Dear Noom, I Am Respectfully Declining Your Eating Disorder In 2023

Dear Noom,

I would like you to know that New Year’s Day is my most hated day of the year. It is a day when I am expected to perform that there is something wrong with me — my body, my approach to life, and my mind. It is a day when I am supposed to declare that I will optimize my flawed self in the year ahead. This ‘new leaf’ is self-hatred as social contagion masquerading as ‘wellness’ and ‘inspiration.’ What is packaged as ‘doing something for me’ is in fact to the benefit of massive corporations like Noom, which generates hundreds of millions in revenue from individuals who are being taught to hate their bodies and ‘improve’ themselves. They are so profitable that investors dropped an additional $540 million on you last year.

This year your advertisements, which I long ago blocked and reported as scams on social media, are unavoidable on television. I would like to talk about them with you as someone who nearly died of anorexia because what you are doing is diabolical, blood-on-your-hands-quality stuff.

How DARE you label hunger and desire to eat as pathologies, “psychological triggers.” You know why people want to eat? Because we are wired to need food to survive. This does not make us greedy or sick or flawed. It makes us human. If I get hungry because I see someone else eating good food, it doesn’t mean I have FOMO. It means that my body needs nourishment.

How DARE you even use the word “trigger” the way you do. When I was in my worst days of anorexia, getting bruises from my mattress and no longer speaking much, skulking from room to room in silence because I had no energy and accepted I was likely to die of what I could no longer stop, I’ll be honest that message boards for people with eating disorders were a lifeline I needed. We used the word “trigger warning” to indicate content that might cause someone to engage in more self-harm. “Trigger” was a word we used to protect our brains from pro-dieting messages. “Trigger” in its common vernacular evolved out of feminist and trauma communities. Let me be honest, advertisements like Noom’s are proof that the need for feminism is alive and well in 2023.

What I know of your service is this — it mimics many of the behaviors I engaged in on my own and messages I told myself on my own that hurtled me toward my grave. I would like you to think carefully about that. But I know you don’t care. All of this garbage weight loss stuff has always been about money for companies like yours. No matter how much you try to package it as ‘wellness.’

I am respectfully declining adamant and invasive suggestions that I pursue an eating disorder with you in 2023. Hunger is not a mental pathology. Bodies exist and they need to eat.

Thank you and please go away now.


Women’s Work Is Work: Still Semi-Radical To Say Aloud, Still True In 2022

This holiday vacation, I’ve learned with horror what has always been true:

Almost all of my day naturally fills itself with caregiving, homemaking, and parenting work. It’s a real-life phenomenon and also a gendered one. To be a woman with children is to never catch a break.

The primary difference I’m finding between being on holiday vacation and not being on holiday vacation is that I have the time and energy to wash dishes immediately after meals, rather than seeing them pile up into frightening stacks in the sink and aggressively forming nation-states on the counter. I’m able to review my mail in a timely fashion, and twice I have even made the bed. The other most notable differences are that I’m blowdrying my hair after washing it rather than pulling it back and rushing to work most mornings, and most nights I watch a movie or television before bed, for which I rarely have energy (or time) after a work day.

Estimating conservatively, I have done at least 20 loads of laundry in the last week and a half. I continue to shuttle my daughter to school, activities, playdates. I remind her (gently, with acceleration) to clean her room, jumping in to help when the floor in fact becomes a fire hazard.

There are no novel sentiments or revelations here, but I must state that ‘women’s work’ is work — unpaid, under-appreciated, and rarely acknowledged. This work takes a boatload of time. It can fill the entire day. Granted there are incredible benefits and joys to parenting, and my holiday vacation has included those times, too. But still, the reality is that maintaining a home for growing children is work. I think the only thing that has changed in this regard since the 1970s is that to admit out loud the volume of homemaking in our lives means that a woman might be chased and chided for not creating a better ‘work-life balance,’ managing her time more effectively, or seeking and allowing for an egalitarian partnership, psht.

