Thursday, April 16, 2009

How to express appreciation.

How to express the kind of appreciation I feel in lieu of this research is beyond me. But I am going to try...

I want to share a little bit about my experience online. For those of you who have read all my entries, sorry if this is repeatative ( so - basically, Professor Forte...). In terms of my research methodology, following publicly as 'Beatrice Button' made me really nervous. I was afraid of disrupting and upsetting bloggers. In fact, I know that I have been an upsetting presence for some. But, what I have discovered, and I find this aspect incredibly amazing, is the honesty and openness with which I have been welcomed in this community.
I want to thank all of those bloggers who have commented on my entries, e-mailed messaged me and been helpful in answering my questions. I love when I get comments suggesting I look at a certain book, or read a certian blog, or when there have been corrections on my own interpretations. Thank you for engaging me.

I want to say that this community is deeply moving. I feel torn in a hundred different directions when I start to assess my own feelings on what is happening here. I see a lot of complex relationships that exist in this community. It has inspired me to do more research on the subject and hopefully be active in working in the feild. For those bloggers whose entries I have read through, I commend your honesty and bravery in dealing with such an affliction. I wish you nothing but the best of health in your futures and happiness.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Alot of the future

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the future. Perhaps it is just that time of year. The semester is close to wrapping up in final. I am going to be done my undergraduate career. This blog might take a serious back seat. But it is the future I am still interested in. Where does this leave the rest of the ED online community? How long does one count calories and take unsustainable measures in order to lose weight quickly? How long can this go on? As some members exit new bloggers will enter. And as online communities flourish, where are the new places this community will thrive?

From what I understand Ana is a precarious feature (or dare I say 'creature') in one's life. There seems to be a comfort, a sense of control, in maintaining the behavior. But the cost of ones physical and mental health is great. So where does recovery fit into this picture? How can, or does the blogging community help facilitate healthier eating and body image?

What immediately strikes me is the support on blog comments when someone meets a weight loss goal using unhealthy methods. There is also much encouragement when someone feels down about their body image. I am highly critical that these trends work to help people find outside support when the behavior is normalized and encouraged online.

I am also aware that certain bonds are made online. How does one address the fact that perhaps they have recovered, or are in recovery to the online community? Can one maintain such relationships. It is this exit from the community, to a future without eating disorders that intrigues me. Especially when we consider how this community might interpret such transitions.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Confession, The Chronicle & The Crystallization

I recently had a really interesting conversation with Dr. Marc LaFrance about some authors regarding this topic. Of course when discussing the body and the experience of the body it is hard to ignore Foucault. While I am not a well-read Foucauldian, I feel like I have a strong enough grip on what he is saying from secondary sources to briefly discuss some ideas here. 
As we brought up in class during presentations, there is something verging on the religious about aspects of this community that cannot be ignored. Such undercurrents are not so obvious in the blog community but on some of the sites I visited there is 'Ana's Psalm', 'The 10 commandments', The personification of Ana as someone who 'watches over' as well as Angel imagery. Perhaps this next posit is a stretch, but indulge me:
There is something about blogs and the anonymity of their authors that is similar to the confession. As modern science replaced religion as the institution responsible for the health of citizens, science kept an important religious practice - the confession - replacing the priest with the physician or psychiatrist. Similarly, the blog community includes this 'confessional' practice. From a more functional/ practical perspective this can be read as a way to not only assert one's legitimacy as a member of the group, but alleviate feelings of alienation and work through personal issues with food and eating.
With that said, there is the trend of Chronicling. Using Foucault as a platform, but moving in a different direction, Mark LaFrance introduced me to a useful resource entitled "Foucault goes to Weigh Watchers" by Cressida Heyes. Here she talks about the way that Weight Watchers requires you to 'chronicle' all of your caloric intake and expenditure. There is a handy point system and all. What she pointed out, as a feminist scholar doing an 'experiment' by trying this program, was the unexpected pleasure she got from reaching her WW goals. The result of this program was a textual representation of her body and how she was able to modify and change her weight and figure. Similarly on the blog community there is a tendency for entries to consist solely of, or be introduced by, a chronicle of calories consumed (sometimes what was purged, which does not negate calories - although this is a common misconception) as well as calories expended. Again, we see a self-surveillance, chronicling and textual record of the body from such practices. 
Finally, we might consider another perspective from the feminists. Susan Bordeaux's seminal work "Anorexia Nervosa: Psychopathology as the Crystallization of Culture" talks about how in many ways anorexia and eating disorders more generally hold a mirror up to society to reflect the demands it puts on women. While this certainly is an aspect of anorexia and other eating disorders, such a theory strips women of agency. Surely the confession and chronicling in these blogs communities represent the pressure many women feel to attain a specific body, as well as the obsessive desire and extreme measure they will engage in to achieve this perceived 'perfection' but the ways in which many young women speak of their disorders on these blogs might challenge Bordo's posit. There is no indication that these girls are putting the onus on the media and society. This is a dimension of the eating disorder and an indirect factor, yes, but to reduce behavior to a cultural bottom line seems an oversimplification.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Some Thoughts On The Presentation

