It wasn’t until attending the University of Miami that she realized how much negative body image perceptions and eating disorders affected her peers. Last year, after living on a floor of more than 30 other female students in her freshman dorm, Servidio said she witnessed these struggles firsthand, eating disorders in particular.
“It was never real to me until I went to Miami,” she said. “You see these girls who are absolutely beautiful, inside and out, struggling.”
These experiences, and her membership in a sorority that raises money and awareness for the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, made the larger issue of eating disorders hit home for Servidio.
When a sorority sister wrote, on the group’s Facebook page, about an article entitled “5 Reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder,” Servidio described her reaction as one of complete disgust.
The article, posted on Nov. 13 by columnist “Tuthmosis” on the website Return of Kings, asserted that such a girl’s obsession about her body would “improve her overall looks” and make her “fragile and vulnerable.” According to the article, self-esteem issues prevalent in women with eating disorders translate to “dealing with a tastefully insecure girl, who’s eager to please, and wants nothing more than your approval.”
It’s cheaper to date them, too, because they won’t order so much food, and, since “there aren’t many poor girls with eating disorders,” they might even pick up the bill, the blogger said.
“It just pushed all the wrong buttons for me,” said Servidio.
At the request of another sorority sister, Servidio composed a response to the article, asking that the website publisher remove the article from the web.
“Its mere publication is a disgusting reminder to sane people that idiots like you exist in the world, the idiots that will perpetuate the popularity of eating disorders, which is something that I strive to help stop,” she wrote.
Servidio posted the response to the online petition website change.org on Nov. 18, and by the end of that day, more than 500 people from around the world had signed the petition, adding comments of support or divulging their own personal struggles with eating disorders.
“The fact that so many people read what I wrote and responded positively was the most inspiring thing,” Servidio said. “Those who shared their own experiences online, when they signed their full name and everything, were so brave and courageous. It was the most inspirational thing I could have asked for.”
Servidio said she was excited by the large response. As of Nov. 23, more than 11,000 supporters had signed the online petition. Servidio also said that since posting the link to her petition online, she has received flurries of text messages and emails from long-term friends, admitting to her their own struggles with body image and eating disorders.
“I’m so glad I was able to take a stand for all the people who have struggled with these issues,” said Servidio. “I never really experienced it myself, but to see all these people that I love...it’s hard.”
Servidio said she is unsure if the article will be taken down, especially given the publisher’s response to the publicity about the article, which has been commented on by The Huffington Post and the National Eating Disorders Association.
The Return of Kings publisher, who goes by the name of Roosh, defended the publication of the article, saying that while the website did not promote eating disorders, the piece “contains value for men who want to date thin women in America, a country that is currently facing a devastating obesity epidemic.” Return Of Kings calls itself “a blog for heterosexual, masculine men.” Servidio said, “Even if they don’t take it down, the reactions I’ve gotten from people are really all I need to be content.”
As a journalism major, Servidio said she is very aware of the need for freedom of expression, and is currently taking a class on such issues. However, she said that even free speech should include a level of morality.
“I just see it as ‘how can you publish that and still be happy with yourself,’” she said. “I think what I want most is for them to realize that this is wrong, that it’s gone too far. It’s not funny.”
Servidio said she hopes to plan some correlating event to raise further awareness about the article and eating disorders in general with her Delta Phi Epsilon sorority sisters.
“I just really hope that this petition will make people more aware of the importance of these issues,” she said. “It’s everywhere; it could be your sister, brother, daughter or best friend.”