On Becoming the Invisible Woman

invisible + DUMy whole life, until very recently, I have felt invisible. I have always been surprised when people I knew, but thought did not know me, say to me, “I remember you from…” (this happened a lot on Facebook back in its early days).

I’m like, Really? You knew who I was?

I am not sure why I felt invisible, but I really didn’t like it. I did a lot of things to ease that invisibility, like wear really flashy clothing, or make my hair crazy big, or wear a lot of make-up.

And yet, I felt I remained essentially invisible. Whether it was real or not, it felt real, and I think there are societal reasons for that.

Once I started getting very visible online and talking about all things Health at Every Size®, anti-diet, intuitive eating, body acceptance, fat positive, I realized my invisible days were well and truly over. They needed to be, because this movement needs more voices, my own included.

And once I joined a female-dominated profession (dietetics) I saw my voice welcomed as equally important to the others around me. This had not been the case when I had worked in the corporate world, I’m sorry to say, and I didn’t flourish in that environment.

So I’ve gotten kind of used to…visibility, lately. Imagine my surprise, then, when I ended up in a situation recently where I felt like I was turning back into the Invisible Woman.

On the set of a video shoot for a wellness mini-documentary by Vice UK, I was rendered irrelevant as I was overlooked, ignored by the males-in-charge around me, and eventually ended up on the cutting room floor (much to my actual relief). I don’t usually go around feeling like this is the case in most situations, so I decided I hadn’t imagined it after all. It was an upsetting reminder that outside my little HAES bubble of acceptance, there is still so much work to do.

If you want to hear the gory, yet hilarious, details of this story, listen to our podcast episode here.  WARNING: wheat grass was wielded as a torture device!

Anyway, I started to think about the many ways in which women experience erasure in our society. This is a real thing. It happens – and requiring women to diet to lose weight is one of the ways it is reinforced.

As a young, chubby woman, I was overlooked frequently as a potential partner for anyone. It was even hard to get a decent job back then. Once I lost weight and better started fitting into the cultural beauty standards du jour, all sort of attention — wanted, but also unwanted — was suddenly directed at me. It’s ironic that getting smaller somehow equated with better visibility, and yet it wasn’t real visibility. I ended up an ornament in so many situations, not a fully realized person with a mind and thoughts and ideas (and there would be so many repercussions for accepting this faux visibility, I later found out). I didn’t even feel visible to myself, and I had problems asking for what I really needed and wanted because of that. I had to fight for that kind of recognition, and although becoming older does not make the job any easier, I’m going to keep fighting for it.

Sarah Silverman had this to say not long ago: “As soon as a woman gets to an age where she has opinions and she’s vital and she’s strong, she’s systematically shamed into hiding under a rock.” Gawd, is that true or what?

We can’t let it continue to be true. We have to make our voices heard. We have to stop being afraid to take up space. We need to yell if we’re not being heard.

This is integral to our survival, to our very well-being, and to all the generations of women that will come after us.

Listen to the full Dietitians Unplugged podcast episode 23 here:

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