“When 33-year-old Catherine Benincasa lay dying of starvation, her final words were of triumph; she had done this to herself, on purpose, for God. She died in 1380, following years of self-inflicted torture, defying the entreaties of her fellow clergy to eat the food placed in front of her. She had long believed herself to be following the direct orders of God, including the direction to hate her mortal body and to neuter all of her bodily impulses. Decades later, she was canonized as Saint Catherine of Siena, her suffering recast as martyrdom, and her writings on self-denial and starvation inspired future generations of young women of faith to starve themselves in emulation of her. Her self-hatred is anathema to 21st-century ideals of sepia-tinted self-actualization, but the core tenet, that women can harness power by conquering their bodies, is identical.”
I wrote about St. Catherine of Siena for Bitch magazine! Here’s the link! Subscribe to the magazine while you’re at it!
Ann Foster is a writer and historian with a research interest in the intersection of women, history, and pop culture, especially the lives and stories of figures both well-known and half-forgotten. patreon.com/annfosterwriter