Home Beauty The Onion’s Satirical “Anorexic Woman” Post Rings Truer Than Expected

The Onion’s Satirical “Anorexic Woman” Post Rings Truer Than Expected

by Erika Nicole Kendall

I’m not gonna lie – I might’ve been one of the last people on Earth to know just how seriously The Onion takes the “satire” game, especially since I was able to physically hold a copy of an Onion newspaper in my hand, dripping wet with sarcasm, snark and “so bad it may very well be true”isms.

That being said, when I saw this on their website Saturday, I had to raise an eyebrow because… um… anyone familiar with “sports club culture” knows this kind of “thing” quite well.

Citing her shapeless physique, protruding skeleton, and jaundiced complexion, gym members exercising at a local Equinox Fitness Club on Friday confirmed that the anorexic woman working out on the first floor is looking good.

“Oh, man, she looks amazing,” Equinox member John Stevens said while watching the 80-pound sexpot walk across the floor in a tight spandex outfit that exposed her distended stomach, sinewy musculature, and thin, translucent skin. “She’s totally hot.”

“She’s here all the time, and whenever I see her, all I can think about is running my hands along her protuberant vertebrae all the way down to her shriveled ass,” he continued, glancing up from his treadmill once more to get a good look at the woman’s seductive, shrunken breasts and long, corpselike legs. “Man, I just want to take her home and break her in half. It wouldn’t be that hard.”

According to Equinox staff members, the gorgeous emaciated woman joined the fitness center two years ago when she moved to the city for work, and immediately drew attention for being an absolute knockout, especially with her gaunt face and prematurely aged body. Since then, male and female members alike have frequently asked the identity of the stunning young woman with boney clavicles, jagged kneecaps, and sunken, hollow cheekbones.

Staffers said that just last week, no fewer than five secret admirers approached the information kiosk to inquire about the skeletal, withered woman who works out on the same treadmill every morning at 6 a.m.

“I don’t know what’s cuter, the way her sports bra clings to her flattened chest as she sweats, the way her elbows stick out at acute angles when she pumps her spindly arms, or the fact that you can wrap your hands all the way around the circumference of her thighs,” an anonymous admirer told reporters, adding that he gets “really turned on” whenever she bends over and flaunts her jutting tailbone. “The curves of her rib cage, the stunning watery eyes, the patch of shiny scalp peeking through her brittle, thinning hair—she’s basically got the whole package.”

“I mean, she obviously works hard for it,” he added, noting her rigorous workout routine and apparent commitment to starving herself. “I wonder if she’s single. Wait, what am I saying? There’s no way she is. Not with a cadaverous body like that.”

At press time, the anorexic hottie was on her sixth mile on the treadmill, looking as ravishing and underfed as ever. [source]

I laughed, but only because it was excessively extra… but I also felt sad because for some of us, we’d swear up and down this is probably how those conversations go in real life.

Keeping it real, two things came to mind for me when reading this: 1) you have to be careful who you “admire” at the gym, because even though you see them working hard, you never know what demons they might be battling with. 2) sometimes, good satire can make you think too much… like now. I’own know – maybe it just reminded me a little too much of what I see and overhear in my own gym.

What about you? What do you think?

You may also like


Olivia November 12, 2012 - 11:45 AM

I understand sarcasm and irony but I don’t like this article at all. There are some people who are naturally very skinny (NOT ME! ;o) who already feel bad about their lack of curves and could be hurt by this article. I also feel like it is downplaying the seriousness of anorexia. And it’s just not funny ha-ha funny to me. I didn’t even crack a smile while reading it. I might be articulating it properly but something about this article rubbed me the wrong way and I am not one to get offended easily. I don’t understand the point of the article either.

Carrie November 12, 2012 - 12:06 PM

One of The Onion’s trademarks is to use biting satire to get people to look at the status quo in a different way. If you’re offended, that’s probably the point: the hyperbole is intended to skewer the gym and fitness culture that perpetuates the exaggerated attitudes featured in the article above in an attempt to open minds to the hypocrisy.

