Have you ever skipped out on an event or chose to stay in for the weekend because you felt bloated or simply didn’t like the way you looked in any of your clothes? I think most of us, unfortunately, relate to that sentiment all-too-frequently. However, one Twin Cities influencer shows us how we can start to finally shift our mentality on how we look at ourselves and others.
It all started the week before Madelyne Riley’s 29th birthday. Madelyne felt like most of us do before big milestones and events, reflecting on where she thought she should be at this age, what goals were still left unaccomplished, and what her body should look like. For Madelyne (and again, like most of us) her goal was to have the perfect body.
“I was like well, I’m going to be twenty-nine next week, and if I don’t get it together, that means by thirty I still won’t have that perfect body. But then I had this out-of-body experience, of that is so messed up. I really heard it, like the f*ck, that’s your goal? Because I had told myself that for a long time and I had gotten used to that, and suddenly it was like that’s a pathetic goal. You should dream a lot bigger.”
While Madelyne considered herself recovered from anorexia many years ago, she realized in many ways she hadn’t. “I was still in a very disordered eating habit and mentality that had affected big milestones in my life.”
There’s the false notion that once you lose those ten pounds or once you look a certain way, then everything will be okay and fall into place. Then I’ll be happy. Then I can start living my life. “And of course that’s not true,” laughs Madelyne. “When you say it out loud, it sounds ridiculous and doesn’t make any sense. It’s really a flawed plan. But you get used to saying it, and you get used to hearing it; it doesn’t sound so ridiculous after a while.”
And it was these myths that we hold on to which became the impetus for Madelyne’s blog, “My Pointy Chin Diaries”.
Madelyne’s blog and Instagram@pointy.chin.diariesoffer you an intimate and entertaining look into Madelyne’s thoughts, feelings, musings, and of course, fashion sense. Granted, creating a blog centered around fashion may seem counterintuitive for someone who struggled with an eating disorder but Madelyne shares how fashion, in fact, played a huge part in her recovery.
“An outfit can really make a difference for me,” Madelyne explains. “There is something about having control versus not having control that is such a part of my development of an eating disorder and also my recovery from an eating disorder. Having the control and the power to put whatever I want on my body and to decorate it differently is so cool.”
Once you begin reading Madelyne’s blog, be prepared to lose yourself in it. I was immediately captivated by her quick wit and thoughtful explorations of complex and difficult topics. Madelyne constantly challenges her thinking and belief systems. And in what quickly became a running theme throughout our interview, Madelyne continuously contradicts herself, saying, “Or maybe the exact opposite is true, and I’m wrong!”
“If you’re going to be on the internet, you get real okay being wrong and real okay with changing your mind,” laughs Madelyne. “I am so proud of myself for being able to admit when I’m wrong and to see when I’m wrong and to be grateful for the correction. It’s so great not to be afraid of not being perfect. My stomach doesn’t drop when I’m called out because I get to learn about something when I was sure it was one way, and now I’m learning it’s a whole different way. That’s great.”
If you’re going to be on the internet, you get real okay being wrong and real okay with changing your mind.
And especially when addressing social issues such as Black Lives Matter and the body positivity movement on her platform, Madelyne has been quick to correct her perception and beliefs, thinking deeply about what role she plays in those arenas, if any.
When speaking about Black Lives Matter, Madelyne expresses, “I’ve been very embarrassed by how obvious some of the mistakes I’ve made are but then so empowered by that. Like oh, of course that’s problematic. Once you get over your pride a little bit, you can be like I just learned a thing, it’s great, let me share that with you.”
Posting something on the internet as well as not posting something on the internet both send a message and make a statement. Madelyne constantly debates when she feels she must speak up and when she needs to be silent and let others have the stage.
Madelyne pauses briefly. “How much needs to be inside work, and how much needs to be on-the-internet work? It can be very traumatic for someone in the BIPOC community to watch a video of myself saying, ‘you guys, I just learned about white fragility.’ Processing white guilt and white fragility is incredibly traumatic for someone who has been on the other side of that. So just be aware that that’s another thing you’re adding on to the internet right now.”
Madelyne continues emphatically, “I don’t think people should be looking to me or listening to me about how to respond to white fragility because I’m a white woman. And white women are taking the stage way too readily and comfortably, and they need to sit down. Now is the time to learn.”
Whose voice should be heard and who should be center stage has also become starkly problematic within the body positivity movement. Taking the same level of care, attention, and awareness as she does when discussing Black Lives Matter, Madelyne speaks to the growing concerns surrounding body positivity, the troublesome language used within the movement, and specifically, the hashtag body positivity.
Madelyne points out if you take even a quick glance at the hashtag body positivity, you’ll be barraged with image after image of thin, white women saying how much they love their body. “Yet again, as happens so often, white women have managed to be front and center spokespeople for a movement that isn’t about celebrating conventionally thin, attractive, acceptable bodies.”
Distinguishing the difference between celebrating and loving your body in a conventionally and socially acceptable body and loving your body in a fat body, is imperative for understanding the body positivity movement. Madelyne explains, “I’m a thin white woman, regardless of my own internal struggle or how mean I am to my body, society makes clothes for it readily and easily and cheaply. But if I’m talking to a fat woman about how I get it, how I’m body positive too, I really don’t. I have to understand how that can cause real hurt. Because fat people are judged way more than I am and to not see that and to say ‘yup me too,’ is silencing a really important part of this whole movement.”
Take note, Madelyne intentionally uses the word “fat”. And while using the word “fat” may feel unacceptable or hurtful, Madelyne points out how avoiding the word is in of itself a problem. Language is important when it comes to speaking about bodies. “Fat isn’t a bad word, but it sounds like a bad word when it comes from someone who looks like me,” says Madelyne. “People who look like me and people who look like all kinds, have weaponized the word fat. We’ve decided it’s an insult and it’s not, it’s a descriptor.”
Madelyne also takes issue with how readily and casually, we as a society discuss weight. “People make fun of their weight a lot, and it’s really a fat-phobic language. When we’re talking about triggering language, it’s when someone compliments weight loss. They’re so happy that someone else lost weight. Then I think, should I lose weight? They’re saying I value thin, which is crazy to me because we’ll say it to people we don’t know. What a horrible thing to say to someone you don’t know. But it’s as normal as asking how’s it going?”
People make fun of their weight a lot, and it’s really a fat-phobic language. When we’re talking about triggering language, it’s when someone compliments weight loss. They’re so happy that someone else lost weight. Then I think, should I lose weight?
For so many of us, Madelyne’s journey and experiences feel uncomfortably familiar. In the way that we speak to ourselves and in the way that we speak about others and to others. For Madelyne, she hopes that if she keeps sharing, others can unlearn these all-too-common habits and prejudices.
“My goal is that these things become as obvious to my followers as they are to me. So the next time someone says ‘you lost weight, you look so great’ to hear instead, ‘I like you more when you’re thin’. My whole adult life, that was a compliment and I said thank you. It brightened my day, what a highlight. And now it’s like what a horrible thing to say to someone. If these little nuggets, these little lessons can help make those things obvious the next time you encounter them in real life, then maybe there’s a start there.”