Anna Rexia: The costume is not the problem


Halloween. That time of year when it is well within a woman’s right to dress as revealingly and raunchily as she likes (see the Sexy Halloween sketch). Sigh.

If you read the internet comments below news articles, you might get the sneaking suspicion that some people trawl the internet just LOOKING for things to get offended by.

In case you didn’t know, Halloween is a big pagan celebration where we all dress up as what we fear. Zombies symbolise the disenfranchised working class, vampires are a metaphor for how the aristocracy prey on the proletariat, and witches symbolise how society is afraid of old women who are unfettered by husbands and who are a threat to the status quo. 

Luckily, with the advent of the internet, people who feel strongly about something can all group together and MOB RULE stores into not selling images that are dangerous. Because obviously, stores selling things is the problem, not the people who buy them or the culture  that has shaped our idea of what is “normal”.

Dressing as a cartoon anorexic is *bad*, but you can still dress as any of these cheeky chappies:

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But wait a minute. Doesn’t humour help us to laugh at what would otherwise be taboo? Is the real problem here that women, judged much more harshly than their male counterparts, aren’t allowed to use dark humour? Men seem to use dark humour all the time, yet it appears that a woman moving toward that role is “heartless” towards a sensitive issue. 

Here is where this article becomes a little *schizophrenic* (see final paragraph when I talk about warping of medical terminology to describe things inaccurately). Anorexia is a terrible disease that affects thousands of women and a lot of men too. Not to mention the families of sufferers, powerlessly watching their loved ones battle with a terrible affliction that doctors still don’t have many answers for. Anyone who is affected by this issue has bigger things to worry about than just another poor taste Halloween costume. 

In researching this issue, I came across this blog:

I dare anyone, a.n.y.o.n.e., to watch that video, and read that brave person’s story, and not feel incredibly compassionate for her situation. She lives with this illness EVERY SINGLE DAY. And while she did post something about how this costume belittles her daily struggle with an eating disorder, once the costume is off the shelf, then the job of “The Offended” is done…

Or not. The world is still that same beautiful and terrible place where our language reflects our deepest fears. You might not notice it, but a lot of things that people say trivialise mental illnesses/conditions and perpetuate ignorance. Instead of saying that “you like to be tidy“, you say “I’m a bit OCD“. Instead of saying you’re “full of energy” or busy you say “hyper” or “manic”. Instead of finding it hard to empathise, it’s “autism”. Instead of having a bad temper or being violent, someone is a “psycho”. *We don’t say something completely changes very quickly, we say “schizophrenic”, and a lot of the time what we really mean is to refer to “split personalities”, which is actually a very rare condition and makes a tiny percentage of schizophrenia sufferers. But my point is, technical terms slip into common usage and their meaning becomes warped.

So, if you feel even the smallest bit offended by the Anna Rexia costume, then start thinking about the language you use on a daily basis. Because when we joke about being “locked in the loony bin“, it’s too close to the truth; mental health centres are often the places where we leave the people who are “broken” for various reasons. But the power of the human mind/nature is that we can rebuild what is damaged, and people with mental illnesses can recover, despite the stigma that society piles on them, on top of their condition.


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