‘Bulimia and Anorexia Since I Was 15′: Lady Gaga Responds to ‘Fat’ Headlines With Half-Naked Pics and a Confession

by Dodai Stewart

Today on her social networking site, LittleMonsters.com, Lady Gaga posted a picture of herself, eyes closed, wearing just a bra and panties. The caption: “Bulimia and anorexia since I was 15.” It is a very public, very personal response to the attacks on her weight. She is, quite literally, exposing herself, inside and out.

Last week, a smattering of very misleading photographs were published by various outlets; the singer looked significantly wider, chubbier, fleshier than she has in the past. She was called “meaty” and and the “news” was that she had “piled on the pounds.” As some have noted, the photographs did not reflect her real, true shape — whether they were stretched in Photoshop or flattened and distorted by a long lens is unclear. But video from the same show demonstrates that this woman is by no means fat — though she has admitted to gaining around 25 lbs. recently.

The headlines must have touched a sore spot for the recovering bulimic, however. As one would imagine. And so, today she launched a sub-section of her site, called Body Revolution. She posted a series of half-naked images, and alonside, Gaga wrote:

But today I join the BODY REVOLUTION. To Inspire Bravery. and BREED some m$therf*cking COMPASSION

On the Body Revolution page, the copy reads:

My mother and I created the BORN THIS WAY FOUNDATION for one reason: “to inspire bravery.” This profile is an extension of that dream. Be brave and celebrate with us your “perceived flaws,” as society tells us. May we make our flaws famous, and thus redefine the heinous.

She also wrote: “Hey Guys its Gaga… Now that the body revolution has begun, be brave and post a photo of you that celebrates your triumph over insecurities.”

The page has only been live for a few hours, but fans have already been posting stories and photographs about recovering from anorexia, living with one and a half legs, having cancer. There’s even a photo of Gaga’s father’s belly. (“he’s proud but has lost ten lbs and is working out too feel better, be healthy.)

One fan wrote:

I can’t stop crying. Gaga i’m battling the same thing right now; you met me in Sydnney the first thing you said to me was ” Oh my God you’re so skinny” And from then on i’ve been trying to recover so much but it’s been killing me, i’ve been relapsing a lot lately and all i do iscry about my body and i feel like i wish i never did recover but this. looking at this is making me strong. You inspire me. If you can be strong, i can too. Thankyou for helping me. TYhankyou for everything.

Gaga has always claimed to be all about her fans, and by involving them in this, she makes a very important point: She’s just like them. Some other celebrity might sue a publication for calling her fat; Gaga’s fighting back by taking the high road, by showing the world that it’s not okay to critique her body — not because she’s a pop star, but because she is a human being, with feelings and a history of eating disorders and we can, and should, do better. By posting these homemade, raw, here-I-am-with-all-my-flaws (not that we see any) images, she shows that her struggle is the same struggle millions of other men and women have everyday: Learning to love yourself just the way you are, finding and believing you are beautiful when the media is hellbent on making you think you’re fat and ugly (and that fat is the same as ugly).

Some may dimiss this as a stunt. I’ve seen Facebook posts calling the weight gain an orchestrated move, for attention. But it’s sick and cynical to think that this 26-year-old woman who performs her heart out, leaves it all on the stage, day after day, with an eating disordered past, would be playing games with something as serious as body image. Especially with a legion of young fans.

With the Body Revolution, Gaga may be orchestrating and using her body to send a message, but one of tolerance and acceptance. It’s awful this started with ugliness, that Gaga became the target of weight hate. But if an influential pop star with millions of followers can make compassion cool and make fat-shamers feel shame, it just might be worth it.

Originally published on Jezebel. Republished WITH PERMISSION MOTHERF*CKERS.

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74 Comments

  1. Thumb up 5

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    I can believe that she’s put on 25 pounds OF MUSCLE, which looks much different than putting on 25 pounds of fat.

    I had anorexia towards the end of highschool, and am now working on recovering from binge eating disorder, which I’ve had for over 7 years. So stuff like this really hits close to home, and I love Gaga for embracing her insecurities, and not crumbling under the media scrutiny.

