I was having a wee look at Lesley Kinzel’s Two Whole Cakes blog (previously Fatshionista) because I like what she writes although I often feel a little left out of this whole fat politics thing as I sometimes feel not quite fat enough or angry enough to really join in – if I keep eating banoffee pie for breakfast, that’ll change. Nonetheless, this is a great blog and, likewise, an excellent post, as ever, with some interesting comments.
She was making a point about Joy Nash (of youtube Fat Rant fame) who just posted a video entitled Vomit Stix…
Predictably, people took offence and felt that she was poking fun at eating disorders (comments included “Fuck you for making fun of an eating disorder. Surely you can share empowerment without mocking other people’s problems… Unsubscribing (as if you care, but, I am).”).
Having watched the video itself, I can see that without watching her previous video, you might think it was a direct dig at bulimia sufferers. However, if you see her preceding vid about amputation being a serious option for successful weight loss you might be more likely understand it as a satire of the dieting industry’s unscrupulous tendency sell the public dangerous products on the promise that they’ll make you lose weight. I felt it was a comment on the fact that, if the dieting industry thought they could get away with selling people bulimia as a weight loss plan, they would!
Nonetheless, it still raises an interesting point about the almost sacred position held by eating disorders – under no circumstances is it ok to make a joke about eating disorders. Fat people, yes, eating disorders no. But let’s not forget that anorexia and bulimia are not the only eating disorders – compulsive eating and binge eating disorder are also recognised eating disorders. But, wait a minute, one of the symptoms frequently associated with suffering from compulsive eating is being… fat! So, to all intents and purposes, making fun of a fat person could be making fun of someone with an eating disorder. So, generally, it’s ok to make fun of someone who might have an eating disorder, so long as they’re fat? Hmmm….
As with all sensitive topics, it’s almost impossible to discuss them without people getting offended, but that’s not a good reason to not discuss them. If we’re going to protect eating disorder sufferers from being offended about their eating disorder, then we should include all eating disorders. I wondered in my show, The Biscuit Chronicles, why it was that anorexia and bulimia are the ‘flagship’ eating disorders – why is it that we don’t hear much about compulsive eating and binge eating disorder? Obviously, I was shot down in flames for being offensive to people who suffer from eating disorders, but I thought carefully about everything I was saying and decided to persevere – I had a point to make that I felt was important and not offensive, if people could delay getting offended long enough to hear what I was saying.
I was looking at why it is that when someone says ‘eating disorder’ people automatically think anorexia, bulimia, purging and looking dangerously thin. Perhaps it because anorexia is an horrific disease that has one of the highest death rate of any psychological disorder and can quickly cause fatalities whereas compulsive eaters tend to die more slowly of complications of being overweight, look cuddly rather than like they’re suffering and fail to attain the physical ideal? Perhaps in a society that is confusedly looking at thinness and seeing beauty/success, even deathly thinness engenders a kind of admiration, however guilty and secret? Perhaps it’s because of the imagined moral failures of fatness against the supposed purity of thinness and fasting (religious overtones of bodily urges and appetites being associated with sin whereas mental triumph over the body is supposedly really splendid)? Or perhaps it because against the backdrop of a nation of compulsive eaters, only the anorexia and bulimia suffers stand out as novel? It must be hard to see compulsive eaters to diagnose them when compulsive eating has become the norm. Not normal (!), but the norm. Seriously, it was hard to find stats for compulsive eaters in the UK – maybe it’s because we don’t know?
If a person eats too little, knowingly, to the point that it is detrimental to their health, they have a mental health problem and receive psychological help and therapy. If a person eats too much, knowingly, to the point that it is detrimental to their health, they are greedy and must go on a diet. Moreover, it’s their fault. Why is that?