I would like to start by saying that I was happy that I had more time to present and I hope that it did not bore anyone. Because this topic is sensitive it was really helpful to have time to preface and outline some of the caveats of this online community as well as discussing Eating Disorders in general.
I would like to address a few things in lieu of my presentation. Firstly, I think that I should give thanks to Owen Wiltshire for encouraging me to use my blog as a way to interact as well as talking to me about blogs and their implications more generally. Thanks Owen!
I also want to say that there is a lot that I did not have a chance to discuss. I felt it was important to introduce the online community and because this is such a detailed task, I did not get to talk about some of the more theoretical aspects of my research, or go into the kind of detail I had hoped about further questions I am developing. I think that Dr. Forte's suggestions that I continue (and expand upon) my interactions in the community will help answer and develop further questions. But, I suppose I should claify. Dr. Forte - do you suggest I expand my research location to include sites outside of blogs (such as livejournal, personal websites, etc?) Or should I continue, focus and cultivate my research on blogging?
In terms of theory, which I did not have much time to talk about, there are a few places from which I am drawing a framework. As I discussed, I am working with J.T. Allen's Thesis entitled "'Pro-Ana' As Negotiating (Dis)Order in Cyberspace: How Women Reproduce, Restructure, And Challeng 'Psy' Discouse" (2006). Her chapter's on Pro-Anorexia & Cyberspace and her concluding chapters on Struggle with Classification and Restructuring Anorexia have been particularly useful in my understanding of this online community.
As well, I have found many resources on NEDIC (they publish a series of informative articles written by healthcare professional) on a range of topics (including online communities).
I am also consulting some literature on the normalization of body dissatisfaction (this text was actually recommended to me by a 'blogger' I am following- thanks!).

The focus of my paper I think will be oriented towards contradictions that I find present in the communities. Such contradictions exist from the very disclaimers many of these websites have: "Do not enter if you don't have an eating disorder" in many ways acts as an invitation.
The contradicting definitions of what 'pro-ana' means is another example of such dissention. Oppositions between medical definitions and pro-ana definitions are also examples. Dr. Forte brought up another intersting point about the 'religious' undertones with a prodominantly secular group of people. As well there is the common theme of extremes: fat and thin, perfection and failure, hunger and satiation, control and chaos.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Body in Space

The Body in Cyberspace VS Real Space.

How does one construct the body in both? Is virtual space a place that we can remake our bodies and construct a conception that is acceptable? In real space, certain bodies are deemed taboo, or disordered, inappropriate or the focus of (un)wanted attention. Here we might consider that cyberspace offers a place in which one can re-construct and re-conceptualize the body.
Jodi Toni Allen's Thesis entitled "Pro-Ana as Negotiating (Dis)order in cyberspace: how women reproduce, restructure, and challenge 'Psy' discourse" (which has been fantastically helpful as a basis of my readings) posits that the Pro-Ana community - as it relates to specific websites such as Cerulean Butterfly and Ana's Underground Grotto (which as far as I can tell no longer exists) - ultimately challenges the labels of 'diseased' and 'disordered' by reclaiming them. Without summarizing, I would like to explicate a key point of her research being that there are linkages to how self-perception and self-presentation online can and does challenge the medical and psychology professional community that gives EDs titles and diagnosis that may have negative impacts.

