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Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
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Monday, February 7, 2011

An Online Community Supporting One Another in their Desires to be Thin: Pro-Ana sites re-emerge

*Trigger Warning

In a recent tweet, former editor of our favorite blog Feministing (and kick-ass feminist icon) Jessica Valenti referenced a blog post by her colleague Natasha Vargas-Cooper at The Daily. This article, entitled "Anorexics are finding 'thinspiration' on the Web" discusses how users on the popular social media site Tumblr have started a community in which they share their sentiments of wanting to be thin. It seems to be that the pro-Ana sites that were an epidemic a few years back (and were even taken off the Web by Yahoo) have taken a more modern twist and re-surfaced.

After reading her article, I took it upon myself to do some investigating of the thinspo community. Having admittedly perused pro-Ana and pro-Mia sites at the height of my own eating disorder, I had an idea of the kinds of things I would see. There was, however, one thing that still shocked me: many of the users posting these thinspirations are just 15 and 16 year-old girls. Vargas-Cooper writes of an e-mail exchange she had with a 17 year-old thinspo blogger and when asked why the new-wave thinspo sites are different than the pro-Ana sites that were popular nearly a decade ago, her response was that they, "eat fruits and veggies and foods that have nutrients and also aid with weight loss." This young blogger was also quoted as believing that "food is meant to be for survival, not for pleasure" and that she is "just like every other girl, except I'm public about my goal to be thin."

She is certainly not alone; each day, hundreds of Tumblr users post pictures of rail-thin models, tips on how to control hunger and cravings, and even their own statistics such as current weight, goal weight, and a breakdown of everything they have eaten that day. It is clear that social media sites are capable of doing a lot of harm and this is just another example of how people, especially young women, are willing to share personal information and reveal secrets they would not otherwise want to when they are hiding behind the computer screen. Thinspiration posts and pro-Ana/Mia sites are especially harmful to sufferers of eating disorders because while they are able to see that they are not alone in their struggle, it is so much easier for them to share what they know with other suffers and further reinforce the harmful behaviors they are practicing.

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