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Hi Ho, Battling Your Needs and Desires Must Go!

Elizabeth319's picture

Hi Ho, Battling  Your Needs and Desires Must Go!

A major cultural transition is in place in our society. Our generation is confounded in the disorderly transition between the old cultural standards of dependence and the developing culture of independence, power, and career orientated women. This creates an incredibly challenging world for us to live. We are experiencing the in-between stages of past societal norms and the pushing cultural standards for women’s empowerment and independence.

I hope to read more feminist writings resembling that of Cixous, “The Laugh of the Medusa.” We could not have read Cixous’ essay at a better time. Cixous inspired me to put my guard down and write the truth. Unfortunately now that my surname has been revealed there is a greater vulnerability to write from a personal level, but I should practice what I speak and take ownership for what I write. I have struggled with an eating disorder for nine years and have been trapped a prisoner of my mind for many more. Unfortunately the number of women developing eating disorders is on the rise and many more suffer from distorted eating and body image.  Society is by no means the trigger for the volcano, but does add a shift or two under the earth’s surface prior to the eruption.

This class grabbed my attention for selfish reasons. I took this class in hope it would help me in my search of self- discovery and struggling apprehension of my womanhood. Fear of experiencing pleasure and connecting with our bodies is a fear of connecting with our inner self. Fear of our own power and womanhood is an issue that many of us regardless of an eating disorder grabble. Today, women may feel greater encouragement to thrive on independence but we must be careful not to lie to ourselves that we need nothing to flourish.

Cixous writes, “…as soon as we come, we go and make ourselves feel guilty…” Whether it is pleasure felt after eating a delicious dessert or having sex, many of us cannot feel pleasure without guilt. The symptoms of an eating disorder are only a displacement of the true emotions. Food may be feared because pleasure is feared, and what if god- forbid we enjoy food! We must learn to accept that pleasure is okay and that guilt does not have to follow each moment of freedom. Guilt exists only to produce irrational thinking which triggers distressing feelings that feed on one another to keep us in chains. We have to fight hard for mental and emotional freedom. One thing that we have to fight against is guilt. It does not have a place

“We’ve been turned away from our bodies, shamefully taught to ignore them to strike them with that stupid sexual modesty…” writes Cixous. Feminism today should focus on accepting ourselves, owning our bodies, letting go of shame and guilt for wanting more than what we have, to allow ourselves to feel pleasure and not be ashamed.

            I want to be more cognoscente of the cultural messages I have internalized so that my awareness can aid future generation from falling prey to unhealthy standards. What are the critical issues of society that need to be revisited and how are the mixed messages displayed all of society enforcing the unhealthy separation between the body and mind? How is it that we can work together to foster the healthy exploration and acceptance of the physical body and soul as one entity? I borrow Kochinnenako’s metaphor as I conclude that each one of us may only be a tree in the forest, but if we can learn to see the forest than we can help our children and generations to come see beyond the woods. As poet Ranier Maria Rilke wrote, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs…/Ask yourself what makes you alive/because what the world needs/are people who have come alive.”


September 28 First Paper.doc30 KB


gail's picture

Accepting ourselves

Cixous gave me the courage to risk too. I created a sculpture, but cannot yet figure out how to post a picture of it on this site.  Anyway....

Self acceptance ( even without eating disorders) is culturally not supported for/by women.  The ads demand that we are young ( I am 62) and thin.

Older women disappear in our society. Self acceptance is indeed difficult.

Anne Dalke's picture

"ask yourself what makes you come alive!"

the first bit that caught my attention here was your saying that a major "transition is in place"--oxymoronic, yes? Can a transition ever be IN place? Isn't it, definitionally, about a movement between places? Years ago, I co-taught a CSem w/ Jody Cohen called Transition and Location that played w/ this dynamic, using the imagery of travel to explain what it means to do academic work, while exploring the need (as per Martin and Mohanty, upcoming in our syllabus) for a politics of location.

Anyway, those matters are not @ the heart of your project here, which seems to center of the power of guilt--its un-necessity, its irrationality. What I'm noticing, in your writing, is its assertiveness about these matters. What I'm missing is an explanation of WHY it is 'we' (Flora's question intrudes here: who is 'we'?) feel so guilty about pleasure, especially the pleasures of food and sex. If, as you say, "it does not have a place," why do we give it one? What is its source? Why does it exist?

Those are my questions; they may not be yours. If they are, there are a couple of angles you could use for getting @ them. One is the rich body (sic) of material about eating disorders; one strong essay I remember is the lead piece in Susan Bordo's book, Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. Another is the fascinating feminist theological work that re-thinks the sins (for instance) in reference to women; the one piece that comes immediately to mind is Valerie Saiving's "The Human Situation: A Feminine View," in Carol Christ and Judith Plaskow's collection, Womanspirit Rising.

Either of those directions interest you/make you come alive?