Today is an incredibly special day for people all around the world.
March 8th of each year International Women’s Day, when people all around the globe raise awareness for equal rights and advocate for stepping out of the small boxes in which we’ve labelled with expectations of genders. It’s a day of celebration for all the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the globe; a recognition of a woman’s right to have equal opportunities to create, be educated, be brave and bold, and to make mistakes and be forgiven.
So this year, the hope is that we are not only are we celebrating women’s achievements, but remembering the concept behind this day. The idea is that both men and women, boys and girls, should have equal rights and opportunities. We are actually celebrating the achievements of bright and compassionate minds of innovation, whether it be accomplished by boys or by girls. And that we move forward committing to making a world of happier men and women who are truer to themselves.
It is too often that we let gender dictate who we think we should be. Expectations are attached to boys and girls like the clothes we wear on our backs. Eating disorder awareness week was last week, but the battle against it still continues today, so I know it’s never too late to bring up the topic of body image. We define masculinity in a narrow way, caging boys within this box and teach them to be afraid of weakness, to be vulnerable and sensitive. We tell them that being a “man” means to be big and strong. Just as we do this to boys, we put girls in their own, separate boxes and put them aside from the boys. We tell them not to be too bold, then proceed to do them further disservice by telling them that small is more beautiful, and thin is sexy. The issue is that we let gender prescribe who we should be, rather than who we are. We get caught up and obsessed trying to be this “ideal” of a person dictated by whom? These expectations become more unrealistic just as they become more narrow. By letting gender dictate who we should be and what we should look like, we are feeding into eating disorders. We have placed the two on different ends of the spectrum, perceiving that they’re imposing ideals. When in fact, vulnerability, boldness, courage and weakness are all authentic human emotions – regardless of gender. They’re a diverse spectrum of emotions, colours of humanity that paint our lives. Body shape is no different.
Take these athletes for instant. They cover the spectrum when it comes to age, weight, and body shape; but they’re no different when it comes to strength, boldness, or ambition. The most beautiful element radiating through each of them, is the quality of authenticity – the courage to be themselves.
You do not need permission to be vulnerable and to be human, just as you does not need permission to be bold and ambitious. And you most definitely do not need permission to look a certain way or be a certain size. So let us celebrate making a world where policies and social norms are not based on gender, to build a time of compassion when we are free to be a more true and complete – happier (&healthier) – version of ourselves. After all, we cannot battle eating disorders effectively when we only half the voices are invited to join the conversation.
Be You and Stay True.
And to my fellow RD (registered dietitian) colleagues, keep on trekking! Congratulations to all the amazing work you’ve done. We are advocates for healthy relationships with food, and it is imperative that we stand by this notion of authenticity and vulnerability. The battle against eating disorders likely will not end in our lifetime, but we can advocate for a healthier environment and a more compassionate time where we can mitigate some of the underlying manifestations, and make our impact – just as you’re doing now, one person at a time.