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

Posted Aug 24 2008 8:04pm

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.

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