First the media coverage has been limited at best and often erroneous at worst. For example, one recent article at the college newspaper where I am a grad student, Central Michigan University, (and I hold them to same professional journalistic standards that I expected from myself when I was a full-time journalist — if you can't take the heat, get the hell out of the kitchen) featured an article about a friend of mine who has been in residential treatment for six months. Not only did this article repeatedly mention her weight (she weighed this at this time, she weighs this now, she needs to weigh this to be healthy, and so on, ad nauseum), basically reducing her illness to nothing but bunch of numbers (and I suspect the author did it solely for the shock value), the article then proceeded to quote a CMU associate university professor to whit: “I think that a lot of kids are overweight and, when they get to high school and college, they realize that it’s not attractive."
To say I was incensed would be an understatement, and I proceeded to write them a very heated comment about how the media needs to be a bit more sensitive in reporting on eating disorders, and if the writer isn't capable of doing that, perhaps she should stop writing until she is able to gain a bit more sense.
Another example is "Victoria Beckham uses anorexic pin-up in show", an article supposedly taking Beckham to task for using a model with anorexia - Eugenia, who is very public about her pro-ana views - in her show during London's recent Fashion Week. The article included a prominent picture of Eugenia, nude and ... well, looking anorexic and labeled as "the Russian doll." The article also included this quote by Eugenia: “Call it whatever you want, pro-ana, calorie restriction, bulimia, vanity, anorexia – it is the desire for perfection.” (Let's overlook the fact that Beckham herself appears anorexic, no matter how many times she denies she doesn't have an eating disorder. She also defended her use of size zero models, and I'm not surprised.) What do you think women got out of this article? That anorexia nervosa is a dangerous illness or that women are basically clothes hangers and inanimate objects, i.e. a "doll?"
The second issue I have with both NEDAW and coverage of eating disorders in general is the almost total lack of any information about adult-onset anorexia (or other eating disorders.) I developed anorexia at the age of 41, and yet many, if not most of these activities have been aimed at those who developed eating disorders at a young age. There are different issues surrounding both the manifestations and recovery issues of eating disorders in different age groups.
It feels very weird to go for four decades without an eating disorder and then suddenly develop anorexia and be plunged into a world of IP, feeding tubes, therapy and the like; it feels like a thief snatched away the real me and left this person who is consumed 24/7 by anorexia. The feeling is often one of unreality - where did the real Angela go? And will she ever come back? I would like to see SOME information about adult-onset eating disorders, if only to make me feel less alone and strange. (I'm currently working on a journal article about my own experiences with adult-onset anorexia and plan to expand it into a book, so I guess I won't have much competition, anyway!)
Recent work with my doctor suggests that for me, anorexia is most likely trauma-based and fueled by almost relentless self-hatred and self-destructive tendencies. There are many articles and essays out there addressing the connection between the development of eating disorders and trauma. Eating-Disorder.com covers it comprehensively in its article, "Eating Disorders and Trauma", stating that more than 50 percent of patients with eating disorders have experienced serious trauma, such as childhood physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse. I fail to see how NEDAW addressed this significant issue.
In conclusion, NEDAW basically felt like a feel-good week aimed at a 'let's all be positive' mentality — forgetting the pain of eating disorders and God help those who were struggling with a relapse during this cheerleading period. The week has closed, but those with eating disorders will continue to struggle as the hype dies down. Instead of an overhyped NEDAW, why not awareness — period?
(Thanks to Carrie Arnold at ED Bites for originally inspiring me to write this post. Her post can be found at "On NEDAW")