This week Men Get Eating Disorders Too has condemned a new video created by Beat the leading eating disorders charity. The controversial video aims to encourage men with eating disorders to seek help by showing a young man vomiting up his testicles in a pub. We believe that the campaign is misguided, inept, and offensive.
In a statement, our response to Beat was that the video is distasteful, nauseating and provoking merely for the pure sake of it. We, as a charity, continue to eradicate the stigma that is dignified and respectful putting the voices of men first opposed to the brand. This viral campaign that simply aims to 'seek attention' and undermines the seriousness of men's eating disorders and falls nothing short of desperate and reckless.
Beat's press release said: "From our work with male sufferers we've learnt that culturally-ingrained feelings of masculinity are a reason many men don't admit to having eating disorders. Many don't even know it is something that can happen to a man."
"This insight led to the new campaign - where a man's testicles, representative of his masculinity, are shown as literally stopping him from talking about the problem. The film links through to a mythbusting website, beatballs.org.uk"
Overnight with only a few hours before the campaign went live, we mobilised a campaign on the social networks. Individuals and organisations spoke out in the disapproval of Beat's 'Beat Balls' video and it's removal on YouTube. It has even made national headlines including this article on the Telegraph and Inside Man.
The eating disorders community has spoken and angered as to why this video was made in the first place:
"It isn't really powerful, it's offensive, sexist, reinforces gender stereotypes and promotes "lad culture" apart from any of the obvious issues. I'm certain that this was not the intention, however it isn't the intention that matters, it is the impact it has on viewers. I will leave you to make your own judgements once you've seen it but would once again stress that it doesn't matter what the video is meant to do, what matters is what it actually does."
"It is the most awful thing in all of creation. You show a male throwing up on a table in a pub of which every time another man asks if he's eaten he continues. Eventually he throws up his own testicles. This does nothing to raise awareness and only feeds to the stereotypes."
"I cannot believe Beat would put out a video like this! In my opinion, it does nothing to raise awareness about male eating disorders and the seriousness of them. It merely is poking fun at the entire issue and almost implying a "real man" couldn't and shouldn't have an eating disorder. Very disappointed--this in no way helps males suffering to feel more comfortable to seek help, it may in fact do just the opposite. I really question who had the idea and why Beat found it appropriate."
"Shocked and sad that Beat would even consider talking this stance. It's unhelpful and as a male with anorexia, the way it portrays my position wont aim to highlight the problems we face but rather isolate and pigeon hole us into a position of weakness and ridicule."
"Seriously wrong and a disgusting video on so many levels. Why B-eat are coming at this important issue in this way is beyond me. Will definitely be complaining."
While we welcome support from all quarters to raise awareness of male body image issues and the experiences of men suffering from eating disorders, we believe that this campaign cannot be considered a positive contribution to the wider effort.
Firstly, the campaign in its current form attributes the under-recognition of male eating disorders solely to a rigid idea of masculinity in today's society. While this may be one factor, our experience of working with men with eating disorders strongly suggests that much more important factors include lack of awareness among medical professionals and the stigma that continues to be associated with mental health issues.
Secondly, the campaign equates disclosing an eating disorder with sacrificing masculinity. As such, it is insulting to those who have had the courage to seek help, and legitimises slander of those who come forward to speak about their experiences.
Thirdly, the campaign takes its lead from a type of media that prizes shock value above all else. The promotional material produced so far show no sensitivity whatsoever to people who are currently suffering or their loved ones who may find the images and messages distressing.
Fourthly, the campaign is ultimately inadequate. It offers no practical support, advice, or guidance to those with experience of eating disorders, their loved ones, or members of the public.
Beat have removed the 'Beat Balls' video but it is unclear whether it is to be scrapped or release a reworked version. Despite the backlash Beat have not posted any statements or updates on any of their platforms.
What is most shocking is the irresponsibility played out by an organisation that has been preaching responsible reporting of eating disorders in the media. Whoever thought this was a good idea and gave it approval is clearly idiotic.
For further information and support for those affected by male eating disorders including their carers and families please see our website: www.mengetedstoo.co.uk