UPDATE #2: According to Jezebel, Pinterest banned self-harm boards–i.e., that means you Thinspo boards.
UPDATE: For anyone confused about why I chose a photo of a girl who looks “healthy thin” as opposed to a girl who is “anorexic thin”–I personally didn’t want to encourage pro-ana photos by pointing out a romanticized version of an emaciated girl. Look it up. There are plenty of them on Thinspo Pinterest boards. This photo encourages being strong and skinny in the same sentence. “Skinny” is a body type for young children. The message, “get skinny,” in my book, denotes a mentality of anti-fat. Fat and skinny are extreme words. They’re body types for cartoons–not people. If I were to change the wording of this photo, it would say “be strong and GET HEALTHY.”
When I was 15, I went through a bulimic episode.
I’d gorge myself with all sorts of food, go to the bathroom, stick my finger in my mouth and throw up.
It didn’t matter where I was. Many times I was in front of friends. At the diner after bingeing on French fries. In the bathroom of the Chinese restaurant after chowing down on chow mein. Or sometimes at my house by myself after devouring a bag of Doritos.
A full stomach put me on edge, but fullness also came with emotional safety. Emotional eating comes from a deep self-loathing, yet–in moderation!–it can work as a wonderful retreat. But once the plate is empty and the belly is stretched out, the self-loathing begins. Vomiting was the only solution. The burning bile in my mouth and searing through my nose didn’t stop me. That taste was easily elimnated with a dab of toothpaste. And once the vomiting was over, there was solace. Control. Satisfaction. I could eat and remain skinny.
But the process only worked for so long.
While on vacation with a girlfriend at my grandmother’s in Florida, my bulimia was so out-of-control that I vomited after every meal. My friend broke the secret girlfriend code and called her mother. I heard her crying from the next room. Once she was off the phone, I confronted her. “How could you tell your mother? It’s sooo not a big deal.”
After a teary conversation, I promised her that I wouldn’t vomit again as long as she didn’t tell my mother.
There was more dabbling in and out with the bingeing/vomiting cycle at 17. At that point, I was in a group of in-your-face girlfriends who were brave enough to confront me head on. “Going to the bathroom to puke?” they’d taunt after a plate of French fries. “Hope your finger doesn’t hurt your throat.”
My desire for attention (negative or positive, didn’t matter) was more needy than the bulimia. Needless to say, their needling worked as a sufficient deterrent. Though I had a few episodes here and there, I eventually–thankfully–grew out of it.
I can’t help but wonder what my eating disorder would have looked like in present day, especially with the pressures of Facebook, how girls like Kate Upton classify themselves as “fat,” and most troubling, the Thinspo Tumblrs. (Caroline Gregoire writes about it here in “The Hunger Blogs“).
Though Tumblr has taken a anti self-harm stance just recently by putting a stop to Thinspo blogs, more of these pro-ana (short for pro-anorexia) blogs have popped up on everyone’s favorite sharing site: Pinterest. Hundreds of images of girls with protruding ribs, stick-like legs, sharp collar bones, faint breasts and mostly strive to inspire hordes of anorexic-looking girls to resemble a cocaine-era Kate Moss.
As a teenager with an eating disorder, would I have turned to the Thinspo Pinterest boards? Of course! Thinspo boards create an environment for the sole purpose of supporting each other’s eating disorders. One of the rules: knees and thighs can’t touch. Mottos: don’t eat. When you have an eating disorder, you turn to whoever will give you the thumbs up. If my teenage self stumbled on a Thinspo Pinterest board, I would have discovered affirmation. See, these girls look just like me. Or, worse, I want to look more like them.
Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan, who first wrote about this yesterday, contacted Pinterest to ask about their self-harm policy. Pinterest didn’t return her calls.
Pinterest, if you’re listening, it’s time to start regulating your gold mine. Crafts, photography and decorating inspiration is wonderful–eating disorders are dangerous and terrifying. They have no place on an inspiration-friendly website.