Pro-Ana Websites: The Ethical Contradictions

In “The Bioethics of Cybermedicalization” the authors mention how individuals’ (young women, as they pointedly identify) choices to live with their untreated eating disorders can be perceived as a lifestyle choice. Miah and Rich then outline the ethical problems that come into play, such as whether or not certain cases can be justified in favour of medical intervention, and also, whether or not these individuals are competent in their judgments and lifestyle decisions. The essay uses the general example of pro-ana websites to examine the moral and ethical issues that arise with bioethics, and how they are translated online.

With the purpose of exploring this topic, I visited various pro-ana sites. Most of these sites established in their introductions or welcome pages that they were not promoting eating disorders. Many also restricted access to their forums and chat rooms to only those who had eating disorders and met age requirements. One site (http://pro-ana-nation.com/) issued a warning that you must be 18 years or older to enter their site. Although I am 19, I recoiled from going any further because I was wary of what kind of content I would be exposed to. Other sites, such as Pro Ana Online (http://proanaonline.com/), advertise that it is not a pro anorexia site, but that it exists “to offer a community to those with eating disorders”. Pro Ana Online also states that it does not offer diet or weight loss tips.

However, I noticed that this site, and many others like it, seemed to be embedded with ethical contradictions. For instance, despite Pro Ana Online’s assertion that they are not promoting anorexia, on its page of links it lists a number of other sites and blogs that seemingly do. This includes Thinspo links (http://thinspox.tumblr.com/, http://thinspox.tumblr.com/) which are blogs that provide “thinspiration” through photos. What I noted was that these thinspiration sites, as well as Pro Ana Online, warn that they are “trigger sites”, meaning that they could impede the progress of someone working towards recovery from an eating disorder. To me, all of these warnings and labels are confusing and misleading. If these sites are confirming their roles as triggering, can this role be viewed as supplementing the promotion of eating disorders? Additionally, do you think that pro-ana sites may be a “productive aspect of the recovery process” (213) as Miah and Rich ask us to reflect upon in their essay?

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4 Comments

  1. rcl12’s done some good research here. It demonstrates how undefined and uncertain these categories are. There’s a lot at stake here: self-identification, questions of sexuality, and questions of health. The benefit of online discourse here is that it gives a voice and presence to an issue that existed before, but went more unnoticed. The downside is that the online presence may then be pushing the discussion into unwanted or dangerous areas.
    –MH

  2. I think that you raise an extremely important arguement that Miah and Rich did not truly exand on. Pro-Ana websites are laced with contradictions. The developers state that “it is not the intent” to encourage anorexia, but also there is freedom of speech. Within anorexia and eating disorders, even people who have pretty much recovered and are talking about what they used to do and how it ruined there lives, those with the disorder can see this as “look how much weight she lost” and try those things regardless of the warnings. If in such a case as that it can go wrong, then the fact that so much of pro-ana websites are full of people trying to help each other lose weight is a scary prospect.

  3. I think it also should be considered that the internet is a place where both the positive and negative come out for every topic and every situation. Just as nealgibson had pointed out, the internet give voice and presence to issues, both sides of the issue.

    It is easy to say that we should stop this from happening. But with surveillance comes the issue of what can be defined right and wrong.

    In the presentation, we discussed the two perspectives when looking at issues in cyberspace. And from our discussion in class, it is difficult to decide which method is more effective. I think for the sake of simplicity, it is easiest to say that everyone has the choice to access whatever they want to. Really, their decisions affect their life.

  4. […] Pro-Ana Websites: The Ethical Contradictions (engl293introtodigitalmedia.wordpress.com) […]


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