During the early hours of Sunday morning (3:30am to be precise) – after celebrating a friend’s 21st and trying to sort our taxi’s – I received the nasty side effect of a girl’s over-consumption of alcohol. When I walked away, (as overheard by the friends I was with at the time), the girl shouted: “Shut up you Anorexic B*tch”
It’s been on my mind ever since. (Especially taking into account that I am confidently a healthy size). I spoke with a close friend at college about it and we decided it wasn’t a comment to overlook. I then persisted to gather the opinions of others as to the seriousness of such a remark and decided to collate them for your reading:
“Calling somebody ‘anorexic’ is not the same as calling someone ‘skinny’ or ‘thin’ or ‘slim’ and A) If you had anorexia, that could relapse you B) You wouldn’t use any other type of mental health as an insult, but because anorexia is linked to body image we think it’s ok to say it.”
“People don’t understand that mental health is the same as a physical illness/impairment because it is. If someone said “shut up you cancerous b*tch” – there would be an uproar. Anorexia is something to do with identity and what we see and people think that’s excusable. It’s really sad.”
“What was going on in her head for that to be the thing that came quickest to her mind to insult you? I think it goes much deeper into what is going through girls mind in society today. Anorexia and other mental illnesses are so misunderstood that people can think it’s okay to call a stranger out for having an eating disorder. The bible says whatever comes out of our lips is a reflection of our heart, I think that girl, drunk or not, is struggling with something deep in her heart and can’t express it because of societal misunderstanding.”
“There’s an objectification – anorexia is a medical term. Skinny is subjective – anorexia is objective, it’s fact. It could be seen as adding weight to an insult. Plus, they’re removing themselves from the blame.”
“As a ‘reformed’ anorexic I felt physical repulsion at the use of the two words together.
I never set out to be anorexic, it took complete control of my mind. I ended up completely depressed, homeless, friendless and ostracised by community.
I was skeletal and hid my bone protruding frame away from a society under baggy clothes not wanting to be noticed by a world that did not recognise my fear and pain.
I felt so dejected, lonely and unlovable that I think someone shouting anorexic bitch would have sent me into a spiral of devastating proportion. Attaching this to the word b*tch even now causes my belly to churn and the feeling of anxiety rising up within me.
Please do not ever ever use this word to lash out at any individual. You do not know our past. You do not know what we have had to go through to get to this stage of survival.
Firstly, turn the mirror round and take a good look at yourself.”
“It saddens me that the instant reaction of a girl to insult someone contains the word anorexia – drunk or not, this is no excuse. There has to be a huge blip in society in regards to anorexia, amongst other mental illnesses. It would appear to me that the girl has underlying confidence issues to even throw that word at someone, and a clear lack of understanding of the illness. I have never come across anyone using these words against someone, and now that I have, there are clearly major issues within our society and people need to be educated.”
“When the individual paired ‘anorexic’ with ‘b*tch’ it effectively displays a social condition where mental illness is still worryingly stigmatised and reduced to surface values. ‘B*tch’, has become a popular derogatory word used to insult women universally and is often used to cement practically any perceived flaw ‘domineering b*tch’, ‘stupid b*tch’ ‘skinny b*tch’, ‘fat b*tch’. Seeing ‘anorexic’ paired with ‘b*tch’ raises SO many worrying implications that it’s impossible to cover them all. Following a word with ‘b*tch’ immediately defines the word it follows as an insult, a negative. While ‘b*tch’ itself is also problematic because being etymologically the word for a FEMALE dog, it is a word that specifically targets women. Therefore when any insult uses the word ‘b*tch’, it automatically plays into the oppression and degradation of ALL women.”
“When I stood and heard what she said I couldn’t get my words out because of how shocked I was. I feel like there’s a deeper issue in terms of girls’ insecurities and this level of ‘competition’ to be a certain way and look the best doing it. It’s a pressure forced upon society – and men suffer too. There’s a huge emphasis in society on being a certain way and shouting words out such as ‘anorexic’ is extremely damaging.”
It seems I have very wise friends.
What she said was not ok. But I can’t let it capture my mind and my heart. What I can instead do is look at what this suggests about society today and try to change it – whether in some small way (like this blog post) or perhaps big (hmmm…)?
We need to think about the stigma related to mental health.
We need to think about the pressures on men AND women in our society.
We need to think about how we so easily judge a book by it’s cover.
Maybe it’s time we stopped ‘thinking’ and actually acted on these issues?
The words we use can mean the difference between relapse and restoration. They can destroy or they can build up. They can cut or they can love. Choose wisely.
What are you going to do differently?
(Jessie is a new associate in our growing network of emerging world changers addressing this GEN issues.)
Article as originally published on Jessie Faerber’s Blosgspot