“And, what’s more, this ‘precious’ body, the very same that is hooted and honked at, demeaned both in daily life as well as in ever existing form of media, harassed, molested, raped, and, if all that wasn’t enough, is forever poked and prodded and weighed and constantly wrong for eating too much, eating too little, a million details which all point to the solitary girl, to EVERY solitary girl, and say: Destroy yourself.”
― Emilie Autumn, The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls
I love a good joke as much as the next person and I handle most things in my life with a large dose of humor. I remember sitting with my cousins after our grandmother’s death, healing by telling our favorite funny stories about growing up with her. I feel as though humor can take the edge off of a situation and move us towards a place of healing. There are some situations, however, where I feel humor only serves to humiliate and degrade. I feel as though this culture, as a world culture not just as an American culture, is rather insensitive. When we don’t understand something, can’t relate to something or don’t want to admit something is true, what do we do? We mock it, we stigmatize those who deal with it, we ridicule, we reject, we stereotype, we label, we fear and we condemn it. Well, I’m sorry, but I am tired of that. I’m going to use my voice (albeit in wordpress form) to stand up for those with eating disorders and mental illnesses. I want society to know it is not funny, nor is it acceptable, to demean those with eating disorders. We are not the butt of jokes, we are not a tribe to be outcast and we are not crazy. We are, in fact, HUMAN and deserve to be treated as such.
Here is what I mean:
- In the new “comedy” The New Normal, a woman named Goldie is serving as a surrogate to a gay couple. Ok, normal enough, no problem. But, she also has a pregnancy craving that repulses one of the men…cheeseburgers. When he walked into the house and found her eating a cheeseburger, he proclaims, “I hope you’re bulimic so that [the cheeseburger] doesn’t get to our baby!” Seriously? He wants the woman carrying his child to suffer with a disease that can kill her? He wants her to go through the physical and emotional pain of an ED so that his baby does not gain the caloric fuel from a cheeseburger? And, if it was supposed to be a joke, what is so funny about wishing someone was bulimic? Since when is it ok, solely for humor’s sake, to wish a life-threatening disease on someone? What makes it so humorous to joke about EDs? All this did was further the cultural perception that we should negate the seriousness of EDs and turn them into some sort of laughingstock, so we can all feel better about ourselves.
- This is not a new trend, however. In 1995, an episode of Seinfeld hinged upon the running joke that George thought his girlfriend was bulimic. He spent most of the episode thinking of Wile E Coyote ways to trap her during a purge episode. The Seinfeld gang turns it into a big joke, getting Kramer’s mother to spy on the girlfriend in the bathroom. George is only concerned about buying food that she is going to purge, not about her health or wellbeing—not that she has a disease that can kill her. His only concern is his wallet. How have we gotten to a place in society that we value money more than the health of a loved one?
- Not to be outdone, everyone’s favorite, America’s Next Top Model, a show that has seen its fair share of eating disordered contestants, did a photo shoot in which each contestant was to portray a different “model stereotype”. Ok, so fun little shoots, right? NO! They used this as an opportunity to glamorize and editorialize eating disorders by making one model represent anorexia and then continue the degradation by having her twin sister represent bulimia. In what world is it EVER appropriate to glamorize eating disorders? What is so glamorous about starving, puking, hair loss, decaying teeth, esophageal tears, heart problems, passing out, constant fear, being cold all the time, dizziness, depression, cuts on your hand from violently shoving your hand down your throat, ulcers, constipation, feeding tubes, amenorrhea, osteoporosis, weakening of the immune system, memory loss, tooth loss, muscle disintegration, lanugo, brain atrophy, and death? Nothing. There are absolutely NO positives associated with EDs. None. Why do we allow ourselves to live in a society where sickness and disease are alluring and high fashion? Health should be trending, not disease.
- Three more quick things…
- Saturday Night Live had Calista Flockhart (at least I think it was her, I was very young at the time) deliver a monologue about how people are worried that she is too thin and that she should eat more (little did they know she had an ED). She proceeded to lift up her shirt revealing a molded plastic stomach that showed various foods, point them out and insist that she eats. Yeah, because having someone poke fun at their own eating disorder for ratings is a wonderful idea (NOT)
- And then we have the sweet little Disney program “Shake it Up” which follows two young friends who star in a local dance tv show. At a party, the girls are told by an adult partygoer about their cuteness, “I could just eat you up—if I ate.” Fortunately, Demi Lovato (whose courage to speak out against EDs I greatly admire) bravely took to Twitter to get that offensive garbage off the air. Why do we need to teach our children about body loathing and eating disorders when we can teach them to embrace who they are, what they have to offer and to love themselves?
- The Biggest Loser, Extreme Makeover, Fat Camp, Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition, the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, America’s Next Top Model, Bratz dolls/Barbie dolls, and all the other messages we are sending to children that they aren’t good enough as they are—that they must conform or become shunned from today’s society.
In summation, I am horrified that I live in a world where we have become so inconsiderate and unsympathetic to those around us that we feel it is perfectly acceptable to mock those who aren’t what society has deemed “normal”. I am saddened that children have to grow up in a world where they feel that they have to fit in or run the risk of being stigmatized or rejected for who they are. Eating Disorders are not a laughing matter; they are potentially fatal diseases that need to be treated seriously. Eating Disorders are not a choice, nor are they easy to recover from. People have this misconception that if we eat, we’re recovered; or that if we stop purging, we’re recovered…and that’s simply not true. Eating Disorders are life-long diseases that linger in the mind even when symptoms and behaviors aren’t present. Every day is a struggle to remain on the path to recovery. Every day we must eat, we must keep it down and we must not complain…meanwhile, our brain is yelling at us that we are fat, that we don’t deserve food, that we’ve eaten too much…whatever the hell it decides to insult us with that day. It is like a little voice, nagging in the back of our heads trying every minute of every day to convince us that we are not worthy; that we’re not worthy of love, not worthy of food, not worthy of life. If you had to go through this every day, I’m sure you would find it majorly offensive if someone were to mock your condition, to exclude you as a productive member of society, to label you as a fuck up. I just want everyone to be cognizant of what they’re saying and how that may affect those around them. I’m not asking you to never make a joke again. I’m not telling you that you have to filter everything you say. But, what I am telling you, is that it is not ok to exploit eating disorders for humor.