Anorexia: a terrible, life altering illness that wreaks havoc on the lives of all kinds of people. A disease characterized by a compulsive need to limit and control every calorie that enters one’s body to the point of starvation with no end in sight, because anorexia ensures that it’s victims never feel good enough, thin enough, perfect enough to stop. A disease that can be triumphed over, often after countless hours of intensive therapy and careful, conscious monitoring for years and years and years to come. At the same time, a disease that can kill if not recognized and confronted in time.
All of this and yet, in American culture, anorexia takes on a very different categorization: an insult to be hurled at women deemed “too thin,” something that many think will just go away if only the woman in question were to “eat a sandwich.” Anorexia has become a weapon, a judgment, a body type.
“Eating 60 Times a Day and Still Looks Anorexic, Lizzie Velasquez Has Undiagnosed Medical Condition” [Headline from Gather: Life & Style]
“She’s thin but doesn’t look anorexic or malnourished.” [Evil Slutopia]
ETA: This comment got somewhat unfairly lumped in here. It does not use anorexic as an insult, this is true. My issue was that it still implies that anorexia has a specific “look.” This just goes to show that all of us, even awesome feminists, need to constantly be questioning the words we use!
“Lindsay Lohan Looks Anorexic Again [...] ” [Headline from Hollywood Grind]
“Everything is wrong about this story -EVERYTHING (and don’t you dare rip into me about calling this girl anorexic, I don’t even want to hear it, let’s just call a spade a spade already and stop with this PC non-sense).” [From Mama Vision]
You get the point.
While we hurl accusations of anorexia left and right at waif-like women, anorexia (the disease, not the judgment) grows stronger, and claims more victims every day. We enable anorexia with our ignorance and, seriously, this has to stop now.
Pasting an “anorexic” label on every thin woman we come across perpetuates the misconception that all people with anorexia look the same way. This is a myth that many psychologists even buy into, including the ones who created the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual IV.
I, for one, think this is ridiculous. Anorexia (or any eating disorder) is, at it’s core, a set of unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns that center around the idea of control. If you go by the DSM IV definition, a person can go to bed without anorexia one night (weighing, for instance, 105 pounds), wake up in the morning one pound lighter, and… surprise! Suddenly they qualify for anorexia.
I mean, how does this make sense? Shouldn’t we be diagnosing people waaaay before this point, so they can get help waaaaaay before they wind up so thin that their lives are at risk? What am I missing here?