Cyberspace, something that was once considered a fad, has developed into a tool that allows people struggling with anorexia to potentially find a sanctuary from the regulatory systems in popular culture that are applied to women’s bodies. Cyberspace provides an alternative space for women with eating disorders or body issues. The space created by cyberspace is potentially safer for women to meet because it allows anonymity while simultaneously being part of a community that the built environment is unable to provide. The components that make up pro-anorexia websites are usually considered abnormal, repugnant, or deviant within popular culture, because popular culture does not accept the way anorexics interpret images of the body. This popular view of people with anorexia does not allow anorexics to function as an accepted part of public space or popular culture. The paradox of pro-anorexia websites serving as a sanctuary space for anorexics is that cyberspace is a public space. Since the pro-anorexia websites are public they not only serve as a sanctuary for women, but also act as a metaphor for the anorexic body. The anorexic body is a site of struggle and resistance, which is also true for the pro-anorexia website which is constantly threatened with being shut down because it is in opposition of the popular view of the body. In this paper, I explore the type of space that pro-anorexia websites create through the analysis of the components that most of these websites contain, such as, a warning page, definitions of eating disorders, discussion boards, ana doctrines, and “thinspiration” galleries.
Pro-anorexia, also known as pro-ana, websites are a genre of websites for people suffering from eating disorders who are not in recovery or regard themselves as victims. The websites disseminate information about eating disorders, provide a forum to discuss and share information about anorexia, and create “thinspiration” galleries used as triggers for people with eating disorders. Before entering most pro-anorexia websites there is a warning page that alerts viewers that the website contains pro-anorexia information, to enter at your own risk, and to not enter if you are not an anorexic or are in recovery.
These warning pages make the purpose of pro-anorexia websites quite clear: to provide a space for those struggling with an eating disorder that is free of judgment, and where ideas of encouragement can be provided for those who are not ready to recover.
Upon accepting the terms of the warning page and navigating the website, a substantial portion of a pro-anorexia website is devoted to the definition of eating disorders, treatment options, and recovery issues. This information goes beyond removing the webmaster from any liability it has for a person who is interacting with this site, which has already been addressed in the warning page. Instead, the clinical definitions...