Archive for the ‘feminism’ Category

Got in from work this afternoon to hear the tail end of Sunbathing in the Rain on Radio 4 (which I leave on in the mornings for the dog!).

From the BBC website:

Sunbathing in the Rain: Gwyneth Lewis’s adaptation of her book, a down-to-earth, courageous and entertaining chronicle of her own experience of a severe episode of depression, how she struggled to find ways of coping and ultimately survive.



Listen again link should work for seven days:



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Some of you might know that a while ago I started up a Compulsive Eating Workshop at Sussex Uni. Based in the Women’s Room, we all read Fat Is A Feminist Issue and worked through it, discussing body issues, our disordered eating histories, depression, and anything else we wanted to.

I’m leaving uni this August – I’m moving back to London as my MA has finished – so it won’t really be practical for me to carry on the group. Luckily, the women involved in the Sussex group are totally amazing and are carrying it on without me! But I want to start up a group, in London, along the same lines, to continue my recovery and facillitate other women’s.

But… London is a much bigger place than Sussex Uni… so I need help! I want to make the group completely free, and as such need a venue which is either low cost or no cost. I also need a venue with good transport links (central if possible…) and which is suitable for the group, i.e. has plenty of chairs and is pretty private.

Have any of you guys started groups in London before? Would any of you be interested in joining the group? Got any ideas about venues? Comment below!

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One thing I love about therapy is those little revelations that mean so much. You know, when either you, someone in the group, or your therapist says something utterly x-rayish, which goes to the root of what you feel and aligns some of the mess of feelings into something understandable.

I thought I’d share just such a revelation that I experience on Wednesday in the Eating Disorders Group I’m part of at Sussex Uni. This is a university counselling service group, different from the Compulsive Eating Workshop, which I started. The group is made up entirely of young women, all under 30. There are some bulimics, some anorexics, and me, a recovering anorexic and bulimic with compulsive eating issues.

On Wednesday, one of the anorexics of the group started talking about faith to recover. The belief that you can recover, can get better, can start to have a more normal attitude to your body and food. Obviously, none of us talk about ‘normal’. We have agreed that normal eating does not occur very often for women in Western societies. However, most women also don’t have problems to the extent that we do, either. So this was the revelation – that I don’t have belief in my own recovery.

For me, recovery means fully adopting the feminist way to eat set out by Susie Orbach in Fat Is A Feminist Issue; eating whatever I want, eating whenever I am hungry, stopping when I feel full, dealing with my problems without food, being relaxed about all this. But that in itself is radical, something most women in society wouldn’t be willing to try. When I tell them I’ve already lost weight doing it, however, and have started to find my body more beautiful than ever before, they become very interested.

Anyway, the revelation was about belief. The anorexic who discussed it said she has started to believe she can get better. That she can imagine, now, what her life without anorexia will be like. What her body will, or might, be like. What her relationships might be, or might turn in to.

And I was trying to work out why it’s so, so hard for me to see this for myself – my own recovery from twenty years of compulsive overeating, anorexia and bulimia. Perhaps because I’ve had eating problems almost my entire life. They started when I began Primary School (another recent revelation). I have hardly ever known anything except worry, confusion, desperation, addiction and fear around food. I have also over exercised my belief abilities. I’ve been overweight almost my entire life, and I’ve also been dieting almost my entire life, and depriving myself, or stuffing myself. At the start of every new diet, I’ve talked myself into believing that this will work – this will be the eating regime I will somehow be able to stick to forever and be thin, or at least not forever, but for the summer.

In the past few years, this has become harder and harder. As I read more feminist texts and uncovered the truth about diets, about the 95% recidivism rate, about the psychology surrounding restriction, I could no longer believe that any diet would work. It became a massive struggle to force myself to believe in this latest one, and I started to just hope for losing weight for a very short time – perhaps a month of blessed thinness. And eventually, it stopped working completely. I could not believe any more. And, without wishing to use any overtly religious language, I despaired.

I was very scared. Had I given up? Become incapable of caring for myself? The terrifying arena of non-dieting loomed before me. I put on some weight, although not much. And I read Fat Is A Feminist Issue. And I started the Compulsive Eating Workshop. Months went by with no change, but the more I talked about my issues with food, and examined them with other women who understood, and read the book, and tried to listen to my body, the easier it got, until last week. When I realised that I had actually lost some weight, although I will stress that I am still trying to make that not the most important thing about recovery in my head.

