Should "pro-ana" websites be shut down?Young girls and women are bombarded daily with images of pencil-thin actresses and models, many of whom likely have an eating disorder, often anorexia....

Should "pro-ana" websites be shut down?

Young girls and women are bombarded daily with images of pencil-thin actresses and models, many of whom likely have an eating disorder, often anorexia. Anorexics deny themselves food, some eating fewer than 800 calories a day, when the suggested intake for a woman is about 2,000 calories per day. Many young women literally starve themselves to death. Despite the grim statistics, there are websites that actively help young women stay in an anorexic state. Should such sites be shut down or is it an infringement on one’s freedom to live one’s own life?

Expert Answers
Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have seen firsthand the damaging toll anorexia and bulimia can take on my students, both physically and emotionally.  As much as I am against anorexia and bulimia, I believe discussion concerning shutting down 'pro-ana' websites becomes a slippery slope, and possibly a dangerous one. 

It all depends on the context of the website and who is ordering the shutting down of the website.  For example, the website is a student-controlled site found on the school district domain.  Should the school district have the right in determining whether it should be shut down?  Absolutely, and I believe that they should.  If the school district controls the servers and domain rights, they should have the say-so in determining what kind of content is posted on school or student-controlled websites. 

Another example is Facebook.  Facebook has very publicly discontinued certain groups from having page rights on their website, if the company thought that the material or topic, like hate groups or gay-bashing, for example, was damaging, hateful, or racist.  Again, the company in control of the domain made the decision to terminate the users' account and usage. 
I am in favor of this type of control, for the specific company or school district or publisher, like a blog, to say, 'Look, we think your topic is unhealthy and does not really represent what we stand for, so we are cancelling your account.'

I am not in favor of the U.S. government attempting to pass laws or restrictions concerning what can or cannot be posted on the Internet; that quickly becomes very dangerous ground and sounds like an infringement of the first amendment.  Individual companies, on the other hand, should certainly be able to control and limit the kind of material published on their sites, and in the case of 'pro ana' material, I hope that more companies will take a stronger stance in disavowing the spread of this very harmful lifestyle.

dftbap eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Any type of censorship is a dangerous direction for America to submit, as this opens the ability for anyone who does not like a certain belief or activity to begin the process of censoring anything which does not resonate with their personal beliefs.

One can agree that the sites are trash, possibly problematic with this disease, and have no intrinsic value.  However, that same opinion might be held by someone who does not like a value I espouse.

 "I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death your right to say it."- Voltaire

So, as you can see, this question although masked quite well under the guise of "eating disorders" is truly about censorship.  Even in this extreme case, this kind of censorship cannot be allowed if the United States of America is to be a truly free country.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a parent of a teenage girl, I have a very hard time with sites which promote anorexia. Honestly, I believe that once the media's image of what a young girl/woman should look like changes the infatuation with being skinny will change as well.

I think that the constant influence of beauty in the media plays very heavily in the decisions young girls and women make when it comes to their appearance. I have to say that I love the change in some advertising (Dove and under-ware companies who cast real woman in their advertising). I hope that this is not a trend, but something that can help change the minds of our girls.

As for shutting down the sites, I believe that people have the right to say what they wish (outside of hate groups). Censoring the site may cause more backlash and media attention--something even more negative, given some girls may not know about the sites yet.


rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the previous post. The regulation of this sort of content can indeed be a slippery slope. In any case, I believe the far greater problem with eating disorders is the glorification of certain body types in the media. Portraying the "ideal" body type as something bordering on dangerously slim can have catastrophic effects on the sense of self worth among young women. What is needed is more media campaigns that advocate healthy, balanced lifestyles. We have already seen the media enlisted in fighting obesity. Surely we can see something similar with eating disorders. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is terrible, but I don't know how we can limit free speech even when it's harmful.  The secret is education.  We need to educate girls, and boys, about the consequences of anorexia and the benefits of healthy choices.  We need to give them a stronger combative message.

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