feeding frenzy

I kind of can't believe I'm blogging about the Schiavo insanity again, but when the media blankets an event as it has this one, there are bound to be some unusual takes. "These are their stories." [kah-chunk]

One. Has anyone asked the Feeding Tube where it stands? How will the Feeding Tube's quiet voice be heard above the din? Get Your War On brings us that lost perspective, and thanks to BWV for pointing it out.

Two. The Curmudgeonly Crab has something to say about irony. Did you know that women are not the property of their husbands? It's true! Did you know it's OK to maim and kill people in order to save a brain-dead person? See, there's a lot you don't know!

These people just love blobs of cells. Blobs of cells in the uterus, blobs of human remains in a bed, they just can't get enough of those cell blobs.

And three. Antonia Zerbisias, an excellent columnist for the Toronto Star, comments on what robbed Terri Schiavo of her consciousness in the first place: bulimia. I write about eating disorders (see here, for example), and I've been wondering about the connection. Zerbisias writes:
A once fat teenager who had lost 65 pounds, Terri Schiavo was so terrified of regaining her excess weight that she willingly purged her body of sustenance, and in a rather violent fashion.

"The irony is very cruel indeed," observes Jean Kilbourne, an expert on how women are portrayed in advertising, and author of Can't Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel. "I don't think it's an issue of vanity. I think it's much, much deeper.

"Women, young women, get the message that their value depends entirely on how they look and, these days, on being extremely thin."

Of course, nobody knows what, if anything, is in Terri Schiavo's mind right now. Maybe if, somewhere deep down inside, Terri really does have consciousness, she wouldn't mind seeing herself on TV over and over again looking slack-jawed and stupid.

Why care, if it saves her life?

Which brings us back to the media, who are profiting mightily from Schiavo's terrible fate, with this perfectly made-to-measure big ratings story.

Throughout this wrenching moral and political uproar, they alone have escaped castigation.

Yet they have much to answer for. They and the advertisers that feed them are the ones who promote unrealistic images of tall, willowy women without an ounce of excess flesh — except of course in the two right places.

"Imagine," says Kilbourne, "if all this energy and media attention focused instead on the self-loathing and hatred of their own bodies that our culture generates in women, and the rampant eating disorders that often result. Now that might save the lives of many young women for whom it is not too late."
The author quoted is certainly correct: the issues involved in eating disorders are much more complex than a desire to be thin. If it's true that Schiavo's husband was controlling, then it's likely at least one of her parents were as well. People with eating disorders often grow up in an overly controlling environment, where their own thoughts and feelings are dismissed and discarded in favor of other people making decisions for them. Controlling one's body becomes the refuge of last resort.

There are other potential factors, too, such as sexual abuse, and a general lack of self-esteem, which of course could stem from any of the other factors.

Many thanks to Zerbisias for exploring this. I've linked to the Common Dreams version because it's easier to read. The original column is here.

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