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a question of moderation September 7, 2006

Posted by Winter in admin, body politics.

If you moderate the comments on your blog, would you publish pro-anorexia comments or would you censor them out?

Because we write about body image issues quite a lot here, we occasionally get pro-ana and fat phobic comments and, thus far, I’ve been inclined to hit delete. As an ex-anorexic, ex-bulemic woman struggling, and sometimes failing, to get over my own eating distress, I make absolutely no pretence to any objectivity on this issue. I don’t believe that I could say anything to change the mind of someone who thinks anorexia is a positive life choice but sometimes, though, I do wonder if we should engage the opinions.

So, should we publish the comments in the interests of free debate, or do we censor them because we think they’re dangerous and know that they could be triggering for other readers experiencing eating distress. Do we have a responsibility not to publish such comments?

If so, we need to alter the discussion rules accordingly.



1. Melinda Casino - September 7, 2006

I didn’t know there *were* pro-anorexic positions people were espousing, and I have to say, this knowledge has not enriched my morning.

However, I can’t stick my head in the sand now. But that doesn’t mean I want to hear the pro side in the interests of a fair and balanced debate.

I vote no.

(Do we want to hear the “pro-rape” side? Or the “pro-wife-beating” side? How would this help us, as feminists? How would this add value to this blog, which is a source of feminist community and information?)

2. EL - September 7, 2006

I think it’s up to your gut, no pun intended. I think comments moderation is a very personal ethical dilemma for a blogger, not one that can be uptaken by the readership, however they may weigh in. It doesn’t hurt to mention some things may be triggering, but it’s not your responsibility to adhere to anyone else’s standard; it’s important that you feel right about how you handle it.

3. Jo - September 8, 2006

I’ve been getitng similar comments on my blog and I’ve decided to leave them up, though each one gets a response from me. I think in this situation you can use the comments to (hopefully) try to reach out to those people who are seriously considering anorexia (pro-ana rather than eating disorder as we would most often understand it).

As for the broader question, I think a bit of both works and it depends on the comment in question. If you’ll forgive me for referring to my blog again, I used to get loads of comments from BNP trolls and other rights for white fascists. Most were deleted but some I left up to make my point for me – when we talk about anti-racism and anti-fascism, we’re not making it up – these bigots do exist and they do hold these views. Sometimes you’ve got to give em enough rope…

4. belledame222 - September 9, 2006

There are “pro” sites, (“ana” “mia”)and, well, i dunno: i find it troubling, too, but i think equating it with “pro-rape” or “pro-DV” is a misnomer; these are women (mostly) dealing with their own stuff, not what they want to do to someone else. yes, might be triggering, but still ethically i would not put it in the same category.

Your call. You know, i think maybe if it were me i’d go on a case-by-case basis. who knows: maybe opening up the dialogue will do some good, you know; otherwise the women go back to their own sites and stay there, pretty much. and i think it is good for people to be aware of the existence of this.

but i’d, you know, it’d depend on what the goal of the woman in question is. I mean, -is- it a “debate,” per se? my glances at such sites suggests that at least on paper a lot of them speak of it as a personal thing, a way to talk amongst themselves in an atmosphere where it -isn’t- necessarily all about “you must get better right now.” not sure that’s necessarily the same as out and out endorsement; i think it depends on the site and person, you know.
as el says, though, your call.

5. Winter - September 9, 2006

Thanks for the comments folks. I suspect I’m going to make some kind of compromise on this issue once I’ve thought about it a bit more.

Actually I think my anxiety about deleting the comments is tied up with silencing the voices of young women experiencing what I would call eating distress — although they might call it a healthy lifestyle choice. I don’t want to lump young women with anorexia in the same category as the trolls.

6. cristy - September 10, 2006

I would certainly go with your feeling on each individual case, but generally I do think that they are dangerous. When you are suffering from an eating disorder, every single message that you can find that supports your way of thinking becomes a very powerful source of reinforcement, and will be used to justify your behaviour. So each and every message is something quite dangerous.

Then again, I guess that these same messages are being broadcast in ‘safe’ spaces where they are not being challenged at all, and at least on your site people would also have to deal with the counter arguments etc.

Tricky issue.

7. Winter - September 13, 2006

When you are suffering from an eating disorder, every single message that you can find that supports your way of thinking becomes a very powerful source of reinforcement, and will be used to justify your behaviour .

True. I suspect most of them will be deleted, but I think I needed to clarify my reasons for deleting. I’m also in one of my self-questioning phases at the moment. When you know that you’re completely biased on an issue (I’m so sensitive that I can hardly stand to watch someone picking at their food in front of me), sometimes you need to ask for other people’s opinions.

I’m not prepared to publish anything I find triggering.

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