Not everything The Onion posts is funny, but almost all of it makes you think and react emotionally, which is a great use of satire in dealing with culture.

Shirley I JOURNEY October 12, 2013 - 9:36 PM

I found the article too be funny and informative, so true so funny and so sad.

Katherine November 12, 2012 - 12:00 PM

Wow, I do see these people working out quite often, but I too thought this article was mean spirited!

Pat Rice November 12, 2012 - 1:03 PM

There was a lady like this in my gym. She stopped coming last year. I often wonder if she stopped coming because she finally got the mental health she needed or heaven forbid, the alternative. She would always use the treadmill next to me, even if all the rest were empty. Maybe she thought she was being inspirational and would motivate me to lose the weight. Sadly after seeing her, I wanted to eat a cheeseburger….for her. I never said anything to her, she probably wouldn’t have listened anyway. It’s sad when our low self esteem causes us to over eat…and equally sad when it causes this.

Echi November 12, 2012 - 7:10 PM

I agree with previous commenters that I could not crack a smile at this, even though I am a fan of the Onion. I don’t personally know anyone with anorexia nor am I some eating disorders crusader. However, I could not find satire in admiring someone who because of a legitimate mental illness is starving themselves to death. It’s as heartless as laughing at a homeless man who suffers from schizophrenia. I don’t even have to make them mental leap of wondering our collective response at a fat-shaming article to know that this inherently is not okay.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 12, 2012 - 7:20 PM

Let’s be clear – if there was well done satire mocking the way we, as a country, enable unhealthy habits that result in the OTHER end of the spectrum, I’d laugh at how overdone that’d be, too.

And yes, part of me doesn’t think this should be given as much thought as it’s getting, partially because it’s the Onion. They shine a nasty little light in a mirror, and it often reflects something we don’t like to look at. They did it during the US Elections like it was their job.

In no way, shape or form is it even remotely akin to laughing at the homeless for ANY reason. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, here.

Men in this country enable and even encourage women to “do what they have to do” to stay thin. WOMEN encourage this foolishness as a part of that grand ol’ patriarchal bargain. You’re damn right I can laugh at someone calling that out, sad as it may be.

Echi November 14, 2012 - 12:23 AM

According to the DSM-IV, anorexia is a mental illness. As a result of that mental illness, many sufferers starve themselves to death even though they look scarily gaunt. Using them as the subject for satire is sad, laughing at such people, also sad. A corollary – schizophrenia, is definite mental disorder. As a result of this disorder, many of it sufferers end up alienating themselves and engaging in behaviors that increase their likelihood of ending up homeless.

I understand, it’s pathetic that society asks women to be rail thin. It would have been funny if the article was about how society wants us to all look like pre-pubescent 12 year olds, or something like that. However, it is clear that the woman in the pic above and being described in the article are more likely than not to have a mental illness, which has a significant mortality rate. Again, not laugh worthy as reiterated by many of the comments here and on Twitter in response to the article.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 14, 2012 - 8:38 AM

Again, the reason why your comparison doesn’t fly – to ME – is because the article is more focused on the reaction people have to her, NOT her, herself. The people in the story.

We can agree to disagree, and I’m quite fine with that.

Brianna Leigh November 12, 2012 - 7:26 PM

This reminds me of another article The Onion had: “Nation Celebrates Full Week Without Deadly Mass Shooting.” The very next day they had to update it with “Never mind” because of the Empire State Building shooting. That one really stuck with me…

Erika Nicole Kendall November 12, 2012 - 7:50 PM

Believe it or not, I remember that.

Cole November 14, 2012 - 3:59 PM

I’m totally late to the party on this one. I read this, chewed on it. Walked away. Chewed some more. Now I think I can comment.