But these are not egalitarian times. Not at all.

Me And Britney Spears’ Instagram Account

It’s entirely very stupid, but it’s a real issue in my life, and I am overdue in holding myself accountable for it: my relationship with Britney Spears’ Instagram account.

So many things have been written about Britney Spears’ Instagram account. So many things.

This does not fit comfortably with most of them, but in this time of Hive Zuckerberg/Musk Brain and the edict to not conform using the exact appropriate non-conformist language, upon risk of cancellation by one’s algorithmically curated peers, I do not dare suggest I have original thoughts.

This is an essay about my addiction to Britney Spears’ Instagram account and what it means about me.

I repeat, for emphasis: This is not an essay about Britney the woman. Almost all of the essays about Britney the woman are not about Britney the woman. They are expressions of tribalism and one’s postured beliefs about a diverse slate of topics including gender, aging, madness, sexuality, celebrity cat fights, tiny furniture, ASMR, body image, working out, photo filters, nudes, controlling parents, fertility, oversharing, marriage, older women and younger men, roses, fan fiction, celebrity, captivity, wealth, the ’90s, and disability, to name a few, projected onto Britney.

My take on Britney is largely irrelevant, as is yours. Because I think you will stop reading if I don’t conform to the standard Britney essay format, I will state my genuine thrill she is no longer in the captivity of her father’s conservatorship. I will disclose my desire for her to express herself as she pleases, pursue the hobbies that give her joy, experience comfort and thrill in her body, and live her best life, whatever that means for her. You can now understand where I sit in the matrix of Britney Spears consumers online and move along to the real issue.

My relationship with Britney Spears’ Instagram is intensely problematic. I check it often, and recheck it, reviewing previous posts in light of new posts. I read the comments at a deep level, engaging with the tossed barbs and expressions of encouragement from no-name total strangers, clicking further to review the responses to the comments and assess the number of likes. I scroll through the thing itself as well as the think pieces and gossip columns about Britney Spears’ Instagram account at night in bed, my eyes straining to accommodate blue light that interferes with my ability to sleep correctly. (Based upon my reading as well as the language directly in Britney Spears’ posts, I fear she is also reading heaping quantities of this gunk — and on a human level, I don’t want her to be exposed to those assholes. But she is an adult making her own choices and I respect that.)

I am no longer able to count the number of times I have engaged in an extended form of show-and-tell with my husband about what is happening on Britney Spears’ Instagram account, reading lines from articles about her Instagram account, and showing him videos or photographs from Britney Spears’ Instagram account or other celebrities responding (or not responding) to Britney Spears’ Instagram account. My husband holds these conversations with me but I have to believe he holds resentment or, at minimum, concern. He used to grumble that I wouldn’t watch enough shows, that he wanted to share them with me. He has since given up, coming to bed with an iPad and headphones on, anticipating my retreat into my phone. There is undoubtedly additional sex I might have had without Britney Spears’ Instagram account, and possibly children.

But this absence can happen during the day, too. I get worked up about things online and fall into my phone, my body floating in a room, unable to participate meaningfully in conversation. As when I was a child and could play Tetris in my head without looking at the game itself, I know a good number of Britney Spears’ shirts, shorts, and sports bras from various posts by heart. I think I could assemble outfits for her without looking at her closet or a screen. To say nothing of how I know her dancing! I could choreograph the backup dancers for her next tour based on the copious examples she has provided of her moves and style. I think I could go to the bathroom mirror and give myself her eye makeup and hair immediately, even though I have little skill with eye makeup and hair. I find myself going to these imprints of Britney in my brain most at night when I cannot turn off my life stressors, and at points during the day when I can least afford to Go Britney, because there are already an unrealistic number of things expected to be accomplished by me in the realms of work, home, and my daughter’s education in the next hour. I have learned to retreat from things I don’t like in myself or moments of overwhelm by increasing the profitability of a platform and company I can’t stand. This actually has nothing to do with Britney. God bless you, Britney.

