I really wish people just didn’t feel the need to comment on other people’s bodies.

  3. the fat nutritionist

    Cosigned.

  4. sanabituranima

    :( Yes. This.

    *hugs*

  5. julian

    This is very timely for me.

    (I’m relapsing. But at least my SOs know that anything they say — or even do — is, essentially, counterproductive.)

  6. Assiya

    Thank you for this.

  7. Jill

    EXCELLENT post! Thank you for sharing your voice!!

  8. Nomie

    Coming at it from the other side, but: yes. Exactly.

    I wish you strength.

  9. Kaitlyn

    Ouyang dan – the more emotionally charged, the more important it is to get it out, whether other people see it. At least for me.

    “Eat a sandwich” = you’re an idiot who doesn’t know what’s going on with your body, but thanks to this helpful citizen, you do now. Why so mean? [/sarcasm]

  10. Voice In Recovery

    I think this is a great honest, very brutal expression of how these words can make those who have struggled with eating disorders.

    I posted it on my Facebook page because it is so important to realize words are powerful, words can hurt, and maybe people are too numb to casual “jokes” they think are funny in the media.

    Eating disorders are not funny, they are deadly.

    Thank you for this post. I really found the brutal honesty something a lot of others can relate to.

    It gives a voice to those who have struggled or who are struggling.

  11. Tiger

    Brilliantly said.

  12. Helen

    “I am not going to insult you by saying how much harm you are doing to yourself because you are a smart girl and I know you know, when you are ready, I’ll be here”.

    I’m going to try and remember that in case my son or daughter or their sons and daughters ever find themselves in a similar place.

  13. Emily

    This was fantastic, how I related to everything you wrote! When I was struggling with my ed I hated those types of comments…it’s like I heard it as an accusation, never as a compliment. And it always meant I had to lie about why I was so thin, which made me so uncomfortable. I wish people would just straight up refrain from making comments about other people’s bodies. Unsolicited body comments are never appropriate, imo, and can be incredibly triggering for anyone who has/had an ed.

    “Eat something.

    Because, you know, it’s that easy.”

    Yes yes yes.

  14. sso

    YES.

    And just as bad…if i actually do happen to eat something, the people who see me and jokingly say, “Oh you better not eat that, you’re getting!” Yeah, you think you’re being funny, and you think it’s okay to say because you think I am skinny, but it’s NOT okay. And now I’m probably not going to eat whatever it was I worked up the nerve to eat.

  15. sso

    oops. that should read, “You better not eat that, you’re getting fat”

  16. Kaitlyn

    Ouyang dan – Sometimes, people really didn’t mean it that way, and if they’re not utter jerks, they won’t mind if you correct them, if you want to. Most of us want to be better people, want to learn.

    However, just because the intent wasn’t to insult/belittle you does not mean that your feelings and reaction aren’t valid. (You in general.)

    I remember something from my literature class last fall, a school of thought or term that says that what a work means is dependent entirely on the reader, not the author. The author has no control. But I digress.

  17. saranga

    oh yes. thank you for writing this.

  18. softestbullet

    *applauds and applauds*

  19. MK

    Maybe later I will be able to offer an intelligent, insightful response but now all I can say is: I identify with this. SO. HARD.

  20. siwangmu

    I’m going to try and express myself very carefully, and make my intentions super-clear: I am incredibly glad you wrote this. The reason I am so glad is that, well, guilty as charged. While I have never said this to someone (as that would be, you know, incredibly rude), this article forced me to admit to myself that I *have* thought it, and even said it to third parties, in response to faraway people I have arbitrarily decided look mean, or movies/magazine photos/etc. So the only comfort I can draw from never having actually said it to the subject of my remark is that now that I realize just how fucked up that was, I can at least thank my lucky stars I never did it to someone directly.

    But did I say it about a third party to a friend who I didn’t know was struggling with an ED? Maybe. Jesus.

    I very much hope that my coming into this comment thread and pleading guilty does not in any way make you uncomfortable, seeing as I’ve just admitted to doing something incredibly shitty and hurtful. It seemed worth the risk for the opportunity to publicly attest to your having made me deeply challenge my own ideas. Yesterday I would have said “Of COURSE I don’t judge women’s bodies.” I would have been wrong.