I think body snark whether towards thin women or fat women is a nasty business. Just as obese and overweight women feel only a medical doctor should point that out, I feel anorexic and underweight is a diagnostic best issued by a medical professional. Reducing women to being nothing more than a body to be commented on as hot, repulsive, or anything else really isn’t very funny. It’s not thought provoking or shocking. It’s ugly, rude, and sexist.

I probably wouldn’t have noticed the sexism if the writer didn’t make a jab at Equinox. The club gets tossed the stereotype as being filled with vain, underweight, well-off women and obnoxious, well-off, muscular (but not too big) men. The story plays to stereotypes by mocking women the writer personally deems unattractive and decides to attack for something that the seemingly anorexic woman has a problem controlling. Poor body image, disordered eating, and general low self-esteem stems from mean-spirited jabs like the one posted in the Onion. Berating women for not be attractive for the male glare whether or fat or thin is chauvanistic and cruel.

So some guys at the gym think the very thin woman is hot. We’re bombarded by Victoria’s Secret models, so that’s not surprising. New Yorkers are into thin. They’re into YOUTH. It’s kind of gross sometimes. I think it’d be more suitable to be against body snark instead of attacking thin women, unfairly labeling them as anorexic, then throwing a judemental you’re not hot enough party perpetuating patriarchal feminine ideals. If fat talk isn’t acceptable, I don’t think finger pointing at a possibly ill woman is the cure.

Destiny November 18, 2012 - 8:35 AM

I think this is a very sad and disturbing article. Especially since it is written with such sarcasm. This young woman, whomever she is, is suffering with an illness that claims the lives of too many women and men every year. I believe this article is relevant to this blog. We are discussing our individual experiences, our goals and the extreme as well. I wish we knew who this woman was and could refer, encourage and provide her with the same support we all receive here. There is noting funny about looking at this woman on the treadmill, (on her 6th mile…) killing herself. That is the reality we just saw a picture of a woman on her way to her death, if she does not make some serious changes in her life, she will DIE. There is nothing funny or remotely amusing about that.

Li November 18, 2012 - 5:39 PM

I think the point of the article is for you to have exactly the response you’re all having, except you’re directing it at the article as opposed to the people they’re directing the satire toward: our society and an exercise industry which often glorifies being thin & weight loss at any cost over physical & mental health. Yes it’s extreme & disturbing but that’s the point of satire: to exaggerate some aspect of the truth so we understand the problems behind it.

And they’re spot on about sports club culture in particular. As Erika said, the article isn’t about the sick woman but the positive reaction the other gym members have for what is essentially a symptom of her illness: her extremely thin body. As someone who has gone into a gym to stay in shape/put on muscle and had them ask me my weight LOSS goal, I think they got it exactly right.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 18, 2012 - 5:47 PM


Black Beauty on a Budget December 4, 2012 - 1:19 AM

It saddens me that so many miss the point of SATIRE. Perhaps those of you who are gravely offended should spend some time investigating satire’s true intent. This piece is meant to be provocative [as it has been], not mean spirited. Satire is a form of social criticism meant to inspire change, or at the very least cause the reader to evaluate the status quo.

“They shine a nasty little light in a mirror, and it often reflects something we don’t like to look out.”

BINGO!! People tend to have averse reactions to things that are uncomfortable to examine. It won’t particularly be because you yourself have an issue with anorexia; it could be any body issue. Rather than calumniate the creators of this piece, let’s applaud their true intent.

Chasing Joy January 12, 2013 - 3:03 AM

Sadly, I have a friend who admits that the size she feels most comfortable (attractive) at is when everyone else thinks she looks sick or anorexic.

Sally Gray March 26, 2013 - 2:20 PM

This is so sad, she is a walking heart attack. Her body has to work overtime. I am so happy I work in healthcare where I have access to logical nutrition. I am 5’7 and 145 lbs. I worry about losing to much weight and no longer looking healthy doing it the right way. I will be praying for her deliverance from this horrible illness.