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      Not sure how to respond/ don’t know why I am (Hi) I think I don’t know how to respond to sadness and emotion because I’m used to being the one that’s crying or because I spent seven or so years of my early childhood hanging out with boys so I never learnt how to deal with emotions (OOH SCARY) like my mate bevon (made up name) who when he saw me crying once his exact words were “dude your face is so red”. And although I cannot deal with emotions I can Seatslide so yeah…

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      A woman should never have to post pictures of herself half naked for the world to see, especially to validate that she is – in fact – the shape she actually is. Every day, girls and women send half-nude pictures of themselves to men, blatantly or inadvertently seeking affirmation. Women shouldn’t need to be validated through nudity, or male OR female approval of their form. Even if she’s disproving an alleged weight gain (which, wow, would REALLY affect her music), it’s still a submission and acknowledgement to a broader jury that she seeks their approval: underlining the understanding that she’s beautiful and ergo “worthy.” Pictures and nudity aren’t the way to seek affirmation. HER MUSIC IS ENOUGH. HER PASSION IS ENOUGH. HER LYRICS AND HER EFFORT ON BEHALF OF WOMEN IS ENOUGH. SHE, LADY GAGA, IS ENOUGH.

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      It’s so fucked up. If they lose weight they get criticized and told they should eat a sandwich, but as soon as they gain any weight they get told they’re fat. It’s a no win situation.

      I really love the outfit in that picture, something about her hair and those sunglasses remind me of something but I can’t place what it is it reminds me of.

  2. Thumb up 6

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    thanks for sharing. i’m not one of her little “monsters” and don’t listen to her music that often, but i respect her for what she’s done to make people feel like it’s okay to be themselves despite what any single person or institution says. she’s taking the power back in this case by turning all of that criticism into a positive body movement and i definitely appreciate that.

  3. Thumb up 2

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    I feel like I must be missing something. She’s thin and fit-looking; how is this brave? If Beth Ditto did something like this, it would be brave (because it flies in the face of conventional standards of beauty). Someone help me out.

    • Thumb up 17

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      It is completely and utterly terrifying to expose yourself like that when you’ve been struggling with an eating disorder for years, even when you’re not subject to all the attention the media can give. That’s true no matter where you are in terms of your weight, and really you have no idea what you look like anyway, because body dysmorphia fucks with your brain like that.

    • Thumb up 4

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      it’s brave because media outlets called her out and attempted to shame her for gaining 25 pounds. certain members of the mainstream media tried to make her and the rest of the world believe that when you look like that and gain that amount of weight, you are fat (and horrible and useless). she’s brave to fight back against that.

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        Unless you are fat. Then it´s okay to be bullied and called horrible and useless?

        Still don´t see the bravery of showing off a conventional beautiful, cis, white, young, thin, fit, not disabled body in sexy poses.

        Beth Ditto on the other hand doesn´t make a big deal about herself and just keeps on doing whatever she is doing without giving a damn. Or Lea T posing nude and speaking up about her life. Maya Nakanishi. Isabelle Caro. These women are brave!

        But a privilidged and barely a size 4 woman calling the body revolution? No, I don´t think so.

        Especially not after never spoken up when her Little Monsters bullied Adelle for her weight and not after stating that “Popstars should not eat”.

        No. Just no.

        • Thumb up 3

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          I’ve been seeing a lot of this lately. I think the message is that no matter what a person is, they shouldn’t buy into the impossible idea of “perfection” that the media tries to force on every woman. Although I do like the idea of someone a little more radically-bodied leading this sort of thing, I’m also not going to diss some one charismatic and strong stepping up to the plate. It’s also the fact that even though she may look nice, it comes at a great price. One that no woman should have to pay.

          I honestly would like to ask: What’s wrong with being white (I’ve been encountering a lot of this lately), cisgendered, and thin or fit? I would like to think that, being white and femme and having a regular exercise schedule, I would be able to lead something with impact as much as the next person. I also wouldn’t wish those bad feelings on anyone else. ESPECIALLY not because of things that come to them naturally. (Plus an eating disorder). That’s incredibly brave! Putting your body out there is brave, especially when most of us see so many flaws on our body that it makes us crazy. She may be privaleged now, but she didn’t necessarily start out that way. Also, her “privaleged” status probably allows her to start this revolution out with a lot of support and power, garnering attention on a subjext that really need to be brought to light (more than it currently is). I just don’t see the reason for such blatant and unneeded negativity.

