Anti-pro-anti-pro-ana, or no?

Everyone is talking about the news of France to Crack Down on "Pro - Anorexia" Web Sites, so you'd think I'd have formed a strong opinion on the matter.

But I find myself ambivalent and annoyed. First of all because the attention to the sites would seem to be a recipe for spreading them. Secondly because the media is perpetuating the idea that an eating disorder is about wanting to be thin and the solution is to stop talking about that. I also wonder why people think that the Internet is washable. Then there is the fact that the pro-ana materials are clearly far more symptom than cause. I'm also not at all sure where the line between Big Fat Loser/BMI report cards/the cover of Teen Vogue/and the morning talk shows' obsession with weight loss ends and pro ana begins. And I'm annoyed by the prurient nature of everyone's SHOCK over these sites.

But here's the bottom line. Someone I love dearly was once in the command of these thoughts - though I don't think she visited pro-ana online communities. My daughter was gravely ill, and those thoughts were horrific and imprisoning. Fining her for expressing those thoughts would not have helped her.

Pro-ana is like porn. (some even point out that a portion of it IS porn.) As parents, we are right to be wary about our children wandering the Internet. We are right to expect website services to shut them down when possible. We should all stand up against the sad images and sadder victimizations.

But criminalizing the behaviors of a mental illness doesn't help the victims. The sites are not the problem. Society's unwillingness to ensure treatment for ill people is a problem. Society's ignorance of the nature of brain disease is a problem. Untreated anorexia and bulimia are the problem.

Instead of anger and disgust, I feel sympathy and caring for people creating and visiting pro-ana/mia websites. These are our children, lost behind a wall of cruel (and anosognosic) illness. The hell they are displaying is nothing compared to what they are experiencing.

I guess I'm not as ambivalent as I thought.


  1. Anorexia existed long before the Internet and modern mass media, so approaching the problem as the proposed French law would seems doomed to failure. Plus, it would give the political leadership the false belief that it has "done something" about the problem of eating disorders. Instead of doing what this bill proposes, I'd urge France to pass a law along the lines of the FREED Act now being drafted for the US Congress. Details at the Eating Disorders Coalition website. FREED will be a serious program to gather reliable data, promote effective treatments, and fund evidence-based education and prevention efforts. Now that the issue of anorexia is a hot one in France, maybe the French will be motivated to beat the US to it and pass a law like FREED. For that, I'd get out the champagne!

  2. I love this thoughtful analysis. I'd liken it to porn too.

  3. Hi,

    My name is Maria and I just wanted to send a quick message in regards to this website. First of all, well done! These sites are terrible and absolutely need to be spoken out against. Secondly, I have actually started a blog against these websites, in hopes of making some sort of a difference. My best friend suffers from an eating disorder and these sites are just another example of ways individuals are enabled to continue this disease. I am having some trouble getting any traffic to my blog, so I just wanted to send a quick message and welcome anyone interested to check it out and comment! Thank you so much :)


  4. But criminalizing the behaviors of a mental illness doesn't help the victims. The sites are not the problem. Society's unwillingness to ensure treatment for ill people is a problem.

    This is the most intelligent comment about the topic I've ever heard.

  5. my friend is anorexic and I have a had food issues relating to bulimia. And I agree that society should refer to eating disorders as a mental disorder and not as a fad diets as it ofter is percieved. These websites do need to be shut down because they say they offer support but if you visit them you would see that they do just the opposite. They have pictures of alarmingly skinny girls and they call it beautiful and paint the image you are worthless that you aren't that size. I don't think people don't want to talk about I say France cracking down on them is actually a good start instead of ignoring the issue of these sites and how they posion the minds of the people who run and visit the sites.

  6. Facebook is the only place I’ve ever found support. There’s girls on there who are pro-Ana in the sense that they want to diet n be super skinny (attention?) and people with real eating disorders just trying to get through the day. there’s even more girl on there just trying to recover anonymously. telling my real friends has been disastrous… these girls are real help and have helped me stay self-harm free for the past 6 MONTHS… that’s the best I’ve done while dealing with untreated clinical depression.

    The first friend i told about my eating disorder offered to make me a sandwich, then told me id be fine, i just needed to eat something. The next person got mad at me, and yelled at me for caring so much about what i looked like, and that if i was fat what was she? she told me to shut up, that i was way skinny and i didnt need to diet.

    but its not about the eating or the caring what i looked like. they just didnt understand. Im afraid to tell my parents, theyve offered little support with my depression, which totally killed my grades last year in school, and lost me all my friends and sports i was in.

    These girls are more help than harm. not all of us are parading around boasting about how cool it is to be anorexic. some of us just need someone who understands, without outing ourselves, and ruining our real lives. we dont go around recruiting young girls, or anyone to be anorexic. were just looking for understanding.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts