Pro-ana websites - your opinion?

@drasnian (548)
July 12, 2011 9:06am CST
First of all, I just want to say I hope no one's offended by this topic, it's just meant as a light-hearted debate. I know this is an old, somewhat sensitive topic, but it's a really interesting debate and I'd love to know what you guys think. To summarise the debate: 'Pro-ana' "refers to the promotion of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. The lesser-used term pro-mia refers likewise to bulimia nervosa and is sometimes used interchangeably with pro-ana". Many people, including the eating disorders charity B-eat, say these websites should be banned, and call them "despicable" claiming that "young women exposed to pro-ana websites felt more negative, had lower self-esteem, perceived themselves as heavier and were more likely to compare their bodies with other women" - but is that down to the websites themselves, or are the types of people who look at these websites already pre-disposed to have low self-esteem etc? Other people argue the sites should be allowed - after all, we allow free speech. Similarly, the sites vary from being truly "pro-ana" to being a retreat for already anorexic individuals to seek support to being pro-recovery - how can you decide which is acceptable and which isn't? Do you think pro-ana websites should be allowed, or banned? Why? Would you worry if you knew your daughter or friend was looking at them? Or is there a tiny part in your head that would be tempted to go looking for these sites? To read them in hopes of picking up weight loss tips - after all, their tips can't all be "don't eat".
2 people like this
4 responses
@bouncybug (615)
• South Africa
12 Jul 11
I definitely don't think that these sites are a good thing - they should be banned, in my opinion. Eating disorders are very dangerous conditions that almost every woman today is at risk of developing, by being exposed to the constant barrage from the media that makes women feel as if they need to look like super models in order to be loved and accepted. We get enough of these messages every day from the media around us, we do not need to have sites that are actively promoting the development of eating disorders! Sure, support for recovering anorexics is important, but joining a site such as this might well just cause the person to relapse again. We should rather be starting websites that are celebrating women as beautiful, in whatever shape or form they may be. Maybe that would help to prevent the development of eating disorders.
1 person likes this
@phyrre (2324)
• United States
12 Jul 11
I think this is a very touchy subject for the very reason you mentioned: we do have the right of free speech. A lot of people feel that it's a slipper slope. If you can limit this form of free speech what else can the government restrict? And then is it really freedom of speech after all? On the other hand, obviously as parents we don't want our children to have problems with this and we want to protect them from these sites. Clearly pro-ana sites could definitely inspire even thin girls to feel that they should be thinner in order to be more successful or more beautiful or more attractive and not only is that the case, but once the idea is in their head it can be difficult to persuade them otherwise. I think the best thing that can be done is to put it in the hands of the parent. Ultimately, try to keep an eye on what your children are doing and where they're going so if you notice them going to a site like this then you can combat it early on. This might seem like a lot of work to some or an invasion of privacy, but you need to decide what's more important: the welfare of your child in case they do stumble on a site like this or letting them do what they want. Of course, a good way to avoid it is to have conversations with your children about this issue so that if they do find a pro-ana site then they are already aware about it. But being able to ban the sites? I've seen sites that are so much worse (like the Westboro Baptist Church site) that obviously can't be banned because of freedom of speech/religion so in light of that I honestly can't see a valid justification to ban them.
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@drasnian (548)
12 Jul 11
It's very true, I think a lot of people don't care about pro-ana sites themselves, but argued for them vehemently because if you start banning these, then it opens up a whole can of worms about banning more. I agree that pro-ana websites can inspire girls to think they should be more successful, but I do think as well that the girls (and boys) who go looking for these websites, are probably pre-disposed to suffer from self-image and eating issues. You could argue that reading a magazine article about how some celebrity has put on weight is just as likely to trigger that, as dieting tips on one of these websites. I just don't know if that's the case. I think the parent does need to discuss this sort of thing with a child, and if you as a parent spend all your time dieting/complaining about weight, you aren't exactly providing your child with a good foundation. The emphasis should be on health, not weight. It's so true that there are much worse sites! Especially considering that some of the sites are genuinely supportive, filled with "recovery" diet plans, designed to slowly up a girls intake when she's ready to take that step.
1 person likes this
• United States
12 Jul 11
I heard about those websites on Dr Phil or something, but I never really heard of anyone I actually know using them. As for me, personally, I have always been underweight, and people sometimes ask me if I have an eating disorder, or comment on my weight. I can't gain weight even if I try to, and I think it is just as rude to call someone skinny as it is to call someone fat. It's rude, it really is. And it is harder for me to be able to accept myself just as I am, because I know that people are discouraged to be as skinny as I am. But we all know not eating is just the wrong way to lose weight. It's common sense, isn't it? In a way, because it is so forbidden, I'm sure it makes it seem glamorous, all of the celebrities are doing it. Nowadays, there are plenty of campaigns promoting beauty in all sizes. Yes, supermodels have to be thin, but that's just because they are a canvas for the fashion they model. Girls can be very beautiful even if they are overweight, big boned, thick, thin, big, small. I don't think there is much of a reason to try to ban those websites, because it is not really the root of the problem. The problem is that it is so hard for a woman to feel beautiful as it is. But physical beauty is just one part of a woman. I think the root of the problem is the lack of role models. Female role models. Maybe it's because we don't have female roles. What makes a woman respectable? Is it because she is beautiful? Does she have to be a good wife or homemaker? Does she have to have a successful career? Be a good lover? It's just so hard to define what a woman needs to be, but the part about physical appearance is easy. When I have a daughter, I would want her to be well rounded. I would teach her to stay in shape, because even if she isn't tiny and thin, staying toned and healthy is always beautiful. I'd teach her to wear makeup when she was old enough. But most importantly, I'd teach her to be intelligent, and to think. She would never have time for that petty anorexia stuff. She's going to be strong, and beautiful. I've only known one girl who had bulimia, actually. I could never respect her because of that. Because it's a very stupid thing to do. I can't help it. I'm out of sympathy for people with eating disorders. I've seen them so much on television, and the disease is just so overly glamorized and hyped up. I know it's a "disease" and they really can't help but think they're overweight, but my unborn future daughter is just too good for that.
