Friday, 26 February 2010

The Media and Eating Disorders

"I grew into it. It grew into me. It and I blurred at the edges, became one amorphous, seeping, crawling thing."
- Mayra Hornbacher

I have been working on this for nearly two days and I still don’t think I’ve articulated myself as well as I would have liked. I’m not very good at writing out of anger or irritation; I tend to come across as harsh and bitchy and completely up my own arse which I apologise for. I’m not a journalist, I’m barely a fucking writer!

Today is Campaign Day and the whole of this week had been Eating Disorder Awareness Week, as well as the 21st birthday of b-eat, the UK’s biggest eating disorder charity which is a fantastic organisation that provides amongst other things information, help lines, and pressure on the government to provide more treatment. A lot of people are writing/blogging/making videos/promoting and generally making a noise and raising awareness about these diseases that are stigmatised, glamorised and still largely misunderstood by society.

I am happy and more than willing to give them my support and to take part, and something keeps coming up time and time amongst all the interviews and articles that have taken place this week that I especially want to contribute my own understand and experience to: That is how much responsibility the media have over the development and rise of anorexia and bulimia.

It has been said that the media are not to blame and that eating disorder’s have nothing whatsoever to do with girls wanting to lose weight. I disagree.

To say that a media that consistently promotes thin as in is blameless is wrong. They are NOT the cause of these illnesses; people are born with a predisposition to develop ED’s, just as they may be to develop cancer, but the bombardment of images of skinny, successful women, of the Special K diet and Weight Watchers, of Jamie fucking Oliver and his healthy eating plans for school cannot walk away scot free from the rise of anorexia and bulimia, from the average age that they develop dropping and from a culture that gives super skinny a pat on the back and makes perfectly healthy, average sized people feel clinically obese in comparison .

We all have problems in our lives that are at the root of our disorder; whether its trauma, bullying, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety or just the wrong thing said at the wrong time. But I honestly believe that the reason that some of us turn to food and weight loss as ‘the magic cure’ to everything is because of how thin is promoted and celebrated amongst our society and our media.

Beauty magazines promote low self-esteem, and if you’re young and vulnerable and feeling a little bit bad and insecure about yourself and the way that you look, this wall of dreams at the newsagents can easily fuel your distorted perceptions.

Every single person is an individual, with their own story, their reasons, and to say that it is never influence of the media that made someone sick is as big an invalidation to their illness as it is to say that someone is ‘too fat’ to have an ED.

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