‘A weight our bodies cannot hold’ by Kiana Linckens 

Content warning: disordered eating 

‘A weight our bodies cannot hold’ by Kiana Linckens 

‘A weight our bodies cannot hold’ is a work in progress from the essay collection, ‘Tending the Fire’ by student Kiana Linckens and was developed in Building a Strong Narrative (nonfiction) in 2022. 


I’m sitting at my dining table, hosting a dinner for nine girlfriends – we’re drunk, maybe a little high – talking about bodies. Sharing our multitudinous experiences of bodily obsession. Some have been hospitalised, others have been ‘normally’ restrictive. I am feigning shock; though, I am not surprised. We are our father’s daughters after all.   


In eighth grade I dated a rebel who skated and always wore a cap. He was handsomely dishevelled, and I imagine his report card read something like: has great potential but gives few shits. He was two years older than me, which gave me an intoxicating social clout I hadn’t before experienced. When he wasn’t wagging school, he was sitting on the oval smoking stolen ciggies with his friends or swaggering through the halls like nothing mattered.   

To me, in eighth grade, everything mattered. I was crippled with care: what I wore, who I was friends with, where I hung my bag. I longed to try the freeness he personified, the effortless cool he embodied.   

Our relationship, like most when you’re 13, was not of any real depth. It comprised cute texting, occasional hand holding, making out at the youth centre, and being comedically awkward. The first time I snuck out, it was to meet him – tasting the sweet novelty of juvenile liberation. We lay on the damp grass of the park making out for a while; our bodies closer than they’d ever been. When his hands began travelling down my arms, my stomach, my hips, I coyly moved away, probably out of embarrassment more than anything – I felt uncomfortable in my growing form and underneath his expectation-laden touch.  

At school the next day, word had gotten out. It was inevitable that it would, and I didn’t really mind. On my regular walk through the tiny rural-town campus, one of his snarky friends spotted me from across the oval. Mid-bite into a muffin she began yelling, at first inaudibly, then as I got closer – whore, whore, whore– prying off a decent chunk of muffin and hurling it towards me. I didn’t understand why I was the object of her rage or how I could move from her firing line. I kept walking – head down, hoping no one was looking / hoping to vanish – until I’d reached the relative safety of my bag hook.   

I can’t remember why the cap-wearing rebel and I stopped dating. I sense it was because I was too young, too eager, too something. The muffin incident, however, is encrypted into my psyche – an inciting incident perhaps, exposing how my sexuality, my body could be used as a weapon against me. 


In later years of high school my crippling care was less about how cool others thought I was and instead, how skinny.  

My freedom became my demise. It was an incremental transition, imperceptible to an untrained eye. It was doing things for ostensibly well-intentioned reasons: boxing classes to get ‘fit’, veganism for ‘ethics’, exercising psychotically as ‘discipline’. Initially, I felt free because I’d managed to gain a semblance of control over the one thing I could: my body. I’d manipulated my appearance so I could move through the world weightless / revered / conventional. I believed this was the whole picture for a long time, this moving through the world with ease. It was instead a by-product of something more insidious than aesthetics. I was an addict of control and commended for it – for my thinness, my dedication, my health food neurosis. I had a sixth sense for food’s caloric value, I could override my body’s need for rest, I was a sultana-counting superhuman; defying the needs of my body with my tyrannical mind. There were set mealtimes / food journals / calorie counters / incessant weighing / gym memberships on holiday / reflective-surface body checking / flushing groceries down the toilet. I was my body’s authoritarian ruler, high on powers of domination and deceit. 


In eleventh grade, my dad and I had a raging argument. I can’t remember what it was about. Only the injustice of being in the care of someone allowed to display emotional volatility, while I was expected to be a good and obedient daughter. I hadn’t before lashed out in combative rage; I generally opted for locking myself away and crying. This response was different – it rose in my belly, my chest and shot tentacles of heat into my throat and arms, imploring its own expulsion. I fumed into my room, my insides burning and frenzied, doing laps of my offensively yellow walls in an attempt to calm myself down. Eventually, I launched my fist into one – concaving the thin plaster with a hulk-like indent.   

It was an act of violence. And it was power. The power arose from the indent’s ability to communicate an intensity of emotion I’d been expected to repress – look at the extent of my rage, I punched a fucking hole in the wall.  

When our rage cannot be outwardly expressed, it turns inwards, corrupting us with its weight. It is devastating and dangerous when we deem our bodies – which endure so much – to be the enemy. 


