Against ‘Pro-ana’ groups


Destre posed a challenge to myself and Sinistre; we want to articulate between us a point of contention on the issue of pro-ana and pro-mia groups; the issues raised here can apply to other notions; particularly the circulation of terrorist websites, or, promoting the idea of pro-paedophile values (which was a problem during the late 20thC). Sometimes we find the same questions coming up in new ways. The recent phenomenon of the ‘pro-ana’ (and later pro-mia) movement is one such expression of these age old issues.

Ana and mia on the net

Pro-ana, and pro-mia sites are websites that promote eating disorders. The referring terms of ‘ana’ and ‘mia’ are to give human-sounding (and female) names, a personal face to this those conditions of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and, to some extent, EDNOS cases (eating disorders not otherwise specified). Sufferers of eating disorders are allowed to come together and give tips on how to be thin, and perpetuate the norm that thin is beautiful.


One of the ideas associated with pro-ana and pro-mia groups is that ‘anorexia’ and ‘bulimia’ should not be seen as medical categories; which, following the good company of Foucault, Goffman, and the interactionist tradition ensures a pretty unhelpful life for those who are engaging in these behaviours; they are fundamentally loaded terms, and are negative from the start; much like terms used to denote sexual assault.

Recoding ‘anorexia’ to ‘ana’, and ‘bulimia’ to ‘mia’ shifts from medical condition to lifestyle choice.

Motivations to condemn ‘ana’ and ‘mia’

  1. These groups provide information and techniques to infom people of more aggressive behaviours for anorexia and bulimia. Teaching people, as such, how to lose weight as fast as possible; or how to hide it and general ‘do’s and dont’s’.
  2. These groups glorify thinness. Perpetuating the very thing in culture that not only aggrivates this issue, they promote the norm that harms them.
  3. With the exception of some countries making initiatives (France on the fashion industry, other countries banning certain internet sites); the internet is not policed; anyone with a curiosity can learn about it, and further, foster attitudes of those tendencies; where a more policed environment like the community of peoples in real life, may curb those who may be slightly inclined away. Anyone, particularly the very young, may be able to find these groups with ease.
  4. These groups do not foster the attitude of avoiding these behaviours, but either pose ambivalence or promotion of it.


One thought on “Against ‘Pro-ana’ groups

  1. I always find reports on pro-ana difficult to read. This is because there is a distinct difference, which I have yet to seen recognised by outsiders between pro-ana sites and pro-ana communities.

    I suffered with anorexia, and it is only in the past few months that I’ve been in recovery. For me, the girls on Facebook who formed my pro-ana friends, were the single most supportive people for me. When I say that, I do not mean they encouraged me to starve myself. I do not mean they told me I was fat and needed to lose weight. They encouraged me to seek help and guidance as soon as I started considering recovery.

    Frequently, it is misunderstood that pro-ana allows people suffering from a common illness to share their experiences and their worries. The websites should be shut down, they do more damage than good – they offer cold, condemning lists of “tips and tricks” and diet plans etc, which are unhealthy and dangerous. But pro-ana on social networking sites has in my experience been a positive thing – a safe haven where girls (and boys too) can seek solace in being totally understood, and where they can find honest advice on seeking help and recovery.

    The single thing I was told most often by my pro-ana friends was “We just want you to be happy. Recovery will make you happy, ana will kill you. We’ll support you all the way to recovery, but you have to want to do it for yourself.” I think that just goes to show the attitude of ana girls.

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