Secret Diet Ninja and Gender Monster

Warning! Potentially triggery for weight stuff!

The other day I had an amazing talk with a beautiful skeleton made of swords. It had to do with maybe losing weight in a physically and mentally healthy way for the first time in my life. I’d really like to blog it, but Secret Diet Ninja has a problem with that. Nobody can know I’m trying to lose weight!

Secret Diet Ninja kind of looks like Zhang Ziyi.

I’m attempting to do this by myself because I want to give my headcast a break after the exhausting time they had with the skeleton made of swords.

Me: Hi there. I hear you really want to keep this weight-loss thing secret.

Secret Diet Ninja: Yes! If people know, they’ll freak out!

Me: Why?

Secret Diet Ninja: Because they’ll assume you’re going back into your eating disorder and want to save you from yourself! They’ll have a million concerns and pieces of advice and suggestions and questions and you’ll either crumple under the pressure or lash out and hurt people! Nobody will trust you to do this in a healthy way because you’ve never given them any evidence that you can! And even if they do, they still won’t accept it because you can have health at every size and the only reason to lose weight is to conform to the patriarchal beauty standard or to avoid dealing with your internal-sexist body issues, both of which make you a bad feminist! Also, you will be insulting all the fat people you love!

Me: So you don’t want me to lose weight?

Secret Diet Ninja: No, I totally want you to lose weight. I just want you to keep it secret so you can’t be hurt by all this pressure. Remember how horrible it was then? When you had people crying and raging and threatening and begging you to eat, and the only way to resist was to become like stone and tell yourself nothing mattered but being thin? I don’t think you’re capable of doing that any more.

Me: No, I wouldn’t want to.

Secret Diet Ninja: So you’re completely vulnerable to them!

Me: Now is not then. People behaved like that because I was starving myself, not eating a sensible healthy diet.

Secret Diet Ninja: Yes, but some of your friends remember that time and will get all of their stuff triggered and will be incredibly worried about you!

Me: If that happens, I think I’ll be capable of remembering that that’s their stuff.

SDN. Bollocks. You’re terrified.

Me: And that’s my stuff coming up in response to their putative stuff. I’m also capable of remembering that.

Secret Diet Ninja: I just don’t want you to go through all this pain! And what about all the feminist stuff? You actually have no comeback to those arguments! See, this is just like then because losing weight is still a shameful wrong thing that has to be done in secret!

Me: I do have a comeback. I have the feminist beliefs that everyone has a right to do what they want to with their own bodies, and that it’s not okay to shame a woman just for doing a patriarchy-approved thing, because maybe she wants to do it for her.

Secret Diet Ninja: I still don’t think you’d last five minutes against a real feminist with real political opinions and knowledge. You’d be backed against a wall squealing in protest and begging them to please stop saying the scary words.

Me: That was verging on shoe-throwing. You just implied that I’m not a real feminist and I don’t have any real political opinions or knowledge. Please talk to me in a way that I can hear.

Secret Diet Ninja: I’m really worried that they’re going to scare you.

Me: (nods, feeling a rush of affection for her) I hear you.

Secret Diet Ninja: So you promise me you won’t say anything? I mean, if you just tell everyone that you’re giving up sugar and following a hypoglycemic diet for your mental health, they’ll never suspect anything! And you can say you’re going vegan too!

Me: Well, all of those are things I might be interested in doing for real. I’m uncomfortable with using them as a way to lie to my friends. Also, there’s going to be a lot of really interesting monster-talk material that I can’t publish on my blog unless I’m honest about the fact that I’m losing weight. Which is a problem because I need things to publish and I think people might find this stuff helpful.

Secret Diet Ninja: It’s simply not worth it for the emotional agony you’re going to go through.

Me: Would you be willing to listen to a list of things I could potentially do to make this easier on you?

Secret Diet Ninja: Okay. I’ll listen, but it’s not going to work.

Me: I could read up on feminist perspectives that allow for weight loss -

Secret Diet Ninja: There won’t be any.

