Female starvation as spectacle has a very long history. But now ‘thinfluencers’ have millions of followers.
This article makes me wonder about a possible connection between anorexia and transgender victims. The author references a seizure of power and that seems to be the case to an even greater degree with trans people.
The concept of control is critical to understanding anorexia and other eating disorders. Social media is an amplifier of these problems, even 20 years ago when my daughter had anorexia, there were online groups that encouraged/rewarded/enabled her thinking. Advice on disguising starvation,cutting and defying parents. We had to severely restrict access to this poison as part of her recovery. Interestingly she became deeply involved in horse training and riding, which allowed a much more positive sense of control. Saved her life actually.
This caught my eye....
"I simply had a fear of growing up and becoming a woman and I didn’t feel ready to separate from my mother. "
I have no scientific proof, but I would hypothesize that this is very likely similar to what is going on with gender dysphoria.
My fiance's teen daughter, in 8th grade, concluded that she was a boy. She wanted a breast binder and to start on puberty blockers. She gave up girls clothing and she covered her hair after cutting it short. It started when her best friend decided that she was trans. Her parents supported her emotionally, got her counseling but even after tantrums and boat loads of tears they refused to let her have a binder or do any kind of transition. They never yelled or judged, they just calmly said "no" and moved ahead, holding her to the same academic and behavioral expectations they always had.
Now, her mother will tell you that she is the baby of the family, the one that most closely clings to her mother and father, the one that wanted to stay close to home to go to college. She feels safe and happy in the family nest. She did not, and to some degree still does not, want the world to change, to grow up, to see her parents grow older, to deal with the harsh realities of adult life. She actually got upset when she found out her older sister had had sex for the first time. She got borderline angry when that same sister chose to move to the other coast to go to college.
Her mother will also tell you that she is a stunning beauty and has a killer bikini body. She carries herself in a way that would make you think she is older than she is. She is a great wit and highly intelligent. Well, I would agree with her mother. She is a very beautiful girl with curves. In short, she started to attract a lot of attention from boys and men as a freshman in HS.
Long story short, she is now a junior in HS and has given up the trans thing and is dressing much more in keeping with a girl her age. For the first time she is showing a strong interest in boys. She is looking at colleges all over the country. She says that she feels like she can do it because she saw her sister do it.
The thread I see here, that compares to that line from the author I put in above, is a fear of growing up, of puberty, of becoming a sexual creature, one that attracts male attention whether that is positive or negative. I see a thread of fear of the world changing, parents ageing, and of adulting, a desire to retain that feeling of safety and comfort you get in childhood if you are lucky.
As a man who grew up in a matriarchy, grew up in the country with his mother and 3 younger sisters, who of his 27 first cousins only 4 are male, and who participated in female dominated sport (horseback riding), I have seen a LOT of preteen and teenage girls go through that awkward transition from child to young woman. I have seen a lot of the emotional turmoil around it. Boys go through it too, but later and in a different way. Male puberty brings on a similar discomfort, boys feel the fear of adulthood too, the differences are that boys start to fear less and become more aggressive, they tend to want to attack the world more as opposed to be protected from it.
My suspicion is that the same things that cause some young women to engage in eating disorders also are at the root of gender dysphoria and I think that gender dysphoria is as contagious among young women as is anorexia. I think all young people can be subject to social contagion but I firmly believe that the more social nature of women makes them more susceptible than men and boys. As with most things comparing men and women, the factors involved are all the same but the proportions of them are different.
The question I think we need to ask ourselves is; How do we manage these dangerous social contagions in an age of social media? I'm not sure that we managed them well before social media. I'm not even sure that we have been willing to admit that social contagions of this type are real.
Excellent article but I have one minor quibble - the saints Hadley referenced didn’t become saints because of their eating habits but because of actions of sanctity. Catherine of Siena took care of poor sick people, and had a lively correspondence with the pope, urging him to return from the Avignon exile. Now that was real take-chargedness.
Glad we can still call this mental illness vs. they identify as skeletons.