I’m still finding it hard to accept that I might have found a way to eat that is secure, adapted to my body and my hunger and appetite. That isn’t ruled over by anything, even my brain, but is instead dictated by my stomach and my tastebuds. I still can’t believe. But I know that I need to start believing again. Unlike any previous plans, however, I’m giving myself time. I’ve managed to get weighing myself down to once a month. If I don’t lose any more weight for months, or even years, I think I’m ok with it. I just want to eat well, and eat for my body, and start to accept it, and promote my bodily autonomy. Nothing that happens in my life should make me reach for food. I am developing an emotionally literate mental army against the things that used to send me to the fridge. Slowly. It does feel different, however.

Perhaps feeling different is the start of believing different.

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There’s a great post over at The F-Word today from Abby O’Reilly on workplace discrimination towards overweight women, or women who are perceived as larger than whatever standards patriarchy decides to arbitrarily put in place. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently, as I’m running the hellish gauntlet of job applications. In the past, I’ve largely worked for local governments, charities and not-for-profit organisations, and I think, to a certain extent, I’ve been protected from this kind of bullshit (although obviously I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist in these sort of places). But I’m just about to apply for a job with a publisher that is for profit. And I’m most definitely a size 16.

I have struggled with my weight for years, as I think I’ve mentioned on here before. However, recently I’ve been working through Fat Is A Feminist Issue with the Compulsive Eating Workshop I set up at Sussex Uni. and I actually think I might be losing a little weight. It doesn’t really matter to me, though. I am, for the first time in my life, actually starting to genuinely think I look good. It’s been a slow, painful struggle. Did I mention slow? Sometimes it feels as if you’re taking three steps forward and then being slingshotted a mile back, but starting to accept and maybe even love my body is what I’m concentrating on right now.

If I don’t get this job, I think I will inevitably wonder why, especially as I am very well qualified. Was it because I’m not a size 8 beauty? I’ll never know, and perhaps it’s not worth torturing myself. I’ve not been passed up for many jobs after the interview stage, as Abby O’Reilly has, and so probably need a few more refusals to really start getting worried about my income.

Have any of you guys suffered instances of discrimination at work based on your physical appearance?

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Meet Sarah Haskins:

More from her here!

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Susie Orbach, feminist psychoanalyst and author of the famous Fat Is A Feminist Issue will be speaking on ‘The Talking Cure in the 21st Century’ this Thursday (5th June) from 6-9pm.

The event is being held at the Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton (v. easy to get to from Brighton mainline station).

I’ll be there, but if anyone else wants to come email Bob Withers (bob.withers@ntlworld.com) for ticket information. Tickets are £5. Comment if you’re coming – let’s meet up!

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Hello, my name is Louise though my alter-ego is Harpy Marx. It is an honour to blog for a site like this and was so pleased to have found a feminist blog that writes about women and mental health. I first experienced the loony bin trip when I was 16/17 years though the distress was building up over the years and once I left home….I kinda went ‘pop’!

Before that, depressed, suicidal, self-harming and anxious kid, on anti-depressants and sleeping tablets with parents who didn’t have the capacity to care or love instead bullied and undermined.

Fast forward 20-odd years, still get depressed, anxious and was on anti-d’s last summer (and the drugs didn’t work though the beta blockers helped ‘cept after a glass of red wine). I still have a major problem with self-esteem, self-worth and confidence i.e. doesn’t exist and the gremlins inside my head that play havoc. Yet I have tried to heave myself up by the boot straps (and boy, is that sure hard) and fight the good fight. And what it is to be a woman in this society.

My leftie feminist politics kept me “sane” while I was in hospital as a teenager as it gave me perspective and context but even being part of a left-wing collective organisation I felt alone bereft of solidarity and support. My socialist feminism kept me warm.

But life is sure hard, just dealing with the daily grind such as work, relationships/friendships and everything else can be confusing and sometimes, to be honest, a nightmare. There are times when I feel like a square peg in a round hole and there are times I want to shout, “stop the world, I want to get off”….

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