A lot of the replies to this post pissed me off. I understand that MeMe Roth is obnoxious. I agree that she really should shut the fuck up about Jordin’s hips and stop pathologizing larger people–let alone our ability to (occasionally, thanks to people like MeMe) see larger people on television. I am also aware that social treatment of fat bodies can’t quite be compared to social controls of all bodies. I recognize that fat people are subjected to disgust and dehumanization that thin people largely avoid. I would argue that anorexia has been both stigmatized and sensationalized as a girl disease for stupid girls, but this is not the same as the revulsion attached to fat bodies or quite the same as the way fatphobia dovetails so neatly with sexism.
“Anorexic” is not slang. It’s an actual disorder with real parameters, like clinical depression. It is not synonymous with being thin, even extremely thin. It’s not synonymous with seeming emaciated or too thin, or with looking undernourished or ill. It isn’t even quite the same as being overly concerned with how much people weigh, or expressing hatred of fat or fat people. I’m not sure that it can be extended to all people with hypervigilant exercise or dietary regimens. (I should note that all of these things can be signs of the disease in individuals, when family and friends notice them; it is, however, also true that many sufferers exhibit none of these symptoms.) It’s a very serious problem, even a life-threatening one. And it is a problem not only–perhaps not even primarily–because of the way it damages the sufferer’s body, but because of the way it damages the sufferer’s life. Its gravity is not due to its tendency to make sufferers look all starved and gross.
I’m far more comfortable, however, with speculating about the breadth of “anorexia” and “eating-disorder” in general than any attempt to apply those labels to any given person. Particularly if all you know is that she’s skinny and obnoxious, and particularly if the terms you’re really searching for are beanpole and bitch.
Calling someone anorexic in the absence of actual knowledge of her circumstances or specific information about her relationship with her body is kind of like calling someone an “aspie” because you think they act weird online, or calling the President autistic because he’s incredibly callous and incredibly awkward. It’s kind of like speculating about Jordin’s health with no measurement but her dress size. I really don’t agree with R. Mildred’s take on this, or with her willingness to diagnose Roth in absentia. If insulting other women for their weight is an indication of anorexia, the disease is a hell of a lot more prevalent than anyone has yet speculated. Is Roeper anorexic?
This sort of pop-pathologizing trivializes a real disease, both by obscuring its specific qualities and by turning it into an insult. (And on that note, insulting someone for having an unlovely body in either direction really isn’t incompatible with the kind of mindset that literally embodies self-hatred.) It alienates people who’ve struggled with those diseases, in much the same way that fat-shaming does for fat people who are sick and tired of baseless and simplistic assertions about their cardiovascular health. It’s an inaccurate frame for a problem whose complexity feminists and anti-fatphobia activists should be underlining, not ignoring.
Plus, it forces me to defend the dignity of MeMe freakin’ Roth.