It’s still okay to have a racist blog on Tumblr. It’s still okay to have a blog where you take pictures of people eating and call them fat. In essence, it’s okay to have the kind of blog that causes someone to degenerate into the mental state where they might get an eating disorder, but once they get one we’ll sweep them under the rug unless they only talk about their disease in a manner a bunch of bros unfamiliar with eating disorders find acceptable.
I am not entirely sure it’s fair to suggest that the problem is people “talking about their disease in a manner a bunch of bros unfamiliar with eating disorders find acceptable” — plenty of people who are familiar with EDs find thinspo/pro-ana blogs horrifying, and it seems to me these blogs are less “talking about disease” and more “manifesting symptoms of the disease.” Still, I agree in principle with much of what’s said here, and would add:
Do bloggers who brag about drunken exploits/post cocktail recipes encourage alcoholism, or trigger relapses in recovering alcoholics?
Do bloggers who brag about gluttonous evenings/post food porn encourage the types of eating disorders that fall along the binge/overeating axes, or trigger relapses in people who are recovering from such disorders?
Do bloggers who brag about stuff they bought/post links to expensive shopping sites encourage compulsive shoppers, or trigger relapses among them?
Will Pinterest make people hoarders, or send borderline hoarders over the edge?
Also this, from Tumblr’s draft revision to the Content Policy:
Online dialogue about these acts and conditions is incredibly important; this prohibition is intended to reach only those blogs that cross the line into active promotion or glorification. For example, joking that you need to starve yourself after Thanksgiving or that you wanted to kill yourself after a humiliating date is fine, but recommending techniques for self-starvation or self-mutilation is not.
Except if you are in the grip of an eating disorder, that joke about needing to starve yourself after Thanksgiving may be all the trigger you need. It may be all the justification your poor haywire brain needs to skip breakfast, and lunch, and the four crackers you’d planned for dinner. This is a place beyond the logic of content policies.
I have no doubt that Tumblr’s intentions are good, if naive (that is, I think, how the majority of people approach people with eating disorders). The real problem is that these online pro-ana/thinspo/whatever-they-call-it communities aren’t causes, they’re symptoms. You can censor them, but it won’t matter; the sickness will find another way to assert itself, in private and in public, in ways that make people uncomfortable, angry or frightened. As well it should.
In the meantime, if we want to be productive: Pay attention to the evolving question of health coverage for ED treatment, and tell your legislators you think EDs and related mental health conditions deserve the same treatment as diabetes, heart disease and other, more socially-acceptable conditions. Remember that, while a majority of folks with EDs are young women, these diseases cut across age, class and gender lines—and people who fall outside the typical ED demo face an even greater stigma and may be less likely to seek help. Last but not least, if you know someone with an ED, make sure he or she knows that you care and are willing to support him or her, in sickness and in health and on the road to health, even if it’s a long and upsetting one.