In 'real' space, we might consider that the body is always constructed and is always social. Anthony Synnott's text "The Body Social: Symbolism, Self and Society" discusses the body in social, real space. As summed up concisely:
...the body has been, and still is, constructed in almost as many ways as there are individuals; it seems to be all things to all people. Thus the body is defined as good or bad; tomb or temple...private or public...a corpse or the self...Any construction of the body, however, is also a construction of the self as embodied; and as such, influences not only how the body is treated but also how life is lived. Some love the body, some hate it; some hide it, some flaunt it; some 'bruise' it (Paul) and others pamper it with 'nice, large pike and good Rhine wine' (Luther)...Indeed implications are immense, affecting virtually all areas of one's life. At present there is no consensus on the meaning of the body and, in a pluralistic society, to consensus can be expected. constructions reflect the values not only of the culture, but also of the sub-culture, and of the specific individuals, and they are ever-changing [sic]. Thus the discourse continues, debating whether and to what degree, and in what ways, the body is tomb or temple, loved or hated, personal or state property, machine or self (Synnott, Anthony. "The Body Social: Symbolism, Self and Society" London: Routledge, 1993. Pg. 37).

These two texts are very helpful in underpinning this project, however, there is much literature on not only the body, but EDs in general, as well cyberspace commuities. I am really working on trying to get a strong theoretical framework form which to assess my reading, interacting and interviews.

As a side note, I am also currently doing some reading on constructions of the 'Tantric body' for a class on Hindu religious practices. That the body is inherently social is also cross-cultural. Here I offer an example from Gavin Flood's text "The Tantric Body: The Sectret Tradition of Hindu Religion" in his discussion of the expectations for the body of the renouncer that has historically influenced the 'tantric body': "The body is a vehicle for a successful life, but only through its strict control and avoidance of impurity and spontaneous desire" (Flood, Gavin. "The Tantric Body: The Sectret Tradition of Hindu Religion" London: I.B. Taurus, 2006. Pg. 40). Here is talking about the ascetic body, and its control, its concern for maintaining purity, controlling impulses and so on. As I was reading about this 'out of context' body, something about this idea really resonated with this project.

Some distinctions that must be made

I want to clarify some details for a few other bloggers that have recently commented on my posts (and, again thank you for your comments). I want to just quickly say though, and apologize, if I have been using the term 'Pro-Ana' incorrectly. I know that this is a term that is contentious, but also has changed throughout the years. When I use 'pro-ana' I have been using it to delineate both those sites that define themselves as such, but also those blogs that use some of the same codes as these sites (such as posting 'thinspiration', talk about tips and diets, posting body measurements in the same way, as well as creating a network of support). I realize, thanks to your blogs and comments, that there is a difference between the blog community and 'pro-ana' community, as it is a space that is not judgemental and somewhere to simply express what you are going through. I can totally appreciate that the two worlds are different. Yet, they share a lot of similar traits... any thoughts?


Friday, April 3, 2009


I have started to follow some bloggers as "Beatrice Button" thus disclosing my position as a 'cyberspace researcher'. I have chosen to follow publicly.

Remember all the difficulty I had gaining access to websites and forums? The blog community is alive and well - and finds me 'interesting'! Amazing! I was so worried about disrupting or upsetting authors, but now I am a part of the discussion and many of my worries as a researcher reading and commenting on these blogs (not as an ED blogger myself) have dissappated. I actually feel quite welcome and therefore not as nervous about is thought of me because of my position as a student researcher.
I am finally feeling like I am really interacting with this community of bloggers. Perhaps a little late in the game, but it is better late than never. Everyone has been really kind, honest and welcoming. Thank you!