Warning: This post contains disturbing quotes related to pro-ED websites, and could be triggering for anyone who has suffered, or continues to suffer, from an eating disorder.
So I decided to write a paper about the religious rhetoric used on pro-anorexia websites. I decided to do this over the holiday break, because God knows I can’t just relax with candy and bad movies. I gots to write depressing shit and stuff.
And so I probed the deep dark corners of the internet, and came up with yet more things to be pissed about. There’s Pro-thinspo, for example, a lurid, cluttered website, amatuerish in design, and purportedly run by Jodee, Queen of the Starvation Scene. Interestingly, Pro-thinspo sells a ton of dieting products, and even more interestingly, they all bear the Pro-thinspo name.
Yep. Pro-thinspo is run by a diet pill company. Sweet.
Then there’s PrettyThin, a website with which I had to create an account to access its members-only content. PrettyThin is run by James, who claims to be 30 in his bio, although his personal account with PrettyThin lists his age as 34. James cares about you. James wants you to “stay beautiful.” James will sell you a pro-Ana bracelet, which comes with a free personally-inscribed card that has some shitty ass poem of his and his signature.
Incidentally, there are a lot of minors posting semi-nude photos of themselves on the website, which is why I reported James to the FBI for hosting child porn.
Should you venture into the members-only forums (and you really shouldn’t), you’ll find an entire forum dedicated to health issues, where girls as young as fifteen report hand tremors, erratic heartbeats, and blood-laced vomit. The website claims to have real health professionals who can answer your health questions. It doesn’t. I’ve yet to find a single comment from anyone claiming to be a nurse, doctor, or health professional of any kind. I haven’t even seen a self-proclaimed med student or nutritionist on there.
Pro-Ana websites argue that they should be protected as free speech. Which is bullshit, because:
They incite their audience to self-harm.
They specifically target juveniles. (Which is evinced by the number of tips on “how to hide your ED from your parents,” “how to avoid family meals,” etc.)
They engage in hate speech against the “obese” (many of whom are well within a healthy weight) through reverse thinspiration photos and shit like:
Only fat people are attracted to fat people. Do you want pigs to like you because you are one of them?
If you eat, you’ll like those disgusting, fat, ghetto and trailer-trash hookers on Jerry Springer.
Fat people are so huge, yet people look away from them like they don’t exist.
If you slap a fat person you can see a shockwave ripple over their skin. That’s disgusting.
I could post direct links to these quotes, but I can’t trace them back to one specific source because they are everywhere. I found the Jerry Springer quote on five different sites.
And they’re disgusting quotes. They are awful and reprehensible and hateful. But they’re easy to criticize, because their awfulness is so transparent. What about the less obviously harmful? What about:
Do not give up on what you want most, for what you want at the moment.
Giving in to food shows weakness, be strong and you will be better than everyone else.
Love not what you are, but what you may become.
I’ve read and heard this kind of shit before—in self-help books, from motivational speakers, from a past boss who was batshit crazy and used to hover over me repeating mantras like “there’s no such thing as can’t. There’s will and there’s won’t.”
The point is, we have all heard this. We have all heard that only we can shape our future, that if we don’t succeed we just haven’t tried hard enough, that we can have whatever we want if we exercise our self-control and determination, if we refuse to let other people block the finish line, if we push ourselves as far as we can go.
It’s bullshit, of course. It ignores the realities of daily life, it ignores power structures, it ignores such obstacles as health, money, prejudice, and sometimes (let’s face it) natural ability. It’s an asinine approach to life, and a narcissistic one as well.
Also, it sounds fucking stupid.
But it’s constant, and pervasive, and denying its influence on the pro-Ana community would be idiotic.
The people who run and/or belong to pro-Ana sites often say that they don’t have a disorder. They’ve chosen a “lifestyle,” and while they usually admit that it’s not a healthy way to live, they insist that it is their right. On PrettyThin, for example, you’ll find this disclaimer:
Anorexia may be, and often is, harmful to your health. The lifestyle can lead to health problems that can be irreversible. Those of us that have chosen the ana lifestyle are often more knowledgable about nutrition than the average person. So we know the importance of proteins just as much as vitamins and minerals in the diet. Those that have chosen mia know the risks of esphogial damage from first hand experience. This lifestyle is not healthy…no one said it is. But that is not the point of this lifestyle. This is not something we have chosen because we want to be healthy. We have been thinspired to be beautiful, and this is what we find to be beautiful.
The lifestyle is no different than any other. It is chosen so that we can be who we want to be; to be who we know we are. This was not selected for health, nor selected to please others.
This does not mean that we feel it is the best lifestyle….we feel that it is ours.
You should never be persuaded to live any lifestyle that isn’t you, including this one. Your choices are your own, and you should not make this one just because you like the pictures or words here on this site. I would actually tell you not to select this lifestyle. Anorexia os a tough decision to make, and one that could cause you to die sooner than you would with many other lifestyles.
Of course, since the majority of PrettyThin’s members seem to be juveniles, and are therefore members of a protected class, that “personal freedom to kill yourself slowly” thing doesn’t quite apply. But whatever.
My point is that, while it’s easy to assign blame, to castigate people like Predatory James and let the matter drop, the shit you’ll find on these websites isn’t new—it’s the same irresponsible, unrealistic mantras in a new package. Eating disorders are a disease, and they should be treated as such; but they are also, I would argue, the natural result of a culture that places so much emphasis on self-control and “personal success.” Food and dieting are the perfect vehicles for that obsession, especially with the added problem of ladies be delicate bird-boned petal-haired magic fairies whose nutrients come mainly from watermelon-flavored chapstick.
So in retaliation, I set a new rule for myself: every time I research this shit, I eat something sinful. Because eating is a sin, and I’m a failed Catholic. And Satan is made of congealed Mike & Ikes and half-melted Milk Duds, drizzled in a Java Monster glaze.