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Rights language sounds a lot like anorexia

Emma blogs about the dilemmas involved in force-feeding an anorexic.

A rights-based culture finds these issues almost impossible.  Can we really violate a person's sovereign sphere and force them to eat against their own free will!?

It made me think of John Stuart Mill's account of freedom in On Liberty:

In the part [of the conduct of an individual] which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of course, of right, absolute.  Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

How on earth could Mill ever get a girl to eat?  In fact his words sound exactly like the motto of a pro-ana website!

And people wonder why anorexia is such a western phenomenon!

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5 thoughts on “Rights language sounds a lot like anorexia

  1. denise

    it's not a western phenomenon!! have you ever seen a fat asian girl??! in my secondary school cafeteria (it was a girls' school) they had to ask us if we wanted rice with our meals because so many girls just preferred to eat vegetables without rice... and there were so many anorexic gymnasts they threatened to close the sports club down...

  2. Glen

    Wow! Thanks Denise, yes that was a crude generalisation.

    Obviously eating disorders are global and ancient. The fall was an eating disorder after all. I wonder - if you ask for the *reasons* that different peoples choose to restrict food intake - whether you'd get quite different answers. In some cultures it would be very religiously framed. In others it might be about body image. In others it would be an assertion of strong-willed autonomy.

    I wonder then - modifying my original broadside! - whether the pro-ana version of anorexia is a particularly western thing?

    And that this is not so much because of 'a media saturated in images of thin girls' but much more because of a certain conception of autonomy.

  3. Anna

    Anorexia and other eating disorders may also be a symptom of a wounding, devaluation and distortion of one's humanity, of disrespect/disregard of one's personhood, of the violation or trespass of boundaries (the sacred boundaries set by God) resulting in an anger, rebellion, rage reaction to being depersonalized and trespassed upon.

    A person's body image can be distorted because the image of God is distorted in their minds - both by sins against them, wrong modeling/teaching and the spiritual, mental and physical consequences of that, the person's own sins (vengeance, acting out) and his/her sinful/harmful/maladaptive inner reaction (addiction, unhealthy thoughts/beliefs, relational difficulties) to the original sin (which may in turn harm others connected to us).

    Sin can be translated as harm and has a metastasizing, snowball, ripple effect.

  4. denise

    Sorry I didn't mean to put so many exclamation marks.(!!!) But yes reasons for anorexia must be very different, and it seems quite likely to me that this whole thing about autonomy and individualism is quite Western, as you have said!

  5. Heather

    I wonder then – modifying my original broadside! – whether the pro-ana version of anorexia is a particularly western thing?

    It seems to me that "pro-ana" is a spiritually driven mindset that resembles all other self-destructive behaviors we engage when we look for answers anywhere other than Christ.

    For some reason, your statement brought to mind:

    Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things,
    therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you. Deuteronomy 28:47-48

    And that this is not so much because of ‘a media saturated in images of thin girls’ but much more because of a certain conception of autonomy.

    The media doesn't help, for sure. It's kind of like living in a pagan temple with all of it's attending sculptures and paintings and worship practices.
    I suppose you could frame the question as to whether "art" creates reality or simply mimics it...

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