English Ph.D. Dissertations

Title

From Pro-Ana to Bikini Bridge: The Online Discourse of Eating Disorders

Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Kristine Blair (Committee Co-Chair)

Second Advisor

Lee Nickoson (Committee Co-Chair)

Third Advisor

Sue Carter-Wood (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Arthur Samel (Committee Member)

Abstract

The pro-ana online movement is a fairly recent trend on the Internet, defined as a forum for people with eating disorders to reclaim the illness as a lifestyle choice. While boys and men suffer from eating disorders, the users of pro-anorexia blogs are primarily young teenage girls. The pro-anorexia movement is a backlash to the self-silencing girls face during puberty, and it is an opportunity to take back control of their bodies. It thrived until the introduction of social media, which limited the discussion happening on the boards, and heavily emphasized visuals, known as “thinspo.” Thinspo does not encourage the open dialogue and keeps women as the object, whereas pro-ana places her firmly as the subject. This dissertation makes the defense that, unlike the thinspo trend, pro-ana boards provide a means of support to the suffering; this defense will be done through analysis of the world’s largest pro-ana online group and through interviews with some of its participants. Arguing how the pro-ana communities constitute a heterotopia, a concept originally theorized by Foucault, I will situate the girls of pro-ana as technofeminists, as they discuss their lived bodily experiences with a technological platform at their fingertips.

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