    Thank you for writing this. I was beginning to have inklings of the theoretical problems with size judgments of any kind (thank you Shapely Prose), but I had never considered the personal dimension you convey so movingly in this post. That is, of course, my failure, and it’s not your job to educate me, but I hope you were hoping someone would read this and get a smack with the proverbial clue-by-four, because that’s what I just got. Thanks.

  21. Personal Failure

    siwangmu:

    I have no idea how the author of this post feel, and certainly cannot speak for her, but, from me: CONGRATULATIONS!

    You just learned about the invisible-if-you-have-it-freakin’-obvious-if-you-don’t thing called privilege, something I only recently really explored myself. I lack privilege in being female, disabled and poor, but I now realize that I have privilege in being white, heterosexual and cisgendered.

    This has forced me to do a lot of thinking, some of it very uncomfortable, but that’s a feature, not a bug.

  22. Personal Failure

    and am still exploring. as if privilege could be explored in a single afternoon. sorry.

  23. meloukhia

    Kaitlyn, it’s not about what people mean, it’s about how someone feels; intent is not as important as perception.

    And, really, what other meaning could there possibly be to “eat a sandwich”?

  24. LeeLee

    Yeah, I’ve never understood “eat a sandwich” and other similar remarks. Frickin’ brutal. I did not struggle with an ED, but I was naturally skinny (not thin) and in my early 20s I boozed more than I ate. And perfect strangers felt compelled to walk across the way in the mall to my store and chide me about my size. When I was working, I couldn’t very well lash out. Oh, but when they caught me on breaks. . . I probably said some cruel things in response that I wouldn’t be proud of if I remembered them. But I meant them.

    Even amongst groups who speak out against the policing of bodies, there is really hateful talk about those with actual EDS and perceived EDs (“skinny bitches”). Or they’re just spoken of as victims – not everyday people, our neighbors, family, ourselves. It’s inexcusable, really.

    EDs are supposedly on the rise in men and boys. I can’t even begin to understand how that is dealt with in the frame of masculinity. Women are “supposed” to have food issues. Healthy, “real” men eat their weight in biscuits and gravy. So a man with an ED could be perceived as extra-defective. Although being a woman is fraught with social problems, I thank my stars that I am raising a girl and therefore don’t have to help a boy-child navigate masculinity.

  25. Sarah TX

    Even amongst groups who speak out against the policing of bodies, there is really hateful talk about those with actual EDS and perceived EDs (”skinny bitches”).

    I hate it most from people who seem to be well-meaning. They say, “Real women have curves! If my wife was any thinner, she’d look like a boy!” (I have heard all of these at one point or another). And they often DO mind when they are corrected. They mind very stridently, with arguments about why THEY think it’s OK to police a particular set of bodies.

  26. meloukhia

    Ugh, “real women have curves” is my least favourite “empowering” saying EVER. “Real women” are WOMEN. Doesn’t matter what their bodies look like. And how people who claim to be body positive can say things like that is beyond me; it’s just privileging one kind of body over another.

    ETA: This thread has reminded me of a rather painful period in my life; I’m fat, but a few years ago, I lost a lot of weight when I got extremely sick. Compliments about weight loss which I had to grit my teeth through aside, I also got a fair amount of “eat a sandwich” crap. This when I was calorie-loading and everything I ate just melted away. It was unbelievably frustrating to be simultaneously told that I was “finally looking good” (really, direct quote) and that I was “too skinny” and “should just put on some weight,” and I was like “I’M TRYING.” It definitely didn’t help with the whole “trying not to be sick anymore” thing for my weight to be constantly policed.

  27. Layla Aaron

    Being a person on the complete other end of the spectrum, I will admit I have been guilty of making some of these comments. I think the reason I made them was a form of striking out against some of these I thought were striking out at me. One of the best things that has happened to me has been working with someone who is naturally very slender and wants to gain some weight, and seeing her struggle has helped me be more aware of the size issue being about all sizes.