Throughout my first year of studying writing, I’ve interrogated what my body, and attempting to escape from it, has meant. Last semester I wrote a personal essay about my experience of an eating disorder and how encouraging a meticulous, obsessive and diligent awareness of female bodies is a tool the patriarchy uses to render women powerless. Well, that’s what I was trying to write about.  

My teacher’s feedback read, ‘Your writing is strong. But the emotion remains guarded, occasionally barbed with anger. While that rage is understandable, it could yet move towards a greater sense of what often lies beneath it, a vulnerability and the possibility of self-acceptance’. He was right. I’d spent the whole piece skirting around the emotional core, kind-of saying something but not quite owning or harnessing it. Using writing ‘barbed with anger’ to conceal the depth of my hurt / my rage at spending years of my life striving to be an obedient daughter to a patriarchal father who’s never satisfied.  

But the comment also made me curious about how we accept the expression of female rage. Often, it is viewed as though it could only be a mask, covering a deeper, more vulnerable emotion, or perhaps a more palatable one. When we’ve spent our lives striving to be decent daughters to a father who does not love us, can we also then be expected to transform our rage into something … coherent?  

How can one body hold all of this?  


Submerging to the darkest layer of my eating disorder happened over years. With each obedience to its corruption I became lighter in body and heavier in psyche – tightening the chokehold of my own oppression. For four years of my life, each activity was viewed through a lens of restriction and exertion: how I spent my time, who I saw, where I saw them, how I got there. My dwindling energy supply was poured into my body, the only goal being to have less of one.  

In my years of recovery, it felt unfair to experience my body growing. To have nothing tangible to show for such a lengthy period of diligence and dedication, nothing to show for the thing I’d tried the hardest to achieve. I was constantly being pulled between two poles: my discomfort in being larger in the world, and my resolve to escape from my oppressive chokehold and get better.  

My body felt only dubiously like my own and as a result, my relationship to men and to sex became warped. I wanted to be desired but felt sickened by being sexualised; I wanted to express my sexuality but could not face my physicality in order to do so. Amid this internal struggle, after a night out, I awoke in some flop-of-a-guy’s bed. I was fully clothed, lying next to his sleeping body, scrambling to piece together a night that I only vaguely remembered having. I thought about bolting through his sliding door, entering the harsh light of morning and effacing the experience entirely, but the potential of patching up the night’s abyss kept me still. I needed reassurance that my body belonged to me. 


I read a story recently about a lesbian in New York City who fears she’s run out of lesbians to fuck1. She’s had sex with men before and found the experience to orbit predominantly around their pleasure, generating a desire in her to negate her own satisfaction and focus solely on pleasing them. Nevertheless, she decides to try again – this time vowing to be ruthless in her pursuit of her own pleasure, in the expression of her own needs. She invites some guy over and has a few sub-par sexual exchanges with him over the span of a couple days. In the final scene, she makes him lie on the floor and watch her masturbate, denying him freedom to touch himself while she climaxes on the couch above him. Admittedly, she’s a little cruel about it. But I was obsessed with her character. I related to her rage packaged as self-empowerment.  

Midway through reading the story to my boyfriend, he tells me that he hates stories like this. That he finds it unjust and anti-feminist to funnel the intensity of patriarchal rage into a blameless individual. I mostly agree with him, but part of me curdles.  

If we cannot even express our rage in fiction, where can we?  


Female rage is an echo throughout history, a reverberation of injustice – it is both personal and communal, private and shared. In her 2018 New York Times article, ‘I Used to Insist I Didn’t Get Angry. Not Anymore’, Leslie Jamieson writes, ‘The phenomenon of female anger has often been turned against itself, the figure of the angry woman reframed as a threat – not the one who has been harmed, but the one bent on harming’. When female rage is seen only as accusatory, we fear its expression demands that someone must be held to account. The focus becomes solely concerned with who should ‘pay the price’, undermining the experience of the emotion 

Making space for the expression of female rage on its own terms might well foster healthy vulnerability, and the possibility of self-acceptance. At the dinner party, we lift our glasses and toast our survival. There is consolation in our not-aloneness, in knowing that we have each moved through the world weighted and with the same desire for emancipation.  

This isn’t stripped-back anger revealing a soft, defenceless centre. Female rage is a fire, a force aware of its own heat, dangerous only if we fail to tend to it.  


Author bio: Kiana Linckens is a writer and editor based in Naarm (Melbourne). She is currently studying Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT and predominantly dabbles in creative non-fiction and poetry.  

Photo credit: © Sunnie Zuleta