I struggle to type. Since my adoption of the iPhone in 2008, I have endured various repetitive use injuries in my hands. Thumbs have had to be bandaged up. At one point I got a headset and the program “Dragon Dictation” and I went to a physical therapist for several sessions with sonogram and electrotherapy stimulation. Currently my left pointer finger is causing me inexplicable problems. I tell myself this is crap and play all sorts of mental games to cut down telephone use of the Checking Britney Spears Instagram Account Variety, sometimes becoming very successful, and then falling off the wagon. I need an accountability partner. I have tried finding God, exercise, writing, nutrition, reducing alcohol. I continue to do these things and continue to have problems on which I slap the unfair label, Britney Spears Online.

I do not know if Britney wants us to look, or to see. I do not know her projection philosophy. I do not know how much of her profitability as an artist depends on engaging online. I do not know how much of her trauma is a going concern. For all I have memorized with my eyes, I do not know her at all. What I know is that when I see Britney Spears trapped in a screen and I think about her, what I am not seeing is me, trapped in a screen, and all of the things around me I am not thinking about. It is weird as fuck. Way weirder than any of the things y’all are saying about her.

You And Your Activism Are Not The Same Thing

You and your activism are not the same thing.

Your activism is not what makes you worthy to be known or loved.

Yes, your activism can be the thing you care about most. It can be the place where your mind wanders, the place where you have rich conversations, and an immeasurably great source of joy (and consternation). It can be creativity and emotions and hopes and dreams.

(You are still a legitimate activist if that’s way overstating it, and your jam is showing up once in awhile, when you can, because you care about a better world. Thank you so much!)

Activism can be quite personal, and often it is. The focus of your activism, the change you are seeking, may indeed direct whether or not you and/or someone you love will be able to live with dignity and justice under the law, in a community, or even one’s own body.

But this should never be confused with you and who you are.

I have been an activist for a minute, and I have watched a lot of people flame out. Often times it is based in trying to do too much, or expecting too much from the activism. The root cause of much burnout seems to be over-identification with the activism: Not just that the activism is more important than one’s personal health, life, and needs, but that the activism is the same as the person.

This type of over-identification also tends to make people not much fun for others to do activism with, because people over-identifying with activism tend to get defensive, territorial, and weird about the work. Differences in opinion or approach can be taken as a personal attack, because the person either consciously or unconsciously has decided they are the movement.

Social movements are protracted, frustrating, gorgeous things. The way social movements succeed, in good times and bad, is through longevity and sticking to it. So, investing in your long-term ability to do the work is never selfish. That means keeping a life and a self outside of activism.

If you are reading this, you likely know that I’m a feminist activist who has been on the abortion front lines for decades. My birthday was Tuesday, the day the nation came to grips with a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade. Many friends, meaning well, told me they were especially grateful for me on my birthday, in light of the news.

I appreciate that. Who doesn’t appreciate being seen for their work? But I also want to say quite clearly, I am grateful for me the person. The feminist and pro-abortion activist and leader is one important facet of my identity, but it is not me, the person, the sum of the miracle of my life.

These coming days, weeks, months, and years are going to be extremely difficult times for activists in my field. The pressure to over-identify with activism will be strong. This threatens our movement’s ability to continue over the long-haul because we can’t all burn out together, and it threatens the health and well-being of the activists, period. Do you really want who you are to be defined against Justice Samuel Alito’s blatant disregard for the dignity and humanity of half of the population? I sure as hell don’t.

No matter what, your activism is not who you are.

You are.

That’s good enough.

I Am Blogging On The Possible Death Of Twitter Feminism, 2007-Style

Elon Musk has bought Twitter and will make it a private company. This man makes fantastic cars but is one of the last people in the world who should be regulating speech on social media.

