Thursday, September 27, 2007

Has the "No Anorexia" Ad Become Pro-Ana Thinspiration?

The nude image of Isabelle Caro, a 27-year-old anorexic, is turning up on billboards all over Italy and spreading like wildfire over the internet. No-l-ita says they launched this campaign to "use advertising as an instrument to promote awareness of social evils." But many fear that while the image may shock most, it will likely be used as a source of "thinspiration" for those who frequent pro-ana websites, MySpace pages and message boards.

How could anyone strive to look like a startling picture of such serious illness? For starters, pro-anas are ill themselves. And they are looking for validation. Over at MamaVISION, there's an interesting debate going on. Shana, from the "post-pro-ana" site We Bite Back (an online community started by a former pro-ana who got tired of looking for thinspiration and decided to get healthy) had this to say:

"people turn to pro-ana because anorexia hurts like hell. and it hurts even more to think that what you are doing is twisted and sick and wrong and abnormal. so if they turn it around, make starvation holy, coveted and an ideal, it makes their illness almost a… talent. it’s a desperate attempt to feel good. and it can work, just very temporarily."

The image is shocking on its own. That's what severe anorexia looks like. Now imagine a girl or young woman who sees this ad and thinks, "I wonder how much she weighs. Do I have more 'fat' on my thighs? How long will it take before my ribs stick out like that?" For some, that's what anorexia feels like.

Fashion Statement: Oliviero Toscani
Why is No-l-ita Offering No-Information for Sufferers?

1 comment:

Sharon said...

Thanks so much for the blog entry mentioning We Bite Back!

The thing this ad really brings into focus is the way that pro-anas view thinspirational images. While the public at large will be disgusted by photos of severely emaciated women, those gripped in the mindset of the disorder will see the images as attractive. Appealing. (Regularly looking at severe thinspo is like staring at a car accident and being unable to look away, only doing so frequently numbs you to it and normalizes it, until it becomes beautiful, appealing and ideal.)

(Imagine if you will seeing emaciation as an ideal and collecting as many images as you can find that represent that twisted ideal, and looking at these images often enough to completely normalize what you see. Suddenly everything above the body type favored looks fat by comparison.

They've made a point of telling her weight in most of the news articles I've read... which would reinforce the trigger effect. There are an estimated one to two million anorexics and bulimics in Italy.

This ad also totally does not not take into account the demographic of men who are turned on by anorexic porn? (There's a whole genre of nude emaciated anorexic erotica out there... there's people who are turned on by the sickest elements of our society.)

The shock value works. I was stunned. I am very tempted to look at the whole thing as a work of art, for it certainly breaks the bounds and grabs your attention to listen to what they are saying. It sparks so many different responses and mixed emotions in me... and it's effective... It would never run in Canada... unless in an art gallery where people go to see images that push the bounds of their understanding. But since the common man or woman in the street isn't spending much time in art galleries these days, billboards grab the attention better. Stick anything on a billboard and people will see it. At least now people are talking about this phenomenon and questioning whether such images should be proliferated.

I don't know why objectifying women is suddenly acceptable just because her body type is not the mainstream ideal. Putting this woman up there and suggesting it's alright because he thinks her hideous is bizarre logic to say the least. Yet this is the same designer who brought us the sometimes visually shocking Benetton ads a few years ago. Here's an older article - note the designer name

This designer is the same as here:

Why are there no media questions as to whether or not this ad campaign would give money to help those currently afflicted with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia? (Not that I expect there would be funds put towards this cause by this designer/fashion company, but it's nice to see people asking the question. If a woman is going to put her body out there for advertising, it would be nice to know it was for a good cause rather than merely for profit.)

This ad campaign is not at all out of place in this designer's portfolio. To quote him from an article in 2002, 'Why does reality make such a big controversy?' he said wearily. 'Traditional advertising pictures are a bunch of lies. What we show is the truth. If people want to censor it, I am sorry.' He went on, 'We are all in a business, and we all have to survive, we are not a charity.' (Would he say similar words about this campaign? That's what I'm wondering...)