Six years ago today I woke up after a late night on Tumblr with an question - if there were un-photoshopped images of happy women on Tumblr, would they help my friends who were struggling with disorders that made them want to be as skinny as possible? I had long suffered with under-eating, but had never lost weight in the process. I have never wanted to, but there was a group of young women on Tumblr called the pro-ana community who desperately did. I am not sure what compelled me to them specifically, maybe I just wanted to find people who understood what I was going through. When I reached out and told them that I was relapsing into my under-eating and I needed help, they were the most supportive people to me. They said that if I could eat, I should eat. They insisted that I was healthier both mentally and physically than they were, that I was stronger and could do it. See, they had given up, given in and banded together with others that understood them. They could be together without anyone being harsh or ignorant about their struggles. Unfortunately, that bond didn't make them better able to heal, it made them have more tips and tricks to stay in their anorexia. I didn't know if it would, but I was inspired to at least try and help.
So, I woke up the next morning with my question and a few hours and many texts later Middle Women was born. It took a long time for us to get to the mission “to cultivate self esteem and promote positive body image” but that was in our work from day one. I'm not even sure when we realized we were a socially conscious production company, but we totally were. After the successful launch of our Tumblr blog, it was only a few months until we had MiddleWomen.com.
I didn't know this until much later, but truly I just wanted to help people be happy and feel like they are meant to be here. Two experiences I hadn't had much up until that point. Eventually I realized that my work at Middle Women - 3 years, 200 students and interns, dozens of meetings and events and countless lives changed forever - was to help humans have the foundation they needed to go out and do what they truly wanted to do. I noticed too many beautiful people going out to save the polar bears without knowing how to take care of themselves first. Many of these vivacious modern activists, only equipped with the tools of traditional activism went out to save others before they even truly loved themselves. Of course, this was also going on with me.
After three years as the founder and executive director of Middle Women my body completely shut down. It was mostly just stress and I had been going down the express lane to burnoutville for so long I wasn't even surprised. I am happy to say that after an additional three years of work, this time on myself, my marriage and my sustainability methodology I have figured a lot out. Enough that I really want to start testing and teaching my new theories. Everything I have built post Middle Women has been to learn how to live with the chronic environmental illness I have as a result of the strain my unbalanced activism and other work put on my mind and body. In essence that means that under a lot of constraints I've built up methods of living that are not only streamlined, but holistically sustainable.
This leads me to my announcement… I have officially come out of retirement and begun work on an innovative and future thinking community focused live/work space in Seattle, WA. My growing team and I hope to have it move in ready this summer. First and foremost this will be a safe home for me. Because of my multiple chemical sensitivity, finding suitable housing is nearly impossible. Unsurprisingly this is again a very personal project for me, but this time I hope to do things differently. Not only will I be promoting my post-burnout lifestyle through this platform, I'll actually be benefiting from a set of systems that will keep me safe and healthy even in the face of so much uncertainty. So much to test and learn! I've seriously never been so excited to work on anything in my life.
My name is Rebecca Elizabeth Webber and I am an applied anthropologist working to show humans how to achieve their sustainability goals.