This is an era when hate speech online is rampant against people of color, LGBTQ folks, women, and intersections of the three. Musk is a bully.

Incitement to violence and false information came perilously close to bringing down our democracy on January 6, 2021. Musk wants ‘all the speech’ out there.

Putting Musk in charge of Twitter is like putting a fire-breathing dragon in charge of maintaining cabins built out of match sticks. Do you really feel okay sending your children to that camp?

Many of my friends and valued colleagues have already deleted their accounts. As a burgeoning old who is no longer the twenty-something advertising copywriter who started @erintothemax in 2008 (LOL that I never changed my handle when my volunteer activist life took over my professional life, srsly!), I am moving a bit slower.

I have requested a download of my Tweets, and have taken the app off my phone to give myself mindful time to consider my next steps. It’s pretty likely I will start blogging here more again; I’m here tonight instead of Twitter, aren’t I?

Twitter has given me so much good. For my career and causes I care about, it has given me a platform to meet other activists and collectively amplify our power, connect with journalists and better inform the media conversation on feminism and beyond, speak truth to power, and learn, learn, learn. Twitter has offered an immediacy and intimacy that is both its charm and its danger. More than 15,000 people care what I have to say, which is quite funny if you think about it.

Through a number of social media platforms including Twitter I have been subjected to a good bit of abuse and harassment over the years. Most of it is garden variety stupid but on some occasions it has presented a serious invasion of privacy, threat to my safety and security or that of my family, or caused significant emotional harm. Sometimes it has happened in the name of ‘pro-life.’ Other times it has occurred in the name of ‘social justice.’ Sometimes it is people who have been physically or otherwise violent toward me who come back years later to let me know they are still stalking me and wishing me harm. There is untold bullying and abuse directed toward women and feminists online, and this stuff is particularly pointed toward people with marginalized identities I do not hold: trans and gender non-conforming people, Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, people with disabilities, and fat women.

I do not trust Elon Musk to mitigate the infringements on the ability of people of good faith to use their voices in the public square. I believe he will make it worse. Just two days ago Musk posted a fat-shaming photo of Bill Gates on Twitter contrasting him with an emoji of a pregnant man in case anyone needed to “lose a boner fast.” Can Feminist Twitter continue to be a thing in this new reality?

I need to close this post talking about my friend Mazzie, who recently passed away. Mazzie in many ways exemplified the best of Twitter: I met her online, she was a razor-sharp feminist, funny as hell, encouraging me and everyone who followed to think deeper, be more caring, and advance social justice in inclusive ways. We interacted on the platform for I don’t know how long until once, in 2013, a man exposed himself to me and the District of Columbia police refused to take my report.

I tweeted about this and Mazzie stepped up, posting on neighborhood police listservs until I got a call a few days later from the police, inviting me to come into the station and file a report. She did this for someone she never met in real life. I’ve made some of my best friends on Twitter, some I meet and have had all these significant moments in the flesh with, and others like Mazzie, who was deeply real to me, whose last words to me on Facebook just weeks before she became suddenly ill and died were “I’m so glad we have each other <3.”

Yesterday, the day before Elon Musk bought Twitter, my friend Amanda Levitt organized a Zoom memorial for Mazzie. More than 50 people attended. On this screen I cried openly with others, some who I had met in-person and others I had only followed or known online for years. I made new friends and strengthened existing online relationships yesterday. We all agreed that Mazzie would want us to spend more time with one another in new and unexpected ways.

Tonight I’m going to think about Mazzie, not Elon Musk, as I weigh my next steps. I don’t want to think about the evil and the violence on the platform and what I anticipate could happen next. I want to capture the good and love and think about how to continue that moving forward.

Rest in peace, Kimberley Anne Schults. You were the beautiful soul who would have said exactly the right thing about the craptastic Elon Musk Twitter takeover. In your absence I’ll take a beat.