Thursday, October 28, 2010

Body Dysmorphia and Ablism

Interesting discussion going on at feministe about body dysmorphia and ablism. The ablism is a derail over there so I wanted to open it up here in case folks want to discuss it further.


  1. FYI...there is comment moderation...There shouldn't be much of a delay...but sometimes I do nap. :)

  2. Thanks Kristen J!

    Pretty Amiable- Hope you come over to read this. I respect your views on many things (even if I don’t agree) and I’m always
    interested in learning.

    I apologize if I offended anyone with an eating disorder, or anyone who is a victim of fat phobia.

    I don’t have an eating disorder. I do, however, have an anxiety disorder. I was under the impression that many eating disorders are forms or types of anxiety disorders. When people ask me why I tend to obsess over… well anything, I can’t explain it. I know it doesn’t make sense, but I still do it. And even if I know that it’s irrational (or unhealthy or unnecessary or sometimes silly), I still do it.

    I shouldn’t have made the big leap from eating disorder to anxiety disorder-just-like-mine. I just wanted to acknowledge that if she does have anxiety, she may have thoughts or ideas that even she knows are irrational, but still has them. Or maybe she really can’t stand the sight of fat people for no other reason than vanity.

    However, her article was hurtful and judgmental, and I don’t think that it should be seen as acceptable by any means.

  3. What anorexia is: an obsession with your own weight. That’s it. It manifests itself differently across different people, but people with anorexia typically have distorted body images and engage in behaviors to significantly limit caloric intake.

    Current anorexic individuals span the spectrum of how they view other people’s bodies. For instance, some see emaciated pictures of individuals and find them particularly attractive, and see fat bodies and find them unattractive. When I was anorexic, I was very internally-focused. I didn’t care what other people looked like. I cared that I was thin because, then, thin was right.

    What anorexia is not: anything other than an obsession with your own weight.

    The first reason that comment thread was offensive is because it spread misinformation about what anorexia is and is not. There is absolutely nothing along the lines of compulsions to share your opinions about other people’s body sizes. Anorexic people are people first, anorexic second. Like people, they have their hopes, and dreams, and personalities, and prejudices. Does Maura Kelly’s prejudice against fat women have anything to do with her anorexia? Maybe. Who knows if she hated fat people before or after her anorexia diagnosis. My understanding is that most people are born into situations where their prejudices are rubber-stamped. I’ve rarely met a bigot whose guardians I loved, you know?

    But it wasn’t a question about where her prejudice comes from. And to be honest, it doesn’t really matter. The question is whether she is compelled to put forth her prejudices because of her anorexia. And the answer is a simple NO. That is NOT what anorexia is, and suggesting that you can’t control whether or not you hurt other people just because you have a distorted body image and restrict your calories is spreading misinformation about what anorexia is, and it necessarily makes it more difficult for anorexics to participate in society. Would you hire a woman who represents a women’s magazine, knowing she can’t control how she talks about people’s bodies? Fuck it – would you hire a woman in finance when she can’t control how she talks about people’s bodies? You are lying if the answer is yes.

    Then, perhaps most importantly, Maura Kelly mentioned that she had a history with anorexia. She doesn’t say she is currently anorexic. The implication is that she’s recovered, more than she is currently anorexic. Maura Kelly? She’s just like you. She isn’t obsessed with weight, and she doesn’t restrict calories. Once upon a time ago, she did. But when we take a given definition of anorexia and then continue to apply it to her after she has recovered, it’s like saying she doesn’t know what her mental health status is. You do. She’s still anorexic, and if she wasn’t, she wouldn’t be such a bigot.

    The worst part of the entire comment thread is the infantilizing of a recovered anorexic just because her cognitive functioning doesn’t match one-to-one with someone who has never had an eating disorder. She is NOT a child, she CAN prevent herself from being an asshole, and she is NOT excused from contributing to a society that systemically discriminates against fat people.

  4. Is there ever a time that we should consider someone’s mental health after they make a particularly bigoted remark? Sure. Tics are an example. I’m not going to fault someone who has a tic and cannot physically control saying something bigoted. If you’ve had damage to the part of your brain that affects your inhibitions, of course your behavior should be excused. There are other examples as well, but anorexia just isn’t one of them. And excusing this behavior when it’s not an integral part of the disorder BECAUSE of the disorder is infantilizing, offensive, and contributes to the disorder’s stigma.

    To tie it back to your anxiety disorder, it would be like saying that you can't control offending people because you have an anxiety disorder. It's not about whether you think it - I think lots of shitty things (and I think most people do) - it's about whether or not you say it to a mass audience. Further, it'd be like you finally getting through the anxiety disorder, and then having people identify shitty things you might as caused by the disorder that you once had.

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