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            “I honestly would like to ask: What’s wrong with being white (I’ve been encountering a lot of this lately), cisgendered, and thin or fit? I would like to think that, being white and femme and having a regular exercise schedule, I would be able to lead something with impact as much as the next person.”

            okay, well. the thing here is that there’s nothing wrong with being those things. no one is questioning your ability to be able to lead something successfully. in fact, you’ll probably have more success in leading something than those who don’t have the privileges you do because our society is set up to put white straight cis able-bodied and thin people in charge. and in continuing to place those people in positions of power, we silence minorities and further fuck up the hegemony of privilege.

            no one is blaming gaga for being cis thin white, etc. we’re just saying that putting a person with privilege in a position of representative power for body positivity and applauding her for it is taking the place of important voices and diverse bodies and people who should be given the spotlight, but won’t be. it kind of feels like a throwaway opportunity to actually make some radical and extremely necessary change.

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      I guess it’s all in how you look at it. I think you have a good point, but I feel like… if you’re in the media and people are calling you fat (no matter how skinny or heavy you are)and posting pictures and framing your weight gain in a NEGATIVE light, then reacting by taking off your clothing and saying, “Hi, this is my body. It is real and it’s part of me, and I don’t give a fuck how many times you want to post it, because I think it’s beautiful” and putting it in a POSITIVE light is actually an atypical reaction most celebrities would have.

      Also, don’t forget that just because you see someone as “fit” or “thin” doesn’t mean they see themselves that way. :) I’m sure you’ve got a least one skinny friend who doesn’t want people to see her “fat” stomach. If she posted such a picture, it would be brave of her, no?

  4. Thumb up 0

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    Aaah love her. Gaga definitely made me brave!

    I have to grow it out for my cousin’s wedding now but I credit Gaga (and AS) for giving me the push I needed to get me a sweet cut of alternative lifestyle hair.

    Soooo, who else has tickets to Born This Way ball?! :D

  5. Thumb up 1

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    And hate her just because she’s who she is and make fun of people who like her.

    Well, all I can say is a BIG FUCK YOU to them. She is awesome and does so much for visibility and uses her fame to try and HELP people.

    I really do like and admire her.

  6. Thumb up 1

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    I commend Gaga for standing up for herself to the loads of media/fans who have been putting her down for *god forbid* living her life in her OWN body whatever way she desires.

    Until society realizes that not only women’s, but everyone’s bodies aren’t present for the sake of pleasing others, or being used as objects, we’ll never be able to progress.

    Gaga is one of the leaders of today’s (unfortunately slow at times) social evolution, and I’m jumping onboard!

  7. Thumb up 12

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    That’s it. I’m writing the blog about cellulite and stretch marks I’ve been delaying. I just… Ugh, I get so angry about the way people treat bodies. How the “perfect” bodies we’re so often shown are products of photo editing and impossible for 99% of women to achieve. People should strive for their healthiest selves, but love themselves every step of the way.

    Also, as someone who has struggled with an eating disorder (only on the other end of the spectrum) I think this is a powerful thing Gaga is doing, no matter why she’s doing it. People are almost always insecure about their bodies no matter what they really look like. Body dysmorphia is terrible and way too common. Good for you, Gaga. Thank you.

  8. Thumb up 8

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    Guyz, can we stop hating on people with restricting/purging disorders for being ‘privileged’ ? Maybe this will make things clearer for some of you: people with eating disorders can feel pretty damn similarly about their bodies to trans* people.

    • Thumb up 7

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      i can’t speak for what anyone else was saying, but i should probably clarify my point: no one is hating on people, especially not people who have had this experience. her coming out and reclaiming her body re: eating disorders is ABSOLUTELY a really BEAUTIFUL and courageous and wonderful thing that SHOULD be applauded, that is incredibly important for people to see, and is a big deal. i’m totally behind this, like 100%. of course she has been through incredibly difficult things as a result of this disorder, of course her experiences have been painful and legitimate and i’m so glad she’s speaking up about them and standing up for them. baring my body is something i do not see happening in the foreseeable future, at least not without me sobbing and then burying myself in an unreachable hole forever. i admire her ability to do what she did with that kind of history, absolutely!

      the reason why her privileges were brought up (and by saying she is “privileged”, we mean the other things in her life, not her having the experience of an ED! you can be disabled and white and still have white privilege, or queer and cis and still have cis privilege, right? one does not dismantle the others) is when this is interpreted not as a reclaiming of the ED survivor body but as an example of body image. it’s important to acknowledge that her having a conventionally attractive white cis body makes this a different kind of act than someone without those privileges doing the same thing. it’s not making this act illegitimate at all! checking privilege is not meant to delegitimize the thing itself. it’s simply a reminder that bodies and the way bodies are allowed to appear is really important, and for every conventional body there are nonconventional bodies that are not allowed to appear ever, and it’s important to remember that those bodies are EQUALLY IMPORTANT.

      and it’s hard to understand what to do with someone who comes out and does this very brave thing about their body and reclamation of that body, but that same person is someone who has previously fat-shamed in the very public international media, and been transphobic and used transphobic language that has been super triggering and shitty for trans* people. i honestly do not know what to do with this knowledge of her, i wish i did :/

      i hope that helped clarify what was being discussed re: privilege, and that hatred was definitely not what was being discussed. you are all amazing and incredible people.