Me: I think that’s unlikely, but if you’re right, I’ll make some up.

Secret Diet Ninja: They’ll suck because it’s impossible to be a feminist and lose weight. You will basically be a walking statement that women are not allowed their bodies. Opening your mouth and trying to contradict that will make you a walking joke.

Me: Ouch. I have lots of pain-from-then around the concept of being a walking joke. From a time when I talked a lot about high ideals and massively betrayed them.

Secret Diet Ninja: That is exactly what you’ll be doing if you talk about feminist ideals while losing weight!

Me: I don’t know where you’ve got this. This is not my idea of feminism.

Secret Diet Ninja: Yes it bloody well is!

Me: YOU KNOW WHAT, FUCK THIS BECAUSE I AM NOT A WOMAN! (deep breath) Whoa. Whoa, gender monster on board. Hi, gender monster.

Gender Monster: WHY ARE YOU LISTENING TO THIS CRAP ABOUT WOMEN’S BODIES THIS AND WOMEN’S BODIES THAT WHEN YOUR BODY IS NOT A WOMAN’S BECAUSE IT BELONGS TO YOU!!

Me: Hold on a sec. (To Secret Diet Ninja) I’m sorry. It looks like something urgent has come up here. Would you be willing to take a break while I deal with this?

Secret Diet Ninja: Sure, but promise me you’ll come back to me so we can finish our conversation.

Me: Of course.

(Secret Diet Ninja spins around and melts into the shadows)

Gender Monster: UGH UGH UGH THERE IS A WHOLE OTHER CAN OF WORMS HERE!

Me: It’s okay, you don’t need to shout. I’m listening.

Gender Monster: If you make this public you’ll have to have a million conversations about you as a woman and your womanly woman’s body and the political implications of what a freaking woman you are! And all of your gender stuff will be triggered so horribly you might as well be fat!

Me: Oof. Okay. You know what, I’m done making this hard for myself. Backup!

(Mr. H and Big Sister skid onto the scene cartoon-style.)

Mr. H: We thought you’d never ask!

Me: (laughing) Thanks, guys!

Big Sister: Soooo. Hi, by the way. So you believe that if Eve has a conversation about feminism and losing weight, she has to have it from the point of view that she’s a woman?

Gender Monster: Yes, because it’s not like she’s got a coherent genderqueer identity that she can actually assert instead. She’s not trans-anything, she’s just… all over everything.

Big Sister: How is that not an identity?

Gender Monster: Well, she’s not ready to pick a label for it. And she’s also quite shy and embarrassed about it and not sure she has a right to it, and worried that people will disapprove of her for denying she’s a woman. So yeah.

Big Sister: So it doesn’t sound like you think she has to talk about herself as a woman, just that she’s scared not to.

Gender Monster: Yeah. And it hurts her every time she does, and I want to protect her from that by making sure she doesn’t have the conversation. And I have a huge investment in her losing weight because that means her body will feel more like the genderfree, anything-you-want-to-be zone that her spirit is. And she’ll feel better in male or androgynous or gendersilly outifts and she’ll dress up more and I really want that for her!

Big Sister: So even though you came in here screaming at that ninja, you’re actually on the same side. You both really want Eve to lose the weight, you just don’t want her to talk about it.

Gender Monster: Yes.

Big Sister: Because you believe she’ll be forced to talk about it in ways that are painful for her.

Gender Monster: Yes.

Secret Diet Ninja: (silently reappearing) Yep.

Big Sister: Okay! I think it’s time for- ‘The Big List Of Ways That Eve Can Be A Sovereign Being And Not Get Forced To Talk About Painful Body Stuff!’ Ready?

Gender Monster/Secret Diet Ninja: Ready.

Big Sister: Okay. She can state her needs clearly up front. She can give people empathy for their worries, and reassurance that she’s going to do this healthily, and then explain that because of her eating disorder history, she has Ludicrous Fear Popcorn of being pressured to eat or questioned about what she is or isn’t eating, and she needs to feel absolutely safe from this. She can state that she doesn’t want advice, suggestions, or questions about her eating behaviour or the motives behind it.

