The Lost Ones

Reporting from a very cozy and autumnal Buffalo, NY, it should come as no surprise that this week’s article should take inspiration from (you guessed it) TV. It was hard enough re-remembering how to use the remote but then I had to go and land on a channel that is a notorious land-mine for gender stereotypes.

E! (damn the obligatory exclamation point) had a special Wednesday morning on celebrities’ “Shocking Confessions”, an hour-long, veritable feast of gossip and poking around in peoples’ private lives. Right after I had the pleasure of learning about Nick and Jessica’s breakup, Dennis Quaid ‘confessed’ that he was suffering from ‘manorexia’. The faux-hipster, allegedly funny comedians who clearly had pulled on the grandpa sweaters they wore at Sneernival 2011 together proceeded to deride and mock him, whining about things like:

“You’re a man’s man- don’t tell me you have ‘manorexia’.”

“Eating disorders? That’s for the ladies.”

“Manorexia…what a pussy!”

The truth is, manorexia is and has been ‘real’, even growing, for quite some time. Funny, though, how we feel the need to distinguish between ‘anorexia’ and ‘manorexia’. The disease has clearly been associated with women even though the term itself can and should also apply to men. When you look up ‘anorexia nervosa’ in the medial dictionary of your choice it says nothing about being an exclusively female condition.

From the aforementioned comments we can fathom a few things about how male anorexia has been socially interpreted and culturally denied. There is a long-standing tradition of undermining the social pressures that men experience on a daily basis because they are somehow ‘less serious’ (or nonexistent) than those faced by women. For the female experience, conflict within their social status appears to be a requisite while for men, that conflict is regarded as more of an exception. Conflict between how we desire to live our lives and the societal norms that impede us, however, knows no biological limits. The pressure to be thin, for example, is not an exclusively female phenomenon. Granted, the stats do show that more women (10,000,000) suffer from eating disorders than men, but the 1,000,000 men who do suffer from it would hardly suggest that their number is small enough to warrant ignoring its resonance for both sexes.

That anorexia has been intertwined with what it means to be a woman for so long deprives men of a voice to communicate the root of their own mental and physical deterioration. There are 1,000,000 documented cases of ‘manorexia’. But what about the other -possibly thousands more- men who are suffering from it but feel that its ‘ladylike’ implications would be far worse than the disease itself? Think about this for a second. For a lot of men, being perceived as a woman (aka a “pussy”) is worse than self-induced starvation, purging, depression, hair loss, and consuming paranoia.

Anorexia is very much a reality for men and women. But we ignore its prevalence in men because that would mean confronting things about our society that are unquestionably uncomfortable at best. The line dividing men from women is clearly not as distinct as many would have us believe, and its worth asking who in our world was given the right to determine not only which pieces of clothing, jobs, and social roles were for men or women but also which diseases they were allowed to suffer from.