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        I just want to say thank you for this comment. Very well said. I interpret her previous fat shaming as a symptom of her own disorder. When people struggle with these kinds of things they don’t often act in the best fashion. Perceptions are distorted. I’ve been there in more than one way and I know that it’s easy to hurt other people when in that state of mind.

        (I am trans and yet have missed her transphobia, I guess…?)

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      Yeah, this talk about how being thin because of an eating disorder is a privilege is kind of getting to me. Like, I’m not going to get into personal stuff here, but it’s messed up. If you would be okay with me adding onto this here… Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and the average age of onset is when most kids are just starting middle school.

      Scary, right? Does any of that sound like privilege? And being horribly sick, sometimes to the point of physical disability and, it should go without saying, mental illness, is not a privilege either. You can see some statistics about that here: http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics By the way, the list at the link is alright but I haven’t been to the rest of the ANAD site, so I can’t really vouch for any other information there.

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        ah, but that’s not what’s being said, i promise! i promise with every fiber of my being. i’m sorry i’m being so repetitive on this, but i want to be one hundred percent sure no one is misunderstanding and getting triggered. please, please, please be 100% sure that absolutely no one is saying that having an ED is a privilege. we are in complete and utter agreement that it is not, that it is an awful and terrible and difficult thing and you are all fucking incredible survivors who should receive incredible praise for what you do.

        the most important thing: my comments and the comments above are not on the ED community but entirely on lady gaga as an individual and media figure. as i said above, this is about the difference between her doing this as a conventionally attractive white cis person, and, say, a trans* person of color with an ED. would that person ever be allowed to appear like this, or have the media coverage she will? that’s the difference that is privilege. the only reason i wanted to bring it up is because i feel like there even within the queer community there are bodies we always see and bodies we never see, and with the incredible and often painful way in which bodies struggle to be seen, i wanted to mention the ones that aren’t seen. i think they are all equally beautiful and incredible and i want to make sure we remember that they exist and are legitimate. too.

        i really, really hope i’m making sense, and i’m so super sorry if i’m not and it’s still coming across as your interpretation. please feel free to message me, and i will take the time (i am free all day!) to help explain this because i really really don’t want anyone to be upset from this.

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          Yeah, you’re making sense! Thanks for explaining. And I totally agree that people who don’t have her white, cis, etc* privilege should be seen (if they want to be) and even focused on.

          *”etc” because damn that girl has a lot of privileges, can’t even try to list them all at once.

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      You know that totally struck me as I was reading this. I don’t feel so different from that with my dysphoria. I think sometimes it’s good to draw those connections as it can foster empathy.

  9. Thumb up 1

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    it seems like part of her own continuous healing process and its cool that she’s welcoming people to become a part of that! Also cool: calling attention to all these bonkers, strict rules about bodies and how completely impossible and harmful they are. I DIG IT.

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    It’s really difficult for me to believe Lady Gaga’s sudden concern about body weight really seriously when she has praised in the past her heavily photoshopped magazine covers and tweeted stuff like “popstars don’t eat”.

    In general it is very difficult for me to see any honesty in Gaga’s victim campaigns at all. I used to love the way she related with the LGBT community without over-doing it but Born This Way and everything that followed felt like too much of an exploitation to me.

    Still, I hope that this latest campaign makes people feel good about themselves and their bodies, and I’m sure it will. But I’m unable to praise her hypocrisy.

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    My beef with this stems from Lady GaGa yet again being the spokesperson for a movement. Such was the case with “Born this Way,” which basically perpetuated the idea that queer is an exclusively European-American, cisgender, genetic, and binary thing–all while throwing other ethnicities under the bus with the charming use of the terms “Orient,” “Chola,” etc. Our queer communities are so much more complex than that message indicated! I worry about the focus yet again being pulled onto the bodies which are white and abled as opposed to those of color which are constantly ignored.

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      yes, this! this exactly. I feel like she takes minorities and simplifies them for the sake of her own marketing campaign, then victimizes them and by including herself as part of said minority she also becomes a victim. And that’s all she ever does! That’s what her career has been about ever since she released Born This Way. That’s why it bothers me.