Never underestimate the value of “family dinner“. Start it early, never give it up. Even with kids scheduled sports and afterschool activities, it is one real thing that parents can provide for their kids. Good nutrition, a forum for ideas and opinions, and of course, love for each other.
"Eugenia Cooney, with 689K Instagram followers, is easily the best-known anorexia influencer today. In photos and videos...
........ taken by her mother..............
Cooney poses in costumes—Cowgirl Barbie, Hawaiian princess—that show her skeletal body to maximum effect."
Parents & families are the first line of defense against addiction & mental illness. Sad to see this one right there encouraging it.
I did not know that anorexia has the highest mental illness mortality. Instagram et al know, and clearly they don’t care.
As a man, I find it very sad and confusing to see women do this sort of thing to themselves. I simply don’t understand it.
A lot a men (most men, I would say) like a girl with curves.
The idea of anorexia being a way to stop puberty is not something I had ever thought of but it makes a ton of sense. I had always thought it was only about being thin.
I have to wonder if this new push for “fat liberation” isn’t the same thing, just the other side of the coin. In some corners of the Internet, people look on as women starve themselves. “Here’s my healthy plate with two peanuts on it.” In others, they watch as people eat themselves into an early grave. “Here’s everything I eat in a day as a 400 pound woman.” I understand that social media is neither the direct or singular cause of mental illness, body dysmorphia, and eating disorders, but it surely isn’t helping. I also wonder if any responsibility can be laid at the feet of spectators. Is there a moral obligation to step in in the same way many of us believe we have a moral obligation to stand up against gender affirmation?
With two daughters who suffered from anorexia in their teens this brings back memories and the times that were challenging but showed our family’s strength and love, especially my wife. They were dancers which has always been encouraging of a lithe figure. Both are now in their thirties and doing well. Thanks for the thoughtful and insightful article as it will be helpful for those that are now going through what many of us did in the past.
In my opinion the medieval women are more akin to monks who go on hunger strikes than modern day anorexics. Women protesting arranged marriages using the only lever of power they had. I find no such nobility of cause in modern anorexia which makes it even more horrific and heartbreaking.
Well done writing about this.
My daughter was slightly anorexic for a time it was frightening. I found a way to make my daughter eat by supplying her everyday with pancakes which she found hard to resist! Not a good diet I know but then we kept adding things like fruit or veg. I will never make a pancake ever again it was draining. She is fine now. Luckily I worked at home which is not available to a lot of parents.
Control and fear ... the two operative words that permeate this piece. Girls who fear growing up and girls who want some control in a world where they have little and don't see that changing. That is literally adolescence in a nutshell.
As Mr. Giunta rightly observes in the comments section, there is a lot of overlap with the trans movement. Both involve children who are at war with their bodies.
Anorexia and trans, however, give young people tribes and attention and protection. In the trans case, it also has the noxious reality of having captured the medical system in a Munchausen-like doom loop that enmeshes the mentally ill child with a parent (typically a mother) who now has a tribe with a medical establishment that now has a cause (and a very lucrative forever patient). Can one imagine the medical system not trying to cure an anorexic but rather profiting off of her by cutting her apart, limb by limb, to weigh less? Of course not. That would be monstrous - and malpractice.
Add to all of this the utter stupidity of social media and you have a perfect storm that spreads mental illness like a contagion. Luckily for the author, she lived in a time when the adults around her recognized that she had an illness and treated her for it. Now, most of those adults would profit from it financially, socially, and emotionally in some form because something has changed in the underbelly of our social order. There's a rot there that is difficult to articulate. Perhaps the only hope is to bring it into the light where sunshine acts as an antiseptic. I have less faith this will happen as the trans and anorexic and related illnesses become normalized, fetishized, profitized, and - as with the medieval anorexics - sanctified in the new church of woke.
My best wishes to the author for her continued good health and my thanks for raising awareness through her writing.
As more "women" transition to become "a man", and then reading about female self-harm, it is becoming more and more clear that women , in larger numbers, are expressing a hatred of their own bodies. Why? Is it because of societal or media agitprop? Or is there some deeper reason?