Where to start? Maybe with my background and struggles with an eating disorder? Maybe with the fact that my 14 year old daughter has recently been diagnosed with her own eating disorder (despite my diligence and belief that I could protect her from body image and control issues – HA!)? Perhaps with the article I just read about the Thinspo (thinspiration) community on sites like Tumblr that enable if not outright encourage anorexia? Or how about with the bottom line hypocrisy of women and what we do to ourselves? Maybe I’ve said enough with just these questions, but boy my dander is up and I have a lot to say!
As I have been immersed in the world of eating disorders from the perspective of caregiver it has become so clear that much of the problem is self-imposed. Not by the individual, but by the community of women we share our world with. Models, which by the way is defined as: a system or thing used as an example to follow or imitate, have become thinner and thinner in real-life (by which I mean walking down the street) and more and more photoshop enhanced when presented on TV or in magazines or even on a runway where they can be hoisted, taped, and padded to produce virtually any effect you want. What are they supposed to be models of, effective techniques for starvation? This is not a self-control issue where we should be patting someone on the back saying, gosh you are so strong-willed you can do without food. We should be saying, gosh you seem to have a psychological disorder that requires treatment – get thee to a psychiatrist and quick! But we don’t – we look at insane people and say good job, wish I could do that! Substitute schizophrenia for anorexia and try this sentence out: “Wow you are hearing voices that tell you to try leaping from tall buildings in downtown San Francisco.” Would you ever say to yourself, “I should really try that, I so wish I could be like that?” No! You say instead, “time to take your meds.” Why is it so different when we talk about eating disorders?
I know that there a hundred answers here: the media, fashion, health, blah blah blah. Our society is obsessed with being thin, men will only want me if I’m thin, I want to be thinner than… And we are nasty to each other, we the editors of magazines let articles go in that accuse healthy sized people of being fat, that insist we manipulate our bodies to make ourselves more desirable, that claim happiness arrives when the scale reaches only certain weights. We criticize each other and we measure our self-worth by the standards of other people who feel so crappy about themselves all they can do is lash out.
There are periodically not very successful attempts at producing magazines or ad campaigns that reflect more “real women.” As far as I can tell it is usually women themselves who reject these. I certainly don’t believe that men will jump up and leave the planet en masse if the female ideal went from a size 0 to a 10. In my own anecdotal experience, watching the budding interest of my eleven year old in members of the opposite sex I can comfortably say he really just wants them in their underwear, not sure he cares if they come micro-thin (this is based on watching how significant the draw-drop is in certain movies and commercials which he should probably not see, so not scientific but I think pretty representative of the general group).
So what would I like to see happen? I would like us to start treating the micro-thin movement, the individuals with eating disorders (too much on either end of the spectrum) as exactly what they are – disorders – that require attention and treatment. When we see that individual leaping from building to building (and perhaps not making it) we say, “oh terrible terrible we need to help them.” And then we call the cops or the ambulance or someone and do what we can to get them help. When we see a too thin model gracing the cover of whatever we need to start saying, “terrible terrible get her help immediately, she is slowly killing herself.” We should NOT sign her to a multi-year modeling contract and set her forth as an example to women of what they should aspire to – she is crazy, like the building leaper – she deserves our sympathy and she needs our help.
And just because I am feeling in rather an angry mood with all of this, let me add – if my size 8 ass is too big for a man to want me then good riddance, you weren’t doing me any favors and I can take care of myself! Though, I know it isn’t usually the men that are critical… I just wanted to add it just in case!