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    i love that people are being inspired by this. but yeah, i’m bummed that most mainstream body positivity movements have spokespeople who look like lady gaga does. it’s not helping all the people of color and fat kids who also have eating disorders but are constantly pushed to the sidelines.

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    Maybe triggering, no weight/numbers, but I’m not in a super headspace and I discuss treatment things. Proceed with caution?

    I just got back from residential for my eating disorder maybe two months ago and we talked about this in my group today and it seemed like none of the women at my group found it helpful. We talked for a bit about eating disorders in media and celebrity eating disorders, and the thing that upset a lot of us is the narrative that is presented most of the time (maybe including here) is about moving past an eating disorder with some sort of radical positive thinking/body acceptance. It always, without fail, makes me feel so much worse and so much more hopeless than I felt before. It also sometimes encourages my friends or my mom to say things about how I just need to accept my body or love my body as though that is a thing that I can do. As though I’m being difficult and choosing to feel this way about myself.

    I’m happy for anyone who gains something from this and it really seems like a lot of people are, but I feel like framing a conversation about eating disorder recovery around deciding to love your body just gives people a reason to accuse people who are suffering from severe EDs of being selfish and choosing to do this and whatever. Which is something I hear from what feels like every person I interact with when I’m visibly ill, strangers included. I think teaching body acceptance is fantastic, but this whole campaign feels a lot like it is saying that ED recovery is possible if you just choose to do so. So if I don’t recover, maybe it’s my fault for not deciding to ‘love myself’. A lot of women with eating disorders never recover and as many a doctor has helpfully pointed out, that probably will/does include me. So yes. At a rough place in trying to recover, or trying to want to recover and this was not helpful. Maybe the opposite. Mostly made me feel guilty/awful. Like, I don’t think someone with a severe ED is going to recover from deciding to feel better about their body, but maybe I’m not recovered because I am not making that choice and it is my fault. Ugh. I just wish body acceptance wasn’t so tied to a really complex issue like an eating disorder as the answer. I feel worse after reading about this again. My own fault, obviously, but just… yes.

    I hope it does help other people though, seriously. 100% I wouldn’t want anyone to feel this way about themselves, ever.

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      This, this this this a million.

      “You don’t need to do this, you’re black, only white skinny girls have ED.”
      “You choosing this, you choose to suffer.”
      “But black girls are suppose to be thick, right right?”
      “You’re gay so it shouldn’t matter what you look like?”

      I was pushed away from a ED recovery group because of the body I occupy, the group members thought I was being a “tourist” because I “dare” to have a brown body. A body that is curvy, a body that’s “a rapper’s girlfriend,” a body that is often ignored in mainstream media.

      This whole thing makes me feel invisible.

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      yes, THIS

      Also speaking as someone working on recovery who has spent a significant amount of time in residential and is still in treatment (not to privilege experience, but just to contextualize where I’m coming from) — I find it so frustrating when celebrities “come out” with eating disorders when their doing so only helps to perpetuate gross misconceptions — that eating disorders are exclusively (or at least mostly) about struggle with body image, a sad product of media coverage, a phase, that you have to look a certain way to be sick, that recovery is as easy as the “love your body” rhetoric, etc etc.

      I am so happy that Gaga is helping many people with her Body Revolution, but I think it’s doing more of a disservice to the ED community as well as ED activism and education work — it’s just simplifying and minimizing an incredibly complex illness, emptying it of all of the personal, familial, social, psychological, and other cultural factors that contribute to the development of an eating disorder, as well as giving NO dimension of reality to how fucking hard recovery is. Recovery goes way beyond having to “love your body.” Loving my body and taking pictures of myself with no clothes on isn’t going to change the fact that I want to punish myself via food when I get into an argument with a family member, that I feel I take up too much space, that I don’t feel I deserve to take care of myself, that I feel unworthy of my relationships, etc etc. UGH I just say all of this to emphasize that, yes, the body *is* of course a PART of eating disorders–that’s how the deeper issues manifest themselves–but it is not *just* about the body. ED portrayal in the media reduces it to this, and so I see Gaga as just contributing to wealth of incomplete and inaccurate information already out there, contributing to the same misperceptions that make insurance companies deny needed coverage, that make family members unable to support a loved one in recovery because they don’t understand why they can’t just see how beautiful they are, to people not believing me when I say I have an ED because I don’t look sick, etc.

