Beat (a mainstream eating disorder organisation in the UK) recently undertook some research into the relationship between bullying and eating disorders:
From Feminist Eye View, Have you lost weight?
Have you lost weight?
You look really good. How much do you weigh now?
Are you a size four? Oh, uh size two, eh? You look great.
For a person with an eating disorder, these questions do not come as a compliment. No matter how much she weighs, what size pant she wears, or how skinny she looks in the mirror, it will never be enough. No matter what you say, it will never be enough. No matter how healthy she is, it will never be enough. And that is why I ask that you take a few things in consideration when commenting on a woman’s appearance
Then follows some useful advice for talking to people about food and weight, especially if you know they have an eating disorder. The post is directed at women obviously, but I think the advice holds for men and non-binary people with eating distress too.
“When did you first feel like a grown woman and not a girl?” We wrote down our answers and shared them, first in pairs, then in larger groups. The group of women was racially and economically diverse, but the answers had a very similar theme. Almost everyone first realized they were becoming a grown woman when some dude did something nasty to them. “I was walking home from ballet and a guy in a car yelled, ‘Lick me!’” “I was babysitting my younger cousins when a guy drove by and yelled, ‘Nice ass.’” There were pretty much zero examples like “I first knew I was a woman when my mother and father took me out to dinner to celebrate my success on the debate team.” It was mostly men yelling shit from cars. Are they a patrol sent out to let girls know they’ve crossed into puberty? If so, it’s working.”
I came across this Tina Fey quote on Tumblr.
Fascinating guest post from Eva Rivera at Womanist Musings on Classism and Eating Disorders challenging the idea that anorexia is the preserve of white, middle-class young women and caused by exposure to the “beauty myth”.
The practice of diagnosing and treating eating disorders leaves out those of us who don’t live in or come from upper and middle class families. Treatment is focused on rescuing white middle class women from a damaged and certainly fucked up media. I won’t deny that women are affected by mainstream and unrealistic body images but to treat and care for all of us who are at risk for eating disorders, or any mental illness, we must consider all the intersections of the individual. It makes me wonder who all slips through the cracks. How many of us go untreated for eating disorders because we don’t fit the mold of who is supposed to have this illness? Treatment wasn’t made for us, it was made to recover more valuable bodies. In the face of all this we still find ways to save ourselves and each other but at what cost and how far do we have to go before it’s too late?
I haven’t looked at research into this subject, but I tend to agree with Eva that eating disorders are associated with young, white, “high-achieving” middle-class women, not because working-class and poor women don’t have them, but because the former are more likely to be able to access treatment and to be seen as valuable bodies that are in need of treatment. They are the visible face of eating disorders.
Very interesting post here from Avory at Radically Queer about “the insidious harms of body shaming and talk about the “obesity epidemic.””
The bottom line is that an eating disorder isn’t about healthy choices. This is a mental illness that impacts many people. The diet mentality that this person was espousing is all about the idea of control—that the people who fight obesity are better because they control their urges, the puritan idea that for most people, obesity is just a moral failing. But that’s not the way the world works. The diet mentality is harmful, and it’s especially harmful when it’s used in a way that no one can escape it. This is what causes eating disorders, as well as exacerbates them.