A Gender Identity?

As I have only just started considering myself as a woman – rather than a girl – I have never really given the whole ‘what it means to be a woman’ debate, that much attention.

I thought that understanding what it was like to be me would be enough to make sense of my experiences; I didn’t anticipate contemplating the far bigger mystery of what it was like to be a woman. To be honest, it seemed kind of irrelevant…

Until I noticed that it kept coming up – and it appeared to be connected; kind of like this….

Hello, I’m…

Working out who I am has been a major challenge in my recovery, and I’d been working on the basis that my difficulties were solely down to the fact I’ve introduced myself as an eating disorder for the past fifteen years. I’m now beginning to think that I might have been a bit simplistic and that women’s identity are often a complicated affair, regardless of the circumstances.

Now I’m no historian, but it doesn’t take a scholar to map out the role of women through the centuries. We’ve been, for the most part, lovers (wives) and mothers: Tom’s Mrs, and Charles’ Mum.

After emancipation – and because we’re more than Tom’s Mrs and Charles’ Mum – things are a bit different now; and identifiers don’t work in quite the same way. Mothers and wives are in amongst there, but we’re expanding the definitions. Introductions are now far more social and far more about what you like, or what you do: the “I’m Melissa and I’m a xxxx” line; just like a man –

Only, some habits are hard to break.

If there’s such a thing as a collective memory – and I’m inclined to think there is – then being wives and mothers and daughters is old hat; but talking in men’s terms is still relatively new. Maybe the finding an identity thing isn’t a unique experience but, at some level, we’re working out how to juggle a biological identity with a social one..

And, if we’re carrying that around still, then what else is in the load?

A difficult relationship with food

I have always been curious about the food issue. With a whole range of self destruction aids to choose from, what was it about food that made it such a natural weapon? Why, with no previous food-related issues, did I turn to it so instinctively?

There’s a whole women’s relationship with food debate to explore, and a huge conversation about guilt and greed and giving to get your head around; but when you factor in the identity question and the sociological theorising…well, it actually starts to make a funny kind of sense.

Clearly calorie counting, and weightwatchers, and Victoria Beckham’s dress size weren’t common currency amongst our stone age predecessors; but I’m betting food was a pretty central subject, particularly as it was at the heart of the woman’s world.

From breast feeding to meat for the men, kitchen maids to housewife domesticity; there’s been a direct link between food and the female identity for a long time, and body image has got all mixed in -

Before you know it, there’s Scarlett O’Hara squeezing into a corset and dainty feminine table manners; food and status, and looks as currency…

And we’re back to the whole identity debate.

It’s all interesting food for thought, to excuse the pun, and I’m open to the fact that it’s probably just idle speculation; but there’s definitely a lot of arrows pointing in the same direction – and some value in widening the lens -

Because, it may not tell me where I’m going – but it’s helped me work out where I came from; and it’s made me remember that I’m not in it on my own.

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