If you were around on the interwebs last week the site Skinny Gossip might ring a bell. Last month the site wrote an excessively nasty post criticizing Kate Upton's body (the phrase "squishy brick" was used, among other, ickier descriptors). You might also remember that the site--despite all evidence to the contrary (see: 'Starvation Tip of the Day', Thinspo, any other post)--vehemently denies that they encourage eating disorders or self-harm. No, they say, they're not Pro-Ana. They're Pro-Skinny. All together now: Huh?
According to Skinny Gossip, 'Pro-skinny' is apparently different from Pro-Ana because it's about preferring the "skinny look, but not at the cost of health." However, upon closer inspection of the site, it becomes clear that 'health' is not really the point: The 'skinny look' and lifestyle that the site's owner and readers prefer includes visible collarbones (so-called 'xylophones'), hollowed cheeks, pin-thin legs and, yes, some pretty scary diet and exercise tips--not to mention creepy 'motivational' speeches to encourage weight loss.
What's worse, Skinny Gossip isn't the only site making the distinction between Pro-Skinny and Pro-Ana. Organic Veggie Girl defended Skinny Gossip saying the site wasn't Pro-Ana because the "girls at skinnygossip.com...focus on thinness more as asceticism and beauty and discipline, rather than sickness or trying to starve themselves to death." Fashionista reader and Skinny Gossip member Sofia Sam agrees, commenting on the Kate Upton story: "Skinny Gossip is NOT pro-anorexic." She added that the site is a community for "people who support a skinny lifestyle."
The National Eating Disorders Association, however, begs to differ. "Call it pro-ana or pro-skinny, but the bottom line is that a site actively promoting an obsessive focus on weight loss and engaging in mean-spirited bodysnarking is unhealthy," said Claire Mysko, who manages Proud2Bme, NEDA's new website designed to be a positive alternative to damaging pro-ana, pro-skinny content.
"There is a diverse range of body types in the world and only a small percentage of people who are naturally 'skinny,'" she added. "So if your website is founded on the idea that everyone should be striving to get skinny, the subtext is that most people are going to have to resort to some unhealthy tactics to get there."
Part of Skinny Gossip's credo is that anyone can lose enough weight to fit into their size 00 ideal as long as they're not "lazy" or "undisciplined." But we--and NEDA--are calling bullshit. Bodies are not all the same size and here's the thing: There's no reason why they should be.
Mysko added that "describing weight loss and thinness in the language of 'discipline' is something that many people with eating disorders do."
The scary thing is that by calling itself 'pro-skinny,' Skinny Gossip is allowing its readers to ignore the reality of their unhealthy habits and to operate under the pretense that the behavior and mentality the site is promoting is all perfectly normal.
"By saying you are pro-skinny, you might attract more readers who are reluctant to associate themselves with the eating disorder label, but let's call a spade a spade," Mysko says. "Sites entirely devoted to extolling the supposed virtues of thinness and cutting down others who don't fit that ideal are created and frequented by people who need help."
She added that it isn't only 'pro-skinny' sites that need to be careful when it comes to encouraging eating disordered habits:
"There are many, many sites that claim to promote 'healthy lifestyles.' While they might not be as extreme as pro-ana sites, they are ultimately encouraging a disordered mindset, one that keeps people hyper-focused on the flawed idea that weight loss is the magic key to health, happiness and success."
Of course no such 'magic key' exists--but continuing to bodysnark and/or glorify celebrities/models/whoever based on their body type, like Skinny Gossip does, reinforces the idea that happiness, success, and being loved is just a few pounds away. And that sets us all up for failure--no matter what your size.