Manorexia? I don’t think so.

This is, of course, my edited elements of my research journal so I only really used it for campaigning in EDAW. However, this morning I took part in a discussion on BBC Radio Tees which was sparked by the news item this week that our MGEDT charity founder, Sam Thomas, took part in (mainly to make sure that the article in the Sun would have some substance).

What I’m keen to point out, and I hope I got this across this morning on the radio, is that these awful terms that proliferate (e.g. Manorexia) create a unique issue for social research. On one hand I find myself cringeing and thinking “as if any serious male eating disorders researcher could take it seriously”, whilst on the other it makes me think it is worth studying. 

 What I mean here is that, whilst I think the term itself reduces a complex, distressing and potentially fatal life experience to little more than a billboard attention-grabber, how we story out and create language for ourselves can give us insight into the lives we are leading as men in society. If over the coming years this kind of terminology ends up in common parlance, if we find that men begin to define themselves as ‘manorexic’ or ‘boylimic’ then as a social researcher I need to respond to that: to place that language and how we feel about it under a micropscope for scrutiny and further understanding… I see visions of discourse analyses and interpretive phenomenological analysis dancing around my mind.

And then I become worried – I find myself caught up in a Giddens-like double hermeneutic – we are shocked to hear about the rise in eating disorder diagnoses in young men but what if the more awareness raising researchers and campaigners do, the more the society we live in begins to seize upon and live out some of these damaging experiences we were hoping to help address.

So for now, all I can attest, as I did on the radio, is that I hate the term and I know from the stories of the men who have written about their struggles with food control and/or body image that there is far more to the situation than a simple ‘influence from skinny models’ and that people’s demons take many forms that cannot be reduced to a scant news article. Are we seeing a new ‘epidemic’? No, I don’t believe that. Are men being more honest about their issues with themselves and being a man in the 21st century. Then, yes, this is an idea I can get behind.