In today’s world, the pursuit of thinness has increased due to the association it has with physical attractiveness and body perfection. Society, particularly the Western culture, idolizes thin body size as the ideal body image. And as a consequence, eating disorders can develop when people take this to the extreme. Scholars have looked at all forms of persuasive tools that can explain the popularity of anorexia nervosa. From language use (Burke, 1966) to the power of culture in terms of presumed knowledge (Dumit, 2003) and its increasing interest in the ideal body image of the Western culture (Vandereycken and van Deth, 1994).
Kenneth Burke’s “Terministic Screens” (1966) uses the metaphor of camera lenses to explain that language and words affect and determine the way we see the world. While Burke introduces two approaches to the nature of language, I want to focus on the “dramatistic” (Burke 44) approach. With the “dramatistic” (Burke 44), Burke argues that since we all possess our own frame of reference or symbols for interpreting the world, words and thoughts can never be objective since their strength relies on interpretations. Symbols then become a kind of screen through which the world is seen and our realities are each unique because of this.
In their article “From Fasting Saints to Anorexic Girls: The History of Self-Starvation” (1994), Walter Vandereycken and Ron van Deth note that anorexia nervosa is not a modern crisis. They claim that this particular eating disorder is in fact embedded in the Western culture. Vandereycken and van Deth argue that voluntary starvation has evolved over time. Both scholars acknowledge that what started off as a starvation for religious ritual to achieve religious piety has now turned into starvation as a way to satisfy the social construct of an ideal physical appearance (Vandereycken and van Deth, 1994).
While it is not associated with eating disorders, Joseph Dumit’s article “Is It Me or My Brain? Depression and Neuroscientific Facts” (2003), the scholar notes the persuasive power that the media have over people through the use of presumed knowledge. According to Dumit these presumed knowledge is what he called “received-facts” (39) or “a prior knowledge” (39). Dumit states that “a prior knowledge” (39) is knowledge in which information is gained through textbooks and other sources that we trust, which he agues are heavily influenced by culture and its association (Dumit, 2003).
All three scholars, however, fail to include the virtual world. This leads me to question how anorexics view their mental illness. The portrayal of anorexia nervosa by the sufferer themselves can be seen in the form of personal blogs. My research question then becomes: what makes pro-ana (pro-anorexia) websites dangerous to victims of eating disorder, regardless of whether or not they have been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa or are recovering from the illness?
To investigate this question, I am using one pro-ana...