• Thu, Apr 18 2013

These Anti-Anorexia Ads Are Extremely Disturbing

There are a new set of anti-anorexia PSAs by Star Models. They’re disturbing for a few reasons.

Here’s a sample:

you are not a sketch

1) At first glance I did not notice anything unusual about it, and I registered the picture only as, “There is a model in a floral skirt.” I mostly thought about the mechanics of wearing a one sleeve shirt (difficult). It’s bizarre and upsetting to me that my relationship with body image has warped to a point where that is my only immediate response. We are astonishingly used to the media presenting body types that may be very unhealthy, perhaps just because we are so often told that, “Thinner is better.” In making us reconsider that, I think these PSAs are extremely effective. That upset me in a way that was probably good for me to be upset.

2) The tagline is terrible. “Say No To Anorexia?” Few people decide, “I will say yes to anorexia today!” Anorexia is a mental condition that results in a warped perception of your body. The “Say No” slogan implies that you can overcome it with willpower and positive thinking, when, in reality, it is a real condition that can require extensive counseling. It’s not like saying no to drugs. It is not as though, at a party, someone is going to say, “I brought a disease that will destroy your body image. Would you like some?”

Not at most of the parties I go to, anyway.

I suppose you could make an argument that people who frequent pro-ana boards do say yes to anorexia. However, their frequenting those boards strikes me as something that comes about after they have already begun struggling with anorexia.

Basically – saying that people should, “Say No To Anorexia” seems like a terrific oversimplification of a very complicated issue.

What do you think? Do you find these effective? I am genuinely curious.

Picture via Buzzfeed

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  • lucy

    Hmm… This bothers me for many reasons too. For one, even a “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign oversimplifies what can be a complicated issue. This PSA totally puts the onus on the person ‘contemplating’ anorexia, though. Not on the fashion industry that hires models, some of whom are pretty much that thin, our culture that values thinness above everything else, our collective inability to accept the human body (and mind) with all of its beautiful ‘flaws’, or our inability to effectively treat and care for those with anorexia. It is highly offensive, too, that a modeling agency is the name behind the PSA if it is not guaranteeing that no model who is too thin will be hired by them. As far as I know, Ford agency does hire thin models as all the big agencies do. (I could be wrong — not an expert.) Either way, what bothers me the most is that we are still not accepting of mental illnesses and stigmatize those who have them or browbeat them for not making a better “choice”.

    Disclosure: my cousin has dealt with anorexia for well over a decade now.

    • JK

      I think you’re forgetting, anorexia is not a disease of the body, it’s a disease of the mind that has physical implications. It’s not about “thinness” as the ultimate goal, it’s about a quest for perfection, and very often used to numb serious emotional pain / suppress traumatic thoughts. It’s not just a diet people go on that goes out of control. It has nothing to do with “models that are ‘too thin’” (btw, what is “too thin”? Why can’t I say someone is “too fat” without being told I’m being rude, but people can say someone is “too thin” and pretend to be concerned for that individual and “society as a whole”? It’s becoming a ridiculous double standard. I’m an anorexia sufferer myself, and I would never see being fat as the solution. It doesn’t even come close to solving anything. And the fat-acceptance movement these days only makes us feel worse and push us further into isolation. So, in closing, people passing a judgment like “models are ‘too thin’” really hurts, just so you know).

  • Natalie

    I agree, this is like saying “Say no to sexual assault”. As someone who suffered anorexia, I would have looked at this, ignored the message and wanted to look like that girl. It makes it look like being that skinny is glamorous actually, people make sketches of you! Fashion! Stick figures! Wee! Not helpful at all.

    • Fabel

      This is what I thought too—like, don’t these sketches actually make it look pretty? Mightn’t an anorexic sufferer actually see the stick-figure sketch as having a desirable body type? Telling them “you’re not a sketch!” seems…almost, challenge-y maybe, to someone with disordered eating habits & a negative body image?

    • dgj;soguh

      Yup. I’ve been anorexic on and off for most of my life and I’ve been in treatment since I was 17. I just turned 22. This year it came back full-force, and I think that image looks desirable. Like, maybe it’s a TINY bit too skinny, but I would love to look more like that than how I look. I don’t think there’s any anti-eating disorder PSA that someone can make….especially one with a super skinny girl. And it’s definitely almost a challenge to look like a sketch. I don’t think it’s effective at all. It’s so much more complicated than anything you could put on a simple image.

    • JK

      You are very right about this. I’m so sorry you’re still suffering. I totally sympathize (10 years on and off here myself…). The one PSA I thought had an actual impact, because the video was so powerful in how it was put together (even though the true reality of the disease was lost, the emotion was closer than any I’ve seen) was this one: https://mymindmatters.ie/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/anorexia-y-bulimia-247×300.jpg

  • Landry

    anorexia has many factors to it that makes is a hard condition to combat. A great deal of these women (and men) who fight with it have dysmorphia (a condition where their mind doesn’t truthfully see their body as it really is. they may look in the mirror and see themselves 20 lbs heavier than what they really are). I feel that this advertisement is effective because it is putting the 2D sketch into the reality of what it would look like as a real 3D woman. Its making it reality. Its saying blatantly, plain and clear “YOU ARE NOT A SKETCH” for some people, this hits home to actually SEE it. Sometimes the therapists and doctors can tell them everything in the world to help them fight anorexia, but it goes in one ear and out the other. Seeing it come to life of what they think they should look like translated to what it looks like in human form really makes a mark

  • MR

    One guy’s opinion, but I think the question a woman has to ask herself is “am I hurting myself?”. I made the mistake of not understanding it and thinking I was doing good by telling her she should eat. Mistake aside, I think a woman shouldn’t be afraid to like herself, because she’s she and she’s unique, and that makes her beautiful.

  • Lori Nicole Peck

    I think these do make a very good impact, but it needs to be targeted more to the industry that makes the sketches than to the women who try to emulate them.

  • JK

    They’re not effective at all, they’re absolutely fucking stupid. Pardon my language but honestly…I don’t agree with reaction 1) of the writer, but as for 2): YES. You can’t just “say no to anorexia”, that’s got to be the dumbest, most ignorant thing I’ve ever heard. If anything, this just fuels the dumb, one-sided fat-acceptance movement and pushes anorexia and bulimia sufferers further into isolation by blaming the victims and making it seem so easy to say no. If it was that easy, then why do these diseases have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders, and why are they arguably the hardest to treat? I’m sure we’d all love to say no to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, etc. as well. And while we’re at it, let’s say no to cancer too, because that’ll just make it go away, right? By putting a ridiculously stupid photoshopped picture of something totally unrelated to the illness, we’ll magically make it go away by “raising awareness”. Right…totally makes sense. IDIOTS!