Some very interesting things have happened in the last week or so with regards to public perceptions of eating disorders.
Now, I cannot deny the fact that I exercise a very critical perspective to political and media-based outlets of information that is dished out to us every second due to the increased accessibility of internet, wi-fi, and web-based entertainment. Our ideas, thoughts, and souls are essentially plastered up against ideals set before us by these figures. What do we do when a public figure says something that bothers us? How do we feel? Do we let it go? I want to share my own process whereby I was forced to hear something that bothered me and henceforth, feel restricted to even do anything about how I felt.
Last week, singer and reality star Jessica Simpson, was being interviewed by the magazine, “Lucky.” When asked about her clothing designs and how these designs were sized for ‘average women’ she was asked to further explain her choice to be inclusive of larger sized clothing. However, she reacted by saying the following:
“I got so much scrutiny for putting on extra pounds, but I think that the decision not to make myself anorexic was actually great for branding,” she says. “Because when you’re really, really skinny, not everybody can relate to you.” (Lucky, November, 2011).
Upon reading these words, I felt myself become enraged. To hear a public figure state that “eating disorders are a choice” was difficult but also painful. Even though I knew she was incorrect about her statement, I felt defeated. If someone with millions of dollars could use such words haphazardly and have these words published and read by thousands and thousands of people, what hope did I have to change the way things were? To change the current perceptions of eating disorders?
In addition to this naive assertion, she continued to rub salt in the wound by saying those with Anorexia Nervosa have a lonely life simply because no one can relate to ‘them.’
I reacted strongly. I ranted to my office-mates and wanted to erase every part of this interview for fear that it would perpetuate further misunderstandings about Anorexia. As a result, I went directly on to Twitter and tweeted her information about EDOYR and told her (very kindly) that Eating Disorders were by no means a choice. I stated that her words might be hurtful to not just those who were suffering but also the friends, families, and companions of those who are struggling to overcome an eating disorder. As time passed, I waited and wanted a response. Seething, waiting, ready to go, I wanted to talk this out with this person, say it as it was, and hopefully reach some plateau of understanding.
However, it never came. Within 20 minutes, Jessica Simpson tweeted not that she was sorry for her comments that may have affected people who were struggling, but that she was farting 15 times more than an average woman per day.
I still don’t know whether to laugh at that (which I do sometimes) or to continue to feel upset. However, by reading her response, I felt upset not for me, or her, but the larger issue and the larger structures that have failed to inform this individual about disabilities, disorders, and exercising a compassionate heart around these issues.
I don’t think she is evil, but just as every person, whether you are a politician, famous singer, or a struggling student like myself, we have a voice and we also have responsibility. We have responsibility to inform ourselves, and learn from others. We have responsibility to disagree gently. We also have responsibility to be aware not just for ourselves, but our community.
I might not have caught the attention from a public figure in trying to change a public perception, but one thing in which I am grateful for was the ability to be able to type the words I typed and post them on her forum. Did she see them? or Why didn’t she respond? are irrelevant questions. What is relevant is the focus on our action to do something about it — that is the key. The spark that forced us to voice our opinion and defend ourselves amidst oppressive comments such as those from Ms. Simpson.
You have a voice. Use it. You will be very surprised by what you see.
Have a wonderful evening.