A prevention picture is (not) worth 1000 words
As a knitter and crocheter and generally crafty-ish person, I love Pinterest. Since many of my friends are associated with the ED community, I also get plenty of ED-related stuff in my Pinterest feed. Some of the inspirational stuff I like, some of it just kind of goes in one ear and out the other. It gets drowned out by all the knitting patterns I need to try.
Now that it’s ED Awareness Week, the amount of ED infographics and images on Pinterest and elsewhere has exploded like you wouldn’t believe.
Secret: I love infographics. I did graphic design on my college newspaper (it was a really small staff, so I did the writing, editing, and layout of my section each week), and I enjoy thinking about how to present information visually. So I don’t object to infographics in and of themselves. The problem is the content of these infographics and images.
I have two that I’ve seen shared repeatedly that I kind of wanted to dissect here.
Here’s the thing: the top 2/3 of the graphic has NOTHING to do with EDs. It’s about dieting and body image. That’s not an eating disorder. It’s like saying you know what it’s like to be decapitated because you got a few paper cuts in college. NOT THE SAME THING. And so much of the information being circulated for Awareness Week just focuses on dieting and body image. Save that stuff for National No-Diet Day or Positive Body Image Week.
Here’s another one:
Again, nearly half the list has to do with dieting. And it kind of contradicts itself. The second point says that anorexia is 50-80% determined by genetics (which isn’t exactly an accurate way of putting it, but still) and then it goes on to talk about dieting and body image. It’s like “celebrating” depression awareness week by playing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
After having several conversations with people about this yesterday and today, both on email, Twitter, and in blog comments, ED Awareness Week irritates me because (I can’t believe I’m saying this) it seems so damn pointless. Yes, there are lots of opportunities for people to share their truths, and SING IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS, PEOPLE! But “awareness weeks” seem to be more about campy ways of patting each other on the back and preaching to the choir than actually making a difference.
We avoid the hard issues: people who are dying because they can’t access care, people who are having to crowd-fund live-saving medical treatment because there aren’t enough beds, treatment centers who kick people out for having the bad fortune to struggle during treatment. People who don’t get diagnosed because they don’t “look like” who we think would have an eating disorder. People who receive abysmal treatment, families who are torn apart, providers who should know better. The fact that treatment costs a literal fortune. The fact that physicians have nearly no training in EDs, and psychologists who are still learning the old tripe that EDs are about controlling mothers.
We should be pissed off. We should be doing something.
It’s not the kind of thing that lends itself to nice Pinterest-friendly infographics. It’s an ugly truth. It’s still the truth. We will have to risk offending some of the groups that donate money. Websites will have to be rewritten, content modified, education received. It’s inconvenient. Well ain’t that just too fricken’ bad. People are DYING and all we can do is make pretty pictures and talk about how we should love our bodies? That’s it? That’s the best we can do?
As Tetyana from Science of EDs commented this morning:
I don’t think I ever liked EDAW. And now, running the SEDs blog, people seem to assume I am interested in raising awareness about EDs. But the thing is: Everyone is already aware of eating disorders. Who doesn’t know what eating disorders are? (Excluding you know, newly arrived immigrants or something.)
We don’t need more awareness. We need more education. And the best way to educate people is through targeted education: Not just putting posters up, giving out pamphlets or pinning pretty pictures on Pinterest. It is about going to medical school classes and nursing schools and talking about the REALITY of eating disorders.
We can’t educate everyone all at once. Why not allocate our resources wisely?