      I also think, as some have pointed out, that this supposed revolution she’s starting is incredibly complicated by the fact that she repeatedly makes comments like “pop stars don’t eat” and keeps fixating on the weight she’s working so hard to lose now. I’m a huge Gaga fan, but I think this is yet another gimmick for mobilizing fan support. Not that that negates the reality and true help this is providing for some, but I think that you can applaud that while also acknowledging the really problematic side of yet another celebrity helping to, intentionally or not, trivialize the illness, as well as the experience of recovery.

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      I was one of those girls who was told she would never recover from my bulimia. I was told I would die multiple times, and damn was I close to it. And yes, I will admit – I was very privileged. I am white, cis, femme, and have upper-middle class parents who could afford to pay for a shitton of treatment.

      I just wanted to chime in and say that yes, the whole “accept your body and you’ll be totally recovered!” is absolute and utter bullshit. But ” work hard, figure out your issues, work through them one by one, and eventually the body image will come” is absolutely true. I am 100% recovered now, both mentally and physically, and have not used any sort of eating disordered behaviors in nearly three years. I love my body. I’m dealing with a whole lot of medical issues right now that have completely changed the shape of my body and been really difficult to adjust to, but I’m happy with it. I’m still working through some issues, but I don’t see myself ever needing to go back to the place I was in before. My body’s not perfect, but I’ll take it any day over what I had then.

      This is probably completely buried by now, and if not I’m still a bit worried about AS people I know in real life seeing this, but if ANY of you ever need to talk about recovery/treatment/life on the other side, email me any time. Kim (at) sson (dot) com. Stay healthy and keep your heads up. It does get better. I promise.

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      I TOTALLY agree!

      Body love, if it manifests at all, is a hard-won product of recovery, not the other way around. And in my experience, it is not needed for recovery. As the previous comment states, the relief of the harmful behaviours and thought patterns comes from working through the real issues, not just “being ok” with the way one looks- BECAUSE IT’S NOT ACTUALLY ABOUT THE BODY.

      Gaga saying that she struggles with anorexia and bulimia has the eery feeling a woman still tied to the payoff that her eating disorder provides her- whatever that payoff may be. Would she *really* be ok with herself if her natural body weight were, say, 50 lbs heavier? Who’s to say.

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    I’m far from her biggest fan, but I think she looks good in the pics. I just hope that she’s not seen as some messiah for the body image revolution now. You don’t need Gaga to know that you’re just fine the way you are.

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    I guess this is the thing that is going to make me de-lurk here. Of course I had to pick the heavy topic. Of course.

    I sort of lost my love for Lady Gaga during the whole “Born This Way” phase. I think what I initially loved about her was how utterly queer she was. It didn’t seem to matter what gender of person she might be sleeping with, when it was far more interesting to wonder whether or not she bit their head off after the act. Yeah, she does come from a lot of categories with privilege, but she always seemed to live beyond those categories, making herself deliberately strange and alien. Who cares what the girl looks like, have you noticed she is WEARING RAW MEAT? “Born This Way” seemed to take an enormous step back on this front. Hearing her say, “It’s cool to be gay!” felt like a let down, when her previous message had seemed to be something much more radical, “None of this matters, be the creature you want to be.” It also felt like pandering – every “gay club” musical stereotype explored, packed with lyrics that seemed to give stereotypes power by naming them off. I hated it.

    In light of her admission, it seems like a lot of the radical bodies she previously presented herself in may have been reflections of the different, dysmorphic ways she saw herself. Thinking back on the Bad Romance video, the jutting bones and enormous, vacant eyes seem to speak to something more literal and sinister than a desire to simply be strange. Who knows, maybe the bad relationship she is craving and rejecting isn’t a person, but her own eating disorder. I know that I’ve often felt that way about my own.

    I find what she’s doing to be helpful – I like the messy contradictions she is bringing to the table. I appreciate the fact that she’s not better yet, and that she might not even know how to go about getting there – that’s the reality of the disorder. For many people, myself included, “recovery” simply means co-existing with your body issues in an uneasy truce. I hate my body most days, and I still associate a lot of foods with guilt, but I’m not restricting calories anymore, so I guess I’m winning for the time being. It’s a complicated and ugly state of mind to be in, and nobody who is actually dealing with the issue is going to be able to present themselves as a perfect, admirable road map towards self-acceptance. Even if they could, I think I would find that person impossible to relate with. I like that she’s stood up and said, “I have this problem too, this is what I look like, and I think we should all talk about our feelings about the issue.” In this case, talking about it feels absolutely radical. One of the things I most despised about my eating disorder was how much of my life was devoted to deceiving the people I loved. Nobody fucking TALKS about these things. Sure we say that the media is damaging, or that certain actresses should “eat a sandwich,” but these aren’t really helpful or productive discussions. Usually, I just feel like I’ve been talked down to for “falling prey to the media influence.” Nobody talks about feeling out of control, or wanting to crawl out of your own skin. Nobody talks about the fear of intimacy that a disorder like this can cause. Nobody talks, and nothing will ever change until we do.