1 person likes this
@drasnian (548)
12 Jul 11
Thanks so much for your comment. I agree, I think it's just as rude to say someone's skinny as fat - the fact is any disparaging comment is rude or unnecessary it's just that people don't seem to consider you might be offended. The fact is, just because they think "oh I'd rather be skinny than fat", I'm pretty sure women with real curves but heavier than 'normal' think "i'd rather be my shape than too skinny". I agree, not eating is the wrong way to lose weight, but at the same time so many people seem completely unaware of the fact that if you don't provide your body with enough nutrients, it will go into starvation mode. Similarly, eating nothing for days and then binging on pizza and donuts, just isn't healthy. Beauty really is starting to be promoted in all shapes and sizes - and so it should be! Kate Winslet, Mischa Barton, Scarlett Johansson, Cameron Diaz, Hayden Panettiere, Megan Fox etc...they're all different shapes, and they're all great looking women. I agree the sites aren't the root of the problem, and I think you've summed up what is beautifully. Girls look to guys to decide what's 'valuable' in a woman, but men (just like women) have different opinions. Some want a girl to be intelligent, others want her to be funny, others just want her to stay home and cook. But you can guarantee not one of them says they want their girlfriend to be "ugly" and when you're surrounded by magazines slating celebrities for putting on weight, and mothers talking about dieting, and guys drooling over celebrities, it's easy to decide that thin = pretty. But celebrities have dieticians, personal trainers and photo retouching - if we all had those things, we could all look exactly the way we want to, but without them, it's just not realistic to assume we can all look the same - we're not all built the same! Your daughter sounds like a lucky girl, to have a mum like you!
1 person likes this
• Canada
12 Jul 11
As has been stated, you can't shut down every website that deals with eating disorders. However, if you are truly asking about "pro-ana" sites, they are generally not support sites. Pro-ana sites are triggers. People suffering from eating disorders use those sites to support their condition. They view the photos, the posted calorie intakes and body measurements as a yardstick of their own state. What they see triggers them not to eat ... to persevere with their eating disorder in spite of any attempts they may make (or the people around them may make) to get help. I worked as a moderator in an online community that had eating disorder forums. The girls (predominantly female members, although there were a few boys) would try to sneakily share the URLs or names of pro-ana or mia sites and we aggressively removed them. The participants were allowed to post for discussion reasons but websites were completely forbidden (as were calorie counts, measurements, eating diaries, etc). Nothing that would trigger them was permitted. Given my druthers, no, I would not allow pro eating disorder sites of any kind. I would be completely upset if I found one of my daughters visiting such sites (especially in conjunction with any form of obsessive dieting or compulsive behavior). I would never consider pro-ana sites as a source of weight loss tips. Those affected by eating disorders to the point of using those sites have NO desire to lose weight in a healthy way.
@drasnian (548)
12 Jul 11
Thanks very much for your comments. I think it is true that people suffering from eating disorders use photos, calorie intakes etc and compare themselves, and use that as a basis to continue, but the fact is you can't MAKE someone recover, they need to WANT to get better, so even without those websites they'd probably continue. If you forced them into recovery they're far more likely to be triggered into regressing later - whether by a website, a poor photo, a movie or a celebrity. I admire your dedication in removing those links, and I think I'd be upset if I found a daughter of mine on them, but at the same time not everyone looking at them automatically goes "right that's it, I have to stop eating" a lot of girls look at them and say "What a load of rubbish!" and never look back.
1 person likes this
• Canada
12 Jul 11
The problem with eating disorders is that, at least initially, most of the people affected do not think they are sick and do not think they need to recover. It is their lifestyle and they often have no desire to change it. My daughter, who is just graduating high school this year, saw a classmate hospitalized for anorexia at the beginning of this year. Her parents and doctors hospitalized her to save her life, not because she needed, wanted or accepted to recover Fortunately, her hospitalization has had positive outcomes and part of her therapy is also helping other kids her age to understand more about eating disorders. Working those forums was a hard job... it's heartbreaking to see the kinds of posts those girls make. They see nothing wrong with themselves when the rest of the world is shocked by their thoughts, their beliefs and their appearance. You are right that a lot of girls will look at pro-ana sites and be either really put off, frightened or they will scoff at what's posted there. Fortunately, those are not the girls we need to be concerned about because they aren't the ones with the eating disorders. Interesting discussion topic, thank you!