CW: Eating Disorders such as anorexia and bulimia
Hey everybody! I hope you all had a good weekend!
This week, I decided to switch things up, concerning my posting schedule. Typically, I post about writing topics/book reviews on Tuesdays, and then Friday is open for posting anything. There is something I’ve been wanting to discuss though, and I don’t want to wait until Friday, so I decided to just post about it today.
Now that I’ve rambled on long enough, let’s get to it!
Last week I watched MissRepresentation on Netflix. I thought the film was thought provoking and provides a good stepping stone for discussion on how detrimental negative media portrayals can be for women in society. I also think the general message and the purpose of the documentary is overall positive in intent.
However, since it was released in 2011, any of the studies referenced are from around 2009/2010. I thought it would be interesting to compare how these statistics changed in the past nine or ten years (whether it was for better or worst). There was one problem though…
MissRepresentation does not cite the sources for a majority of the provided statistics.
This became more apparent during my research, as I kept finding articles sharing these statistics, but not their source for them. I went on to the documentary’s website, looking for a page that states the sources for these statistics, and once again NOTHING. At first, I thought maybe it was included in the end credits (It is Netflix, so when the credits roll, they turn into a smaller screen on the top left corner of your screen while suggesting another movie you should watch). So, I sat through the credits a second time (making sure it was in full screen), hoping to find something, but once again… nothing.
Every time I wrote any paper for school, I had it drilled in me to cite my sources. Seeing this lack of care in MissRepresentation really frustrates me, as it is a large scale production, that markets the film for teachers to use in the classroom as a lesson plan.
I found it interesting as well that not many of the articles that I found discussing the documentary brought up this point (Which also had me thinking that maybe I had missed something and was just going crazy by this point).
Until I finally did find one.
Back in 2014, an article by Benjamin Radford (Writer, and skeptic whose topics span from paranormal investigations to media literacy), was posted discussing this very topic, where he even stated that the website for Missrepresentation used to include a page that laid out the sources for these statistics, but it was later removed. He speculates in his article that this could possibly be due to the fact that there have been statistics stated in MissRepresentation that are actually false. Radford points out that the statistic, “65% of American women and girls have an eating disorder” is false, stating that the percentage is closer to 1%-3% (It jumped out to him at the time because he has spent a number of years researching eating disorders). As there wasn’t a source provided for this statistic in his article, I decided to do a quick google search, and according to the website ANRED (Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders), about 1% of women suffer from anorexia and about 4% of college aged women suffer from bulimia (with 50% of those who suffered from anorexia eventually developing bulimia or bulimic patterns). Further down the page, ANRED does say that it is difficult to determine the exact number of people who suffer from this disorder, because those who have it are going to be secretive and deny having it, but states that The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders estimates around eight million people in the United States suffer from some form of an eating disorder (or about 3% of the population).
In other words, nowhere close to 65%.
Note: It’s important to remember that obviously statistics used in a documentary from 2011, one used in an article in 2014, and now the piece I’m writing may vary as there is a time difference… but for there to be such a huge decrease from 65% of women suffering with eating disorders in 2011 to just there being about 1%-3% in 2014, and 1%-4% in 2019 seems highly questionable. It’s also never specified if this statistic is supposed to be worldwide, or focuses solely on the United States.
Now, you might be wondering why I care so much about this documentary, even though it’s about eight years old and there are plenty of other resources for information about this topic. What makes it an even bigger issue is that there are important figures as well as researchers and professors from universities in this documentary, so you would assume that they are credible sources on the topic. The information they provide themselves can be credible, but this information would be overshadowed by incorrect statistics inserted throughout MissRepresentation. The main issue here isn’t the topic itself, more so that MissRepresentation is just one example of a much larger problem when it comes to spreading information in this day and age.
From what I’ve noticed in my own experience, many articles and videos try proving points with little to no evidence. Or in this case, they provide evidence, but not the source of this evidence. Knowing the source of statistics is important because of the potential bias that can lay there, whether it’s from whoever is conducting the study, or even biases within the parameters of the study itself (sample size, background of those participating in the study, etc.).
It’s easy to spread misinformation now, and when it gets spread around enough, it seems as though it is true, even if there are legitimate criticisms proving otherwise. It’s also gotten to a point where people may not believe factual evidence, not because it isn’t true, but because it’s not what they perceive to be true. Personally, I can easily get caught up in the emotion (and yes bias) of a documentary, which is why after I watch something such as MissRepresentation, I research dissenting opinions. That way if there are issues such as the lack of citing statistics, I keep that in mind during my research, and keep an open mind to other sides of the topic.
Now I know this is a lot to get out of a documentary that I watched on Netflix; after all, I have a tendency to overthink things. However, with how easy it is to spread incorrect information, I believe media literacy is an important issue to address. Especially, since it can be detrimental to a thorough discussion of important topics in the long run. Try to maintain a healthy amount of skepticism when performing any research, since not everything you see on the internet is true.
I know this is a lot different than what I’ve previously written about [besides my last post: Blog#4: Let’s Talk about Alabama ;)], but as it’s been on my mind lately, I’ve been wanting to talk about it more, and get other opinions on the topic. So, feel free to comment below and tell me (respectfully, of course) if you agree or disagree, as it’s an important conversation to have!
Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a lovely rest of your week! I will see you this Friday with my book review!
PS: I recommend checking out ANRED, for more in depth discussion and statistics around understanding eating disorders. Also check out The National Eating Disorders Association at https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ for more information.
Radford, B. (2014, September 17). ‘Miss Representation’ and The Importance of Good Statistics. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://centerforinquiry.org/blog/miss_representation_and_the_importance_of_good_statistics/
Eating Disorders Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.anred.com/stats.html