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Barbra Streisand & Lena Dunham on How Trump Has Affected Their Weight

barbra streisand and lena dunham

Many liberal and left-leaning celebrities have expressed their dismay about Donald Trump’s election and then presidency. But some, especially women, are finding it’s taking a toll on their physical health, especially their eating. Most recently, Barbra Streisand joked that she’s been smothering her feelings about the presidency, and the constant onslaught of news and scandal, in giant stacks of pancakes.

Lena Dunham is another celebrity who told Howard Stern that the soul-crushing pain of the election was making her eat less. It was a diet of misery.

“Donald Trump became president and I stopped being able to eat food,” [Dunham] told Stern after he complimented her look. “Everyone’s been asking like, ‘What have you been doing?’ And I’m like, ‘Try soul-crushing pain and devastation and hopelessness and you, too, will lose weight.’

This is funny, but also sort of serious. Both Streisand and Dunham made light of their food issues related to stress, but recently Jewish novelist Diana Spechler had a more sobering take, writing that the intense discussion of women’s bodies from then-candidate Trump (especially the notorious Access Hollywood tape and its aftermath) had actively re-triggered peoples’ eating disorders, including her own:

And then some American women stopped eating. Others already had. Others had been bingeing, or bingeing and purging, for months. Since Trump announced that he was running for president, women have been exposed to constant triggers—body shaming (by someone in a power position, no less), lack of control, stress, and anger, to name a few. “Every single one of my clients had a slip-up on Election Day. And I was getting calls from old clients who had been okay for years. They wanted to tell me they’d relapsed.” This is what we’re dealing with nationwide: women dismantled by Donald Trump.

Spechler notes that female resistance and anger often results in abuse of food one way or another:

Self-denial can be traced back through generations of women who had no recourse. It’s a time-honored ritual, a serene “fuck you” to power structures. In the 1300s, Saint Catherine of Siena refused to eat when her parents pressured her to marry. Some Victorian girls were treated for anorexia (“I saw that you wished to shut me up,” one told her doctor). In the early 1900s, the Suffragettes waged hunger strikes in prison.

This is a phenomenon I’ve written about too. But Spechler isn’t content to just describe what’s happening: She ends her essay urging women to turn outward instead of inward with their fury and stress, marching and calling representatives instead of hurting their own bodies.

An occasional stress pancake or stack of pancakes is fine, of course—what’s sad and so telling about the patriarchy is the way so many women punish themselves instead of acting on their anger.

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