Pro-ana groups: a reply

What pro-ana/pro-mia groups do

Pro-ana groups, and pro-mia groups are websites, online support groups, and other internet oriented pages where information about eating disorders are put forward in a non-judgmental environment. Normally, when the issue of eating disorders come up; the standard reply is stop it; or, like all mental illnesses, an outright rejection and ignoring of the issue and the individual. Pro-ana, and pro-mia groups form as a centre for those who are going through these consumption patterns to find communal expression, for the pain that they feel, the pressures they face, and proffer to each other support and understanding; the kind that is emptathetic; that expresses I understand what you are going through.

Sometimes understanding is more important than passing judgment. What people want in times of distress is understanding, perhaps even contact with those who go through the same.

Pro ana groups vary in their sentiment; some go far to express that behaviours of ‘ana’ and ‘mia’ are not only acceptable, but desirable; others can be more moderate and emphasise the importance of an informed decision and the consequences; others give caloific information or recommend alternatives, or ways to limit damage, but nonetheless accepting the importance of the role of the ana/mia behaviours. It is far from clear to say that they ‘promote’ eating disorders.

It is important to note that the term of ‘pro-ana’ or ‘pro-mia’ doens’t refer to a specific movement or organisational body, in the same way that pro-paedophilia groups used to in the mid-late 20thC. The phrases denote a family of different kinds of groups, interests and values.

Prime says that:

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.

It’s slightly more subtle than that; the reasons people have for engaging in these behaviours is far more diverse than image issues alone; there may be other underlying thigns. Coping mechanisms for various thigns that people face in life.

On a ‘lifestyle choice’

It’s a real life occurence, a cultural presence; rather than a Royal College of Psychiatry quarterly statistic. And in all fairness, it is the former more than the latter; that is to say. Those eating patterns are part of the life that is soaked in values, self-images, celebrations of physical ideals, pressures, romances, family, friends, fitting in, and all those everyday things that people live in; people live in lifestyles, not medical journals. A human face to a human behaviour. Not a scientific category which demeans people.

The question is, which I can’t really answer; is whether ‘lifestyle choice’ is a term of acceptance or promotion, or a more ambivalent and human referring term than some greco-romano medical term. Either way; to humanise the face of suffering is to understand it moer; it is possibly the worst thing to impose foreign labels upon people, tha tthey submit to and become defined by. It is, a form of self-oppression. Understanding is the key, not explanation or prognosis.

Prime on ‘motivations’

  1. These groups do indeed provide techniques and coping mechanisms that people may not have been aware of before. But to shoot the messenger isn’t the way to deal with the message we get from the prevalence of self-harmers in society. If you kill a revolutionary you don’t end the revolution. The pro-ana/pro-mia phenomenon is a challenge to our ideas; we don’t fight ideas with actions like prohibition of thought, we fight it with open discussion and mutual understanding of the points of contention.
  2. I repeat what I said earlier, ‘ana’ and ‘mia’ are not necessarily related to body issues; although there is a strong case to be made for it; similar point here; don’t shoot the messenger. It is culture and the hegemony of fashion and those ideals perpetuated by the whole of society through simulacrum that we need to attack, not the group who maintain it, but are affected by it the most; analogous claim, if we are having a crisis about our resources in oil, it is not the rig workers we blame, but those who control the rigs and pipelines.
  3. The suggestion of poliing the internet, is like policing thought, or our way of expression. Some things we can never stop by means of prohibition. If we ban alcohol, there will come a black market of contraband; if we ban freethought through mainstream publication, we get eccentric and low-key publishers circulating texts that do not have the rigour and quality of blind review and proofing.
  4. I think I will have to Sinistre*’s point of ambivalence and promotion of ana/mia to be a moot one; this is a case-by-case consideration.

Conclusion

Understanding is key. Like Sinistre* said at the start; this is an old issue in new clothing, or a new media in old issues. I firmly believe that ideas are things that can never die; so long as there are still people around to think them. Like the idea of equality, or democratic change, we find these sociogenic ideas come to fruition and their discourses may come to fruit through many ways. The most important feature of a change in society is the idea underlying it, not the people who instantiate it.

Sinistre

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