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People, Not Puns – By Matt Wetsel

MGEDT’s own Sam and myself were interviewed for a story recently on the Huffington Post covering eating disorders in men. To their credit, I frequently see articles on the site discussing eating disorders, body image, and other lesser discussed health issues, but not much on men. Part of the problem is that, often, news stories are based on new research findings, and most research on eating disorders involves women. Compared to men, women are a research population of convenience, as they statistically are more likely to experience eating disorders. But, I also think women are more likely to talk about it. While a highly stigmatized and misunderstood topic already, men have an additional layer of stigma to cut through in order to be taken seriously.

As a statistically underrepresented minority, I feel driven to speak out on the issue to make sure that men are included in the conversation. Even when there are a wealth of statistics available, I think a well-told personal story can often better illustrate the seriousness of a topic. For me, a well-told story is one that focuses on the real issues – what’s going on in your head and heart, and avoids focusing on more superficial expressions of the disease like how much weight you might have lost (or gained).

So I was very pleased that the Huffington Post did just that – their questions dug at the real issues, and didn’t try to sensationalize anything. That is, with one exception. The original title to the article was “Manorexia: Eating Disorders in Men.” I saw this, and my heart sank.

Think, for a moment, if we created buzz words for other things to distinguish between gender, race, or any other inherent attribute of a person. If an article covering eating disorders specifically in black women, for example, tried to come up with a clever way to refer to those women, I’m certain there would be outrage – it would be considered insensitive. People would say, “What makes these women so different from any other with an eating disorder, just because of their race?” And they would be right.

But for some reason, it seems the only way to “sell” the idea of men with eating disorders is to give it some buzz. Now, before I sound too critical of the Hufffington Post, I must say that I emailed them following the article’s publication and they had the title changed within an hour, and I am deeply appreciative. However, the fact that it seemed like a good idea in the first place is representative of the attitude in the media and society at large. Even with a well-written article highlighting the seriousness of the disease with real people who have experienced it, we still were given puns to sell it. My question is, why aren’t the people and their stories enough?

Because that’s what this is really about. Real people with real, life-threatening disorders. Beyond race, gender, or sexual orientation, the focus must be on the person who is suffering and not on what demographic classification they happen to fit into. Anything less contributes to the stigma and barriers that prevent people from getting help.

The topic of language.

Nick Watts, from MGEDT recently wrote about the very same subject which you can view here

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More from Matt

You can read more from Matt Wetsel on his blog

'Men Get Eating Disorders Too' is a registered charity in England and Wales no. 1139351.

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