Fun fact (okay, it’s not a fun fact at all, it’s just a fact): eating disorders are not a “rich young white girl’s problem.” They are not a “first world problem.” They are a human problem. Not that you’d ever know that by looking at the media’s representation of EDs.
Imagine in your mind the typical story the media puts out there about eating disorder diagnoses, struggles, and recoveries. Close your eyes and think about it for a second. Did it look a little like this?
- Young (certainly not over thirty, because my God), upper-middle-class straight cis white woman develops an eating disorder to cope with some traumatic event in her past. The ED is anorexia.
- After an intervention from loving family members, the woman enters residential treatment.
- Several months later, she emerges 98% recovered and ready to make a difference in the world.
Now, I’m not saying that these stories don’t have value. They do. They are serious struggles that need to be addressed. I’m a young middle-class straight cis white woman recovering from anorexia, for crying out loud. Those stories happen.
But are they the only stories?
When’s the last time you remember hearing an ED memoir with the protagonist suffering from bulimia? How about binge eating disorder or OSFED (Other Specified Eating or Feeding Disorder, what the DSM used to call EDNOS)?
How many stories out there are told by women of color? Not enough, if the #EatingDisordersAreForWhiteWomen hashtag is anything to go by.
What about middle-aged or older women?
What about the 10% of men (at the absolute bare minimum) with some form of disordered eating?
What about LGBTQ folks?
What about people who choose not to pursue residential treatment? Are their stories “not bad enough” or “not serious enough” for mainstream acceptance? (Hint: the answer is NO.)
We’ve talked here before about the importance of representation. If eating disorders are pigeonholed as a problem affecting only one tiny segment of the population, how is that going to affect how willing people are to seek treatment? How does that further myths that a huge segment of the population’s experiences don’t matter? How does that make people feel who, already struggling with serious physical and mental health issues, are told by the media that they’re not “sick enough” or “thin enough” or “white enough” to have an eating disorder?
It needs to stop.
The ever-fabulous Melissa Fabello (who I’ve worked with and sung the praises of before, if you remember) is teaming up with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to bring you Untold Truths: The Marginalized Voices Project. In its own words:
The Marginalized Voices Project is a collaboration between the National Eating Disorders Association and feminist activist and editor of Everyday Feminism, Melissa A. Fabello. Together, we’re calling for stories that focus on underrepresented experiences and communities in order to create a platform for people to share what it means to suffer (and recover) from an eating disorder.
Our goal is to create a collection of stories that tells the whole truth – by spanning the entire spectrum, highlighting stories from people of marginalized identities and that challenge misconceptions – so that we can present the world with what the reality of most eating disorders look like.
Interested in sharing your story? Know someone else who might be? Visit this link for more information. Basic guidelines include:
- Personal narrative, creative nonfiction, or memoir-style
- Between 1,500 and 2,500 words
- Deadline is August 15th, 2014
Share this movement far and wide, and let’s break down ED myths and misrepresentations together.