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4_Pro-Ana(2) - a ‘1-iliii 94 Cybermedical bodies serve to...

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Unformatted text preview: a ‘1-iliii- ] 94 Cybermedical bodies serve to further pathologize eating disorders (see Rich and Evans 2005). As a result, we might be ‘left with the impression that the problem lies here, in these individual women and the “outrageous” practices that they endorse via the Intemet’ (Dias 2003: 37). Such interpretations tend to reify typical aetiologies of eating disorders that draw upon the ideas that the person is emotionally unbalanced, needy, a perfectionist, desires control or has cognitive distortions (see Cogan 1999: 231).2 Dias (2003) goes on to suggest that many of the voices and experiences of those actually using these sites have tended to be silenced by these sensationalist discourses. While we have no wish to promote discourses which propel individuals towards serious ill health and, in some cases, near-death, one cannot dismiss these spaces as wholly dangerous. The challenge ahead involves an interpreta- tion of these spaces, rather than treating them simplistically as dangerous. In many ways, they are political sites that reveal a great deal about how discourses of gender, technology and the body limit the construction of particular body narratives. Pro-Ana sites may have harmful and negative features, but to assume that such networks are a reflection of a group of troubled young women who Want to harm themselves and others through the promotion of eating disorders would be to oversimplify an extremely complex condition related to the body, health and food. Rather, it is necessary to consider the complex ways that women are making sense of their bodies, health and ‘self’ in these spaces and ask what type of cyberpolitics is invoked. Pro-Ana voices In what follows, we draw on open-access websites to explore the Pro-Ana move— ment in two ways. First, data are taken from a Pro-Ana blog to explore the various ways in which young women are engaging with pro-anorexia. Data extracted from this blog are referenced as: (anonymous user, Pro-Ana blog). Second, we draw upon online debates between Pro—Ana users and other anorec- tics who were critical of Pro-Ana websites. This public dialogue was accessed Via an eating disorders (non-‘Pro-Ana’) support blog. Data extracts from this blog are referenced as: (anonymous user, ED support blog). Following Bruckman (2001), we accessed websites that were publicly archived but did not require a password to gain access. Accordingly, while it was not nec- essary to obtain informed consent, we have removed all the URL links, names and usernames (pseudonyms used when leaving a message) as a way of protecting the confidentiality of the blog and its members.3 We did not join any of these blogs as members, or post any messages, but downloaded and analysed archives from the Pro-Ana site over a six-month period during 2005, and for the eating disorders blog archives over a six-month period in 2003, which featured the Pro-Ana debate. These archives featured messages from a Wide variety of users, some of whom visited the blog regularly. ...
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