    Maybe she’s not the ideal person to start this revolution. Maybe it WOULD be better to have someone in a less “mainstream” body, but where is that person? Maybe they’re already out there screaming to be heard, or maybe they’re just not ready to become the poster-child for a movement. Maybe the world isn’t ready to let them. It’s still foolish to reject someone who IS willing to stand up and do the screaming (and be willing to weather all of the backlash that it will create). I also think that by throwing the conversation open to her community of fans, she is at least opening doors for a wider variety of people to add their voices to the issue, either through that forum, or in response to her actions. If you think the issue needs more diverse voices, then be that voice.

    Lastly, I have to admit that it’s painful to hear people imply that anyone has any sort of privilege in this SPECIFIC context. We all suffer equally under the thumb of an eating disorder, although it may take different forms. If your body doesn’t fit the common stereotype of the disorder, then you’ve likely faced disbelief and a lack of support. If your body does, you often face belittlement for your “vanity” or your desire to “fit in,” and yes, people will tell you that “at least you’re skinny.” I cannot even explain how fucked up it feels to have someone imply that you should be grateful for the privilege of your disorder. People who say, “But Gaga’s body is still banging! I wish I looked like that!” don’t realize how incredibly damaging such comments can be, or how grossly they misunderstand the issue. Yes, people with “mainstream” bodies will still have all of the privileges that those bodies give them in OTHER contexts, but inside our OWN heads, we’re still hearing a voice telling us we’re revolting. When you’re living with an eating disorder, that voice, unfortunately, is the one that matters most. Please don’t think that I’m dismissing privilege outright, or denying that people are going to experience eating disorders differently because of it, but I think it’s important to realize that this is one area where nobody really has it “better” or “easier,” for a whole variety of reasons.

    Anyway, I’m (always) overly verbose. In short: I think that what she’s doing, as messy and imperfect as it is (and must be, by its very nature), is productive and important. Whether or not it stays that way will depend greatly on how the conversation evolves from this point.

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        Nooo, don’t apologize, this was super perceptive and interesting — as are many of the comments from folks with ED experience above. I read this when it was originally posted on Jezebel, but figured the Autostraddle comments would still hold valuable things, and I wasn’t wrong. I think there is this idea out there that eating disorders are essentially about being in control and looking perfect. And if the implicit cultural goal for us as women is “BE THIN,” then it can almost feel like women with eating disorders have succeeded at something and maybe you’ve, like, failed at being anorexic or whatever — especially if, like so many women you’ve gone through periods of doing battle with food and your body in unhealthy ways. (We always feel somehow judged by the more-ascetic habits of others, I think, no matter what’s beneath them.) That’s not a sane attitude, but I can understand, maybe, the unthinking emotional basis for it.

        So I think comments like yours and @Mary ‘s above do good work against that set of half-conscious beliefs. I don’t have an eating disorder, but much of what you are saying feels uncomfortably familiar, as someone who has dealt with other forms of self-injury and related mental illness stuff.

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      Possible triggers ahead as I talk about eating disorders, obviously.

      Word to everything you just said. I think talking about privilege in this context is almost detracting from the issue. The fact is celebrity matters in many cultures, for good and for ill, and at least she’s trying to use that power for good. We get so caught up in calling everyone out that sometimes I feel we can’t take a step back when we need to. Yes, she is white, pretty, young, famous, and rich. But inside she’s suffering and to call her disorder a white girl problem is pretty freakin ableist and dismissive, which honestly is a problem I often have with activism communities. In the course of expressing frustration and pain about one oppression, another is often perpetuated.

      As to the specifics of eating disorders when I was an adolescent I was a binge eater. (When I grew up I also became a binge drinker) There was no real conversation about either of those things. It’s not as simple as eat a sandwich or in my case, put the fork down fatty. Yes, putting the fork down is an inherent part of losing weight, but the demons that motivate someone to cram as much food in to their body as possible (or deny it food as much as possible) have deeper roots. As long as addictions are seen as a moral failing there will be huge barriers to getting help. I think that is why people don’t talk about it, like you hinted at. It’s seen as shameful to be out of control in any way.

