“The Line” and How my Queer Identity Has Influenced my Body Dysmorphia

tw: eating disorder/body dysmorphia

In the poem “The Line” from Belly Songs: in Celebration of Fat Women by Susan Stinson, she writes “’if he pulls me, the sack will rip. / if he pulls and I don’t move, / the earth stops, too, / hung with us, solid, breathing, / me a weight, unfit / to slide on grocery sacks / to God and Love.’” (7). When I first read this poem, I had to take a break from the rest of the poems before rereading it and reflecting on my own similar childhood experiences. Although I was not fat as a child and was in fact underweight for most of my life, I related so much to this last stanza of the poem because of the internalization of this thought process about how other people perceive my body. grew up in a household where diet culture and body shaming were prevalent things, which has affected how I view my body for as long as I can remember. For as long as I can remember I have been afraid of my weight and how I am seen by others, often seeing myself far differently in the mirror than I am told that I look by others. Although I still struggle with my body dysmorphia as an adult, I had forgotten how vicious and anxious my thought processes as a child were – in games like the one Stinson is describing, I was terrified to be perceived by others, especially by the boys in my class (as I found they were often the most critical).

A lot of my body image issues have also been affected by my sexuality – before realizing I was a lesbian, I based a lot of my gender expression off of how men perceive me because I had seen so many women in my life do that. However, now that my life is not only influenced on my attraction to women but also my lack of attraction to men, I realize that a lot of my body issues had been tied into the ideas of the male gaze and very heteronormative thought processes. This in a way also relates to my alienation of womanhood because of this lack of relationship with men that defines what womanhood is to so many women. “The Line” has made me consider not only how early very harmful thought processes were instilled in my life but has also given me the space to feel able to explore the interconnectedness of my eating disorder and body dysmorphia with my identity as a queer person.

4 thoughts on ““The Line” and How my Queer Identity Has Influenced my Body Dysmorphia”

  1. Thank you for this post! It can be so hard to think about and relive negative experiences from your past, especially surrounding weight. This experience is something I strongly relate to and I also wrote about this poem in my own blog post. It was very hard for me to talk about my own experience dealing with standing in line for things and being fearful of how my body would be perceived by others, especially men. This is such a hard topic to talk about so I’m grateful for being able to see some of my own experiences reflected in someone else’s life.

  2. I really appreciate this post and also respect your ability to have dealt with this for years and come out stronger. I like the solid link you make between your queerness and body image here, and how often we take for granted appearances being rooted in heteronormativity…even for men it’s also based in looking in this particular, masculine way. I mean, look at the gigachad meme and tell me how that hasn’t sprung up from patriarchal views of what men should look like. And yet the irony is, men still have more freedom in their appearance and body image, whereas women’s bodies are policed to the point of trauma and more in regards to body image, even at an early age because children aren’t taught better. And adults who know better only enable it most of the time.

  3. As someone who also grew up in a household where body images (diet culture, shaming, etc.) were very present, you’re blog post really spoke to me. In our patriarchal society, so much of our images as females are dictated by the male gaze. Susan Stinson points out that this shaming starts at a young age and can stay with us for the rest of our lives. But at the same time, her poetry can be used to reclaim the image of our bodies and the words that have been traditionally used to shame it and us.

  4. Thank you for your post! It is really interesting how bound up weight is with gender and the idea of the male heteronormative gaze. The idea that women are supposed to appear a certain way for men to look at is extremely frustrating. I can remember being in high school and also being concerned about how my body appeared to the boys around me. Now that I have taken many WGSS classes here at Dickinson, I also see how there is pressure on men to appear a certain way, muscular, tall, as well as skinny, but men still seem to have more leeway when it comes to fatness as we saw in the S. Bear Bergman reading.

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