    Thank you for writing this to help give me further insight. It’s a struggle for all of us and instead of fighting against each other, we should be working together against the ignorance.

  28. Layla Aaron

    @ meloukhia, your comment about the weight loss is similar to what my friend/co-worker is going through. She ihas had some of those comments made to her and even had one person say she shouldn’t lose the pregnancy weight because she looked so much better with weight on her. Learning that someone said that comment to her, made me angry on her behalf and for everyone who’s had that comment or similar ones made to them.

    Of course, the other end of the spectrum is ‘You’d be so pretty if you just lost some weight.’ Or ‘You have such a pretty face, you just need to lose some weight.’ Too bad people feel like they have the right and are entitled to make such comments to anyone.

  29. LeeLee

    Oh yeah, fall outside of the norm, and you’re fair game. And those comments always value appearance over health. People don’t say “eat a sandwich” because they think doing so would make someone healthier. I’m getting myself all worked up. Gah!

  30. Layla Aaron

    LeeLee, you are so right. The comments are always in connection to appearance rather than wellbeing. It’s easy to get worked up about it. It’s sad that shape, size and appearance are more important than health and wellbeing. Perhaps one day, in a perfect world, it will be all about the health.

  31. Lis

    Perhaps one day, it will be about minding one’s own business. Helpful commentaries about somebody else’s health or ability status are also noxious, just in a different way.

    It would be so amazing if people could just not comment on other peoples’ bodies without invitation.

  32. kaninchenzero

    What Lis said. (I was gonna but I was busy ranting somewhere else.)

  33. sanabituranima

    “Healthy, “real” men eat their weight in biscuits and gravy. So a man with an ED could be perceived as extra-defective.”

    But at the same time, they’re not allowed to get fat.Heavy with muscle, yes, but not fat.

    Weight policing sucks.

  34. Kaitlyn

    Since this is the most recent “language” post, I’d like to ask why I feel scared of asking people to stop using phrases and words.

    My cousin used “gay” to describe New Moon (because she thinks it’s terrible, not because of some research of the series that would address homosexuality). And then the person responding to her (who I don’t know) used it again. I responded asking her not to use gay as an insult.

    Now I’m worried about her response.

  35. Lis

    Since this is the most recent “language” post, I’d like to ask why I feel scared of asking people to stop using phrases and words.

    Well, because people frequently do react in a hostile way when they’re asked not to use oppressive language. It’s usually because they resent the implication that their actions are hurting people, or that they would choose to be offensive. I totally support and applaud your calling your sister out, but I think you are reasonable to expect a somewhat negative reaction. That’s pretty common.

  36. Lis

    Argh, cousin, sorry. I need to read more carefully!

  37. Frankincensy

    Thank you so much for this post. “Eat a sandwich!” and “Real women have curves!” are some of the most divisive things that get said in the name of body acceptance, and too often they serve to derail otherwise useful conversations on what’s wrong with beauty standards and the policing of women who don’t meet the ideal. There needs to be a disconnect between criticising the media’s obsession with thinness and criticising actual thin women for being the way they are; and people need to stop thinking as if flippant remarks about eating a sandwich or not throwing up are helpful or acceptable.

    Not-so-strangely enough, I almost never see this kind of thing in dedicated fat acceptance circles, maybe because the people writing there have actually figured out that you can’t make things better for one group of women by marginalising and dehumanising another.

    Side note, and I hope this isn’t derailing: for the friends or loved ones of a person with an eating disorder, expressing your concern without expressly linking it to the person’s weight (“are you okay?”, “I’m here if you want to talk about anything”) can be a lot more helpful than size-related comments. When someone tells me I’m looking thin, it’s confusing (because I struggle to see myself as anything close to thin) and puts me on the defensive right away, and phrases like “dreadfully thin” and “it hurts to look at you” only increase the tension and pain. I realise that watching someone you love suffer from an ED IS extremely distressing, but how the concern is communicated makes a difference.

    It’s also worth mentioning that ED’d people may already be afraid that everyone around them is keeping tabs on their (the ED’d person’s) weight and food intake; reinforcing this can make the self-consciousness even worse.

  38. Cecelia

    Thank you for this one dear!

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