Secret Diet Ninja: What if people want to talk about why she doesn’t want to talk about it?

Big Sister: She can say she also doesn’t want questions about her need for safety.

Secret Diet Ninja: What if people are desperate to be heard and furious at being silenced? What if they respect her needs on the internet and then bring it up face-to-face when she’s even more vulnerable?

Big Sister: Well, she could pre-empt that by saying, ‘If you’re very concerned and really need to be heard, please tell me your concerns in a medium that isn’t real-time and doesn’t require a response, e.g. email rather than chat or face to face.’

Secret Diet Ninja: That would be just about okay as long as there was absolute permission not to respond. But what if people still bring up concerns in chat or face-to-face? She can’t just order people to behave a certain way and expect that they’ll all follow it! What if they don’t want to? What if they forget? What if there’s some complicated food-eating situation where they can’t not mention it?

Big Sister: Would it be a problem if they just mentioned it? Like, ‘oh yeah, you’re trying to lose weight’ with no judgement implied?

Secret Diet Ninja: No, no problem at all. It would just be a huge, terrible, colossal problem if she felt she had to justify or defend herself.

Big Sister: Okay, that brings me to a really important point. She doesn’t have to justify or defend herself. Ever.

Secret Diet Ninja: Really? Because that’s 90% of what I’m terrified about. What does she do if she’s on the spot and someone asks her a probing, challenging question with a tone of obvious disapproval or urgent concern?

Big Sister: She can say, ‘I get that you’re not happy’ or ‘I appreciate that you care’ and then, ‘I’m not going to justify or defend myself. I’m feeling terrified right now because my eating disorder triggers are going off and I really need to feel safe. Would you be willing to change the subject?’

Secret Diet Ninja: What if they refuse?

Big Sister: She can suggest they email her about it later, or she can say, ‘If you’re not willing to change the subject, I’m going to need to leave this conversation.’

Secret Diet Ninja: What if they accuse her of being a coward and ducking the question because she can’t admit they’re right?

Big Sister: She doesn’t have to justify or defend herself. If people start throwing shoes like that, she has absolute permission to just focus on getting herself safe.

Secret Diet Ninja: What if she accuses herself of being a coward?

Big Sister: We’ll have a talk with the You’re a Coward Monster.

Secret Diet Ninja: Wow, you really have an answer to everything.

Gender Monster: What if she tells people she’s losing weight because of gender, and they react by telling her how to do gender? Like, ‘Weight shouldn’t have any effect on how androgynous you feel.’

Big Sister: If someone is telling her how to do gender, she’s well within her rights to say, ‘Don’t tell me how to do gender’!

Gender Monster: She wouldn’t say that. It’s too confrontational.

Big Sister: Then she could say, ‘I guess everyone’s different. This is my experience of my gender and it definitely is like this for me.’ (Long pause) Any more what-ifs?

Secret Diet Ninja: What if people are angry with her for thinking they might react badly when she should know they would never do that?

Big Sister: She can explain to them that she knows that really and she appreciates it, she just has a ton of Ludicrous Fear Popcorn. And that this isn’t about them, this is between her and her. (Long pause) Anything else?

Secret Diet Ninja: Nope.

Gender Monster: All done here too.

Big Sister: Great! Next question: are we okay to tell the world by blogging this conversation?

Gender Monster: Bleh. Don’t wanna think about that now. Too tired.

Secret Diet Ninja: Yeah, that’s a question for another time. Let’s leave that for now. We need a rest.

Big Sister: Okay, bye! And thank you!

Needless to say, we did decide to blog this conversation. :) And I had SO MANY revelations in the wake of it.

Like the fact that my Ludicrous Fear Popcorn of being argued out of things goes back to early childhood, when it was totally rational and legitimate to assume that I was doomed to lose an argument against adults on whom I depended for survival.

And the fact that I’ve had a label for my gender since forever. It’s ‘silver‘. This is my birth gender. And the fact that it doesn’t explain anything is perfect.