Am I A Bad Feminist Because I Have Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
Being a 21-year-old woman in the 21st century, I, of course, consider myself to be a feminist.
I want equal rights and equal pay, and body-shaming and victim-blaming infuriates me.
At the same time, I have suffered from body dysmorphic disorder for around 12 years, since I was 9 years old.
This brings about an interesting internal conflict, and I sometimes have to ask myself, "To what extent am I an internal misogynist?"
I have written many articles about living with BDD, but I do not usually discuss this internal conflict.
My BDD is a horrible part of myself, and I hate it. It makes me think, do and say quite awful things.
At the same time, I am an advocate of women everywhere having the right and the freedom to wear whatever clothes, makeup or hairstyles they like. I want them to embrace whatever body shapes they have.
Yet, if I feel they highlight my own flaws and parts of my body I have issues with, I instantaneously become threatened by these other women.
My jealousy is so intense, it can incur immense feelings of low self-worth and panic attacks, and can even plunge me into a depression.
“Why can’t I look like that? Why am I so deformed and ugly? It’s not fair, and I hate her.”
I am aware my reaction is extreme, and I know my mental illness is responsible for these horrible thoughts and emotions.
However, I can’t help but feel I am a bad feminist for hating attractive women.
I have trouble understanding my mental illness is wholly to blame. Am I just being a bad feminist by adhering to the social conditioning that attractiveness is a competition amongst women to be deemed the most desirable by the patriarchal structure of society?
Men don’t make me feel like this because we’re anatomically different, and they’re not much of a threat. So, we’re on the same team, aren’t we?
I know I suffer from paranoia, but am I being a bad feminist by assuming every attractive woman who passes by is going to make my boyfriend leave me?
I am aware most female celebrities have their images in the media altered, but does that make me a bad feminist by resenting their perfect bodies?
I want to say the answer is no.
I hate the fact these thoughts circulate in my vulnerable brain, but at least I am able, when I’m mentally stable enough, to identify what is happening.
If internalized misogyny is defined as the "involuntary internalization by women of the sexist messages that are present in their societies and culture," then I understand how my brain can trick me into thinking I am worthless.
I am not a size-6 supermodel, and my rolls of fat underneath my chin and my thin hair mean I will never be attractive by society’s standards.
Here, I am holding misogynistic ideas about myself, even though I am a woman.
Yet, I still believe that the answer is no. I am not a bad feminist because there is one crucial belief I have to cling on to.
This evil and poisonous voice in my head that has haunted me for over a decade is exactly that: just in my head.
This means I am the only one who is able to control it, and by continuing with my course of medication and therapy, I believe one day I will.
I hope other feminists reading this will be able to understand why I can’t be exposed to other women’s bodies.
It’s not that they shouldn’t be there; it’s that my self-confidence and low self-esteem should allow me to see such anxiety-triggering visual stimuli, without being thrust into a panic attack.
So women, I ask of your forgiveness. It’s not me, it’s my BDD.