      Both sides of these issues are a problem. On the one hand the backlash against the impossible thin standard has gone too far in some cases. Acceptance sometimes turns in to a smoke screen for eating disorders like what I struggled with. It’s become taboo to talk about moderation when it comes to food intake, as if we’re part of that pro anorexia thing. But the fact is in my mind that until we divorce self worth from conversations about food and weight there will always be a struggle around being healthy.

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        The more I think about it, the more I feel like the stigma surrounding eating disorders, combined with the way “women’s problems” are treated, turns the whole notion of privilege into a horrible knot where everyone loses. I know that a lot of people who don’t fit the stereotype of what “eating disorders” look often struggle to find people who believe them, or are able to help them deal with the issue. Still, when you unpack what “belief” looks like in this context, perhaps forcing people to grapple with a little cognitive dissonance can lead to more honest understanding and support. When you do fall into the stereotype, people often bring their own, horribly misguided “understanding” to the table. In this case, that often involves condescension and the belief that it is something that you can just “snap out of.” The first doctor who correctly diagnosed my eating disorder simply threatened me with hormones to start my period if I didn’t gain weight. He didn’t mention it to my mother, he didn’t suggest therapy, just threatened me and reinforced my feelings of shame about the issue. Maybe if I had been someone who didn’t fit into his mental model of anorexia, he wouldn’t have dismissed the problem as “a phase” or “normal” or whatever the hell he was thinking.

        I can only imagine that you experienced similar things from the other side of the coin. In both cases, people dismiss the deeper issues and make their own judgments based on what they think they can know about you, based on nothing but your appearance. Perhaps that’s why Gaga is the perfect person to start this conversation – everyone will flap their hand to their mouth and say, “But she looks good! She fits the mainstream ideal of beauty!” and once that bullshit is out of the way, maybe more people will start to realize that the issue at hand is far more complex than they realized. One can only hope, I suppose. If nothing else, I have faith in Gaga’s ability to keep this in the public eye for a while. I don’t always agree with her methods (or even her message), but the girl can certainly work the media.

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    Okay, but here’s my issue with this. Gaga did not “start” a body revolution I .don’t need a skinny white conventionally attractive able-bodied pop star telling me to love my body. She is not the face of the body revolution and it irks me that she is appropriating a struggle that is not hers. I understand her point. She is trying to make people feel happy with themselves, to love themselves. And that is, indeed, a very good thing. I understand that just because she is conventionally attractive that she can still experience body hatred. But just notice how she gets accolades for this, while the other multitude of people before her have not.
    It is super reminiscent, for me, of why the It Gets Better Project does not feel authentic.

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      I don’t credit her with starting a body revolution, but I credit her with taking the fight to the mainstream. In a strange way, I think you *do* need a “skinny, white, conventionally attractive, able-bodied pop star” to become a part of the fight, because in order for a body revolution to succeed, someone needs to take the mainstream media head-on. Someone needs to engage them on their own terms, and there is nobody more advantageously positioned to start that fight than someone who is already on their pedestal.

      It is absolutely true that there are far more courageous, amazing artists and writers doing more interesting and challenging work than Gaga is. Still, work of that magnitude speaks primarily to people who are already outside of the mainstream. Radical, post-human performance art pieces are awesome and important, but they aren’t going to do very much to influence Vogue’s cover or Gap commercials, and real, measurable change needs to deal with that lowest-common-denominator.

      Lastly, I think you’re missing something vital about a “body revolution”, as it relates to eating disorders – they do not discriminate. Just because someone fits a mainstream ideal of beauty doesn’t mean that they’re immune to feelings of self-hatred. I’m a “skinny, white, conventionally attractive, able-bodied” non-pop star who has struggled with anorexia for approximately 16 years. When the voice telling you that your body is disgusting comes from INSIDE, it doesn’t really matter how the rest of society feels about your body. If the world tells you your body is wrong, you agree with them; if the world tells you your body is fine, you’re certain they’re lying to you.

      If Gaga’s message doesn’t speak to you personally, that’s fine. I don’t know how much she speaks to me, and I fall into her demographic, I just appreciate the fact that she is starting conversations. Continue to support the people who are fighting for more radical and diverse bodies, and let Gaga tackle the mainstream crowd. This shouldn’t be about “credit,” but about many different people tackling the same problem through different avenues. Let someone like Gaga make the inroads that more radical artists can make use of.

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