For the past couple months, it seems a day doesn’t go by without Amanda Bynes tweeting something the media deems “crazy.” The internet has followed her every move, with tabloids like TMZ tweeting insults at her to edge on a breakdown. However, the fact no one seems to consider while reveling in Bynes’ downward spiral is her self-professed struggle with an eating disorder.
The media should have responded to Bynes’ admission of an eating disorder by giving her space to recover, by giving her a reprieve from the constant criticism celebrities undergo. Instead of showing compassion, most news outlets have dismissed Bynes as crazy, an act that is disrespectful to all who suffer from eating disorders.
On April 4, Bynes tweeted, “I have an eating disorder so I have a hard time staying thin.” Signs of her eating disorder were clear in previous posts obsessed with weight and appearance. Back in February Bynes told US Weekly that she weighed 121 pounds, but wanted to be 100. It seems Bynes has not made progress in her recovery, instead Tweeting on April 30 that “I weigh 135, I’ve gained weight! I need to be 100 lbs!” The fact seems irrelevant that at 5’8”, 135 pounds is a healthy weight and 100 pounds would not be.
Surprisingly, there was very little media coverage of Bynes’ admission of an eating disorder. Considering tabloids’ obsession with celebrities’ weights, this silence is notable.
Instead of addressing Bynes’ eating disorder and perhaps considering giving her the space that she would need to recover, the media pounced on every instance of insecurity. On May 5, Bynes tweeted: “InTouch used a photo from years ago on their cover and I hate it! The reason I’ve asked all magazines and blogs to stop using old photos of me is I don’t look like that anymore! I had a nose job to remove skin that was like an ebbing in between my eyes. I wasn’t going to tell anyone, but I look so much prettier in my new photos that I don’t want old photos used anymore. I’m so sick of magazines and blogs using old photos! When will they stop? I will never look like that again! Having surgery was the most amazing thing for my confidence.”
Bynes’ honesty about her plastic surgery and her eating disorder is remarkable. Unfortunately, this openness has backfired as her life has become the Internet’s version of a soap opera. However, it is important to note that Bynes’ “crazy” texts have been linked to her insecurity about her appearance.
"I'm so sick of u saying ur sincerely worried about me. At least pick a photo from my twitter if u won't stop talking about me," Bynes tweeted in April.
By far Bynes’ worst tweet was on May 24, when she wrote Rihanna that “Chris Brown beat you because you’re not pretty enough.” This action is inexcusable, as is any implication that victims of domestic violence deserved their abuse. But even this malicious tweet is directly tied to the idea of being “pretty enough” and to Bynes’ struggle with her own body acceptance. (Her following tweet to Rihanna declared “I met your ugly face in person. U aren’t pretty u know!”) She later denied writing the tweet, but provided no explanation as to how it appeared on her timeline.
Sufferers of eating disorders need compassion, but instead Bynes has faced only criticism. While this criticism isn’t necessarily undo, it doesn’t help. Instead of taking advice from both Courtney Love and Chrissy Teigen, celebrities who critiqued Bynes’ behavior, this criticism led to more appearance-centered backlash from Bynes. Bynes tweeted that “Courtney Love is the ugliest woman I’ve ever seen” and that Teigen is “an old ugly model.”
Instead of considering Bynes’ backlash in the context of her eating disorder, the media has simply labeled her crazy. This label has been applied to women for centuries as a way to delegitimize their experiences. In the 19th century this was seen in the popular diagnosis of hysteria, and more recently you can see tabloids constantly labeling female celebrities as crazy — consider Lindsey Lohan, Bynes’ predecessor.
"I'm suing certain blogs and magazines saying I have a mental illness! They take pictures anytime I've gained weight then write a fake story!" Bynes declared in April.
The problem is, Bynes’ experience is legitimate. An estimated 31% of female American college students suffer from an eating disorder. And while Bynes’ actions certainly haven’t been admirable, dismissing her entire perspective as crazy is harmful to anyone who shares her experience.
I don’t know if Amanda Bynes does have a mental disorder. I only know what she has told us, which is that she has an eating disorder, and that, as she tweeted on May 29, “I’m Not Crazy.” And whether or not that is true, I know that it doesn’t help anyone to keep calling her crazy.
I do not know Amanda Bynes, but I have known many other women with eating disorders. While this alone cannot excuse her actions, it helps me see them as something other than crazy. I know many other women who have suffered from having their perspective overlooked or devalued by society. And I know dismissing Amanda Bynes as “crazy” doesn’t help anyone.