Gender: A Wider Lens
Gender: A Wider Lens
105 — From Rejecting the Body to Finding Female w/ Victoria Smith
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105 — From Rejecting the Body to Finding Female w/ Victoria Smith

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Victoria Smith is a regular contributor to The Critic, writing on women’s issues, parenting, and mental health. Her work has also appeared in The New Statesman, The Independent, and UnHerd. Her book Hags looks at the demonisation of middle-aged women in politics and popular culture.

In this episode, Stella and Sasha chat with Victoria about the depths of body hatred and body loathing. Victoria shares her perceptions about experiences described in the context of gender dysphoria, seeming incredibly relatable to her experience of anorexia and disordered eating when she was younger. The conversation exposes the distress of the burden of acclimating to the maturing female form at a young age manifesting as dysphoric perceptions of reality — a coping mechanism for discomfort.

Another fascinating concept explored in the conversation is how with age, females continue to experience confusion and discomfort with their changing bodies and find themselves in a constant state of reconciling not just their own experiences in relation to their bodies, but society’s reactions to the changes in both their physical presentation as well as their attitudes, expressions, and contributions to society.

Victoria speaks charmingly about the sentiments behind her recently published book, Hags: The Demonisation of Middle-Aged Women; and how society has always fostered a certain lack of respect for the wisdom and discernment women of a certain age contribute to culture and the symbolism behind it. There’s a sort of generational war between young women and older women that has always seemingly existed and yet the journey of experiencing womanhood has a way of bridging the gap between the two.

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Extended Notes

  • Victoria found people’s understanding of anorexia and gender dysphoria confusing.

  • As an early developer, Victoria didn’t associate her body with being her.

  • Victoria began dieting as a child and was hospitalized at 12 for an eating disorder.

  • Victoria felt like she had to be the boy and a girl of the family.

  • There were times when social contagion and the media influenced her need to be different.

  • Victoria feels there is a lot of overlap between anorexia and gender dysphoria.

  • Force-feeding can be traumatizing to people who are already traumatized.

  • During her recovery, Victoria went from starving herself to binge eating.

  • In her 20s, Victoria began menstruating again and felt she missed out on the social aspect of puberty.

  • Female cycles are in a state of constant flux.

  • Throughout time, women have been mistreated because of their lack of choice about getting pregnant.

  • Many women underestimate the amount of misogyny they internalize.

  • In her book, Hags: The Demonisation of Middle-Aged Women, Victoria explores the bias middle-aged women have received for decades.

  • Victoria found herself aligning with men who degraded middle-aged women before realizing what she was doing.

Quotes:

“It seems that gender dysphoria was in this magic kind of ... you’re not allowed to criticize it. You just have to accept it.” — Victoria Smith [6:06]

“People don’t really understand how horrific it is when you have a deep-seated eating disorder and it does equate to someone with deep gender dysphoria.” — Stella [29:26]

“It’s a constantly evolving process. That is what is so scary about making permanent medical decisions about something that is so in flux.” — Sasha [35:54]

“You just don’t know how you are going to feel in 5‒10‒15 years’ time. because so much can change. Both with your body and how other people around you relate to it.” — Victoria Smith [39:51]

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Gender: A Wider Lens
Gender: A Wider Lens
Therapists Stella O’Malley and Sasha Ayad explore diverse perspectives through a psychological lens, fostering open dialogue on gender identity, transition, and the transgender umbrella. Their work with gender dysphoric clients and unique experiences yield an informed outlook delving into gender's psychological nuances. Interviews with clinicians, academics, transgender individuals, parents, detransitioners, and others touched by gender provide varied insights and intimate inquiry into the taboo yet relevant topic.