Geeks Get Eating Disorders Too

I am thirteen and at my first comic/sci-fi expo. I'd had no idea what to expect, and I'm stressed out. The place is packed, and everything seems to be anime and everything seems to cost money. It's the height of Dragonball-Z's popularity in New Zealand and there are Gokus competing in Kah-me-ha-me-ha competitions in the hall. There are signings by people from Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, two more things I'm not into. There is the ubiquitous Xena stall. The Lord of The Rings won't come out till later this year.

I look around and feel like the only girl in the room, not that you can actually tell. I am a weird, wide-eyed child still round with puppy fat, in blue dungarees, clutching my favourite ‘Hellblazer' volume. I have Batman and Xena dolls in my backpack, but they've been played with and chewed on and generally treated like a toy, not a collectible.

Eventually I find a corner to sit in and watch people. I'm looking out for my friends, most of whom are busy talking Evangelion or Star Trek.

Then I spot them. I'm not the only girl in the room. There are a bevvy of them – And they're all dressed up as Sailor Scouts. I recognise sailor scouts from five years ago when Sailor Moon played on TV after the Samurai Pizza Cats in the mornings before school. I liked the pizza cats better.

But these sailor scouts are older than me, they're thin and pretty and everyone is paying attention to them. Cosplay's not big here, and these five girls look perfect. They pose for photos and simper and smile.

Later, when I mention them to my friends (who are all boys) they make a big deal over how hot those girls were. I look at my thighs and decide to go on a diet.

Five years later and I'm at a roleplaying convention. This is more my pace –- I know most everyone here, I'm even running a game for the first time ever. Before the first round a guy I know comes and sits next to me, pointing out a mutual friend who just got engaged. "There's a reason to keep doing your sports and things," he says, gesturing to our friend "I swear the only way she got a guy was by stealing his soul and keeping it in a jar."

I am utterly stunned. Yes, our friend is fat. So is her fiancee. So is the guy talking to me. I mutter something. During the first game we all put junk food on the table, and I am in hell. I eat way more than everyone else (or maybe I just think I do) and sit, squirming, till the end of the three hour session. Then I make a break for it. Up to the floor being prepared for the LARP, so no one will be in the toilets. I make myself throw up over and over until I can't get anything else out.

I'm a geek, and I'm bulimic.

I sit weekly among stacks of corn chips and M&Ms, pizza and Pepsi when I roleplay. My mind is NEVER totally on the game. Depending on my mood, a part of it is always there, calculating how much to eat, and how to purge.

I get this idea that we, as geeks, are expected to rise above the common herd that are influenced by advertising and self-hate. We're so much cleverer than that, so much more accepting! We were the fat kids in high school!

But we're not. After all, geek boys lusts after the thin ones, every geek girl is bombarded with pictures of thin Leia, thin Xena, thin Sailor Scouts. Comics portray thin people as good, fat people as bad. There's a reason Desire is slim and Despair is fat. Women get the same role-models in geek culture as they do in the rest of the world, but that culture is determined not to address this, nor to address the problems it might cause us.

I've grown up through both geek and jock culture and they're both the same. Dominated by men, a thin varnish over pervasive misogyny. The only difference is where the jocks know the girls have eating disorders, but don't care; the geeks genuinely think that this part of the world cannot touch them.

So it's okay to make fat jokes, cos everyone knows you don't mean them, not when you're fat and 2/3rds of the room is too. And it's okay to mock girls who are "stupid" enough to want to starve or puke themselves pretty, because we all know that geeks are too smart to succumb to such base stuff as the desire for control and perfection.

The comments on people's bodies that are flat out rude, excused by social awkwardness and "I was just saying". I sit uncomfortably in these conversations. My disorder has only been remarked upon in ways that are scathing. The attempts at recovery which lead to "you've put on weight." in a flat, ugly tone. The times when it has been so bad I stopped eating only resulted in comments like "God, you look skeletal." "Go have a sandwich or something!"

I want to know if I'm the only geek who has an ED. I'm afraid the answer is yes.

Of course, there is another factor –- EDs are women's problems. Geek culture is not "girly" and rejects all notions of "girly". Why bother with body image issues when that's clearly a girl problem. By discussing them geek culture would have to highlight the way id currently uses women's bodies –- confront the paradox that to be welcomed as a woman you must be hot, but to be taken seriously you must be not-hot. And both parties must endeavour to become "one of the boys" (except when there's an opportunity to objectify the hot ones) and not bring up irrelevant girl problems.

Even when those girl problems might be killing our friends.

No geek has ever looked at me, puffy and red-eyed, or bony thin, or exhausted from exercise and asked "are you okay?"

"Are you okay?"

No, I don't expect people to be mind readers. But rather than make body-shaming comments at all, ask that question first. Are you okay? Genuinely want to know the answer. Ask it over text, google+, x-box live, or over a coffee.

So, I'll ask it here –- Geek Feminists, are you okay?

You know what, right now, and since age 13, I'm not okay.

This post originally appeared on GeekFeminism.org. Republished with permission.

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