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A Culture of Thinness: Negotiated and Oppositional Decoding of Eating Disorder Discourse by Anorectics
Unformatted Document Text:  A Culture of Thinness 7 encourage harmful behavior by: (1) posting tips on how to avoid eating and/or purge food, (2) describing drugs and ‘home remedies’ for weight loss, (3) instructing users how to hide eating disorders from family and friends, and (4) providing pictures of emaciated models as a form of encouragement. The number of these pro eating disorder websites is estimated at over 400, with the participation level of the most popular sites numbering over 1,000 members (Dwyer-Hogg, 2001). Removal from major search engines such as Yahoo and Google has had limited success, as indicated by the growing memberships at the most popular sites (Fox, 2001). The accessible nature of these tertiary texts makes ethnographic audience analysis both feasible and fruitful. While it may be possible to speculate on the reading strategies anorectics apply to texts constructed to discourage eating disorders, it is much more illuminating to follow the actual decoding of these texts through the words of actual anorectics. Pro-eating disorder sites enable this type of analysis by preserving ‘anorectic readings’ of books, magazine articles, television programs, and films dealing with eating disorders. The most popular sites all integrate this eating disorder discourse in some way or another, whether by recommending specific texts for other members of the sub-culture, pulling ‘tips and tricks’ from eating disorder narratives, or even capitalizing on the negative coverage the sites themselves receive in the media. Each type of subversive decoding will be discussed in turn, using text taken from three typical pro-eating disorder sites: BlueDragonfly.Org, RavenRockCandy.Org, and AnaGoddess.Freeservers.Com. Recommended Readings: Oppositional Decoding of Eating Disorder Novels All three websites recommend reading specific novels written about eating disorders by anorectics as a means of ‘thinspiration’ (i.e., inspiration to continue anorectic behavior). The most commonly recommended texts are Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher, Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig, and Room to Grow by Tracey Gold.

Authors: Platt, Carrie Anne.
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A Culture of Thinness
7
encourage harmful behavior by: (1) posting tips on how to avoid eating and/or purge food, (2)
describing drugs and ‘home remedies’ for weight loss, (3) instructing users how to hide eating
disorders from family and friends, and (4) providing pictures of emaciated models as a form of
encouragement. The number of these pro eating disorder websites is estimated at over 400, with
the participation level of the most popular sites numbering over 1,000 members (Dwyer-Hogg,
2001). Removal from major search engines such as Yahoo and Google has had limited success,
as indicated by the growing memberships at the most popular sites (Fox, 2001).
The accessible nature of these tertiary texts makes ethnographic audience analysis both
feasible and fruitful. While it may be possible to speculate on the reading strategies anorectics
apply to texts constructed to discourage eating disorders, it is much more illuminating to follow
the actual decoding of these texts through the words of actual anorectics. Pro-eating disorder
sites enable this type of analysis by preserving ‘anorectic readings’ of books, magazine articles,
television programs, and films dealing with eating disorders. The most popular sites all integrate
this eating disorder discourse in some way or another, whether by recommending specific texts
for other members of the sub-culture, pulling ‘tips and tricks’ from eating disorder narratives, or
even capitalizing on the negative coverage the sites themselves receive in the media. Each type
of subversive decoding will be discussed in turn, using text taken from three typical pro-eating
disorder sites: BlueDragonfly.Org, RavenRockCandy.Org, and AnaGoddess.Freeservers.Com.
Recommended Readings: Oppositional Decoding of Eating Disorder Novels
All three websites recommend reading specific novels written about eating disorders by
anorectics as a means of ‘thinspiration’ (i.e., inspiration to continue anorectic behavior). The
most commonly recommended texts are Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya
Hornbacher, Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig, and Room to Grow by Tracey Gold.


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