Natasha March 26, 2013 - 4:14 PM

I understood the satire and found it somewhat amusing. As previously said, no one is laughing at anorexia. I couldn’t help but think about society’s view about weight as it relates to mental health. The DSM-IV-TR recognizes anorexia and bulimia as mental health problems, but not compulsive overeating or food addiction (unless the DSM-V, due out later this year, says something different). It seems difficult for people to recognize the emotional and psychological aspects of being overweight. Overweight individuals are simply seen as lazy, out of control or disgusting. But, starving yourself to death gets a high level of empathy and treatment. If the overweight person can be slapped with crude remarks such as “just stop eating,” why is it a crying shame to tell the anorexic person to “just eat something?” The contradictions are astounding.

Reeniehoo June 14, 2013 - 11:01 AM

Erika’s take is spot on. This article gets to the heart of the myopic positive reinforcement that certain sects of society give to women for being as thin as possible, their physical, mental, and emotional health be damned. A friend of mine told me about how the stress of moving here to NYC, boy trouble, etc. caused her to not eat, resulting in weight loss down to ~95 lbs from 110 lbs on a 5’4″ frame. She acknowledged that the number of NYC high-powered bankers, lawyers, restauranteurs, men in the entertainment industry, etc. who came out the woodwork vying for her attention reinforced her already present weight obsession to nab a successful man. One of them told her outright that he was attracted to her BECAUSE she was so skinny. Does anyone even know why being very thin is so attractive? Am I over-thinking this and there’s just ‘dominant/submissive’ dynamic that some people want to play into? Or is it just an exclusivity thing- the larger we as a society become the more valuable it is to not be like everyone else? The article gave me comfort in knowing that people DO recognize the absurdity of ‘waif-glorification’, even in instances of body dysmorphia, eating disorders, etc.

Sue March 7, 2014 - 12:03 AM

I used to workout next to a lady that was way too skinny like the photo I myself was over weight 200lbs at the time I would always look at her sweating and puffing her collar bones and ribs sooo skinny I use to think some one should say something to her well eventually I got to no her long story and I did say I was worried about her being to skinny at first she just laughed it off well eventually after more talking she said you I think that my body is healthier than yours Sue
I paused and said look just because I am overweight doesn’t mean I Can’t be healthier than you I mean you look to be struggling on the treadmill lately with your endurance? I really don’t think I am can you go as long as I can Sue on the treadmill I mean how is your own endurance? I said quiet good really I mean I can’t run fast because I have compartment syndrome but I set it to a steep incline and can go for a long time just walking. Mmm she said as if to doubt me so I challenged her to a match next day she seemed more confident than I did
We both agreed to set a steep incline and same brisk walking speed after about 10 mins we were both sweating some but I felt ok we were opposite each other face to face so it was easy to see how the other was doing another ten mins and she was looking a bit short on energy her face was very red so I felt still ok lots more in the tank yet we’ll she made it to 30 mins on steep incline she didn’t won’t to quit and have me beat her so she kept looking at me wondering why I was still strong and she finally went down all most fainted she pushed it that fare I felt bad but went to help her sit down she was in tears her skinny frame had nothing left. She finally admitted that she was too skinny and she did get help so I’m glad I did that it hurt her at the time but she thanks me now and as for my energy I could of still went another 30 mins longer I did tell her later on when she asked me how close were you to stoping Sue? 30 min at least I told her wow she was always amazed at how much I beat her by .

Symone March 29, 2014 - 8:39 PM

I legitimately thought this was serious. /:

Anonymous September 13, 2014 - 5:09 PM

Well, im reading this article for the 2nd time. In class a group did a power point on beauty, And this article was there. Im 16 years old, as someone who has been dealing with anorexia for the last year or so i didnt find this funny at all. It took everything in me not to cry in class, or leave. This is absolutely ridiculous, and unless you experience anorexia you cant understand the seriousness. It is not something to be joked about. This is probably the most heartbreaking and offensive thing i have ever read.

Erika Nicole Kendall September 14, 2014 - 3:14 PM

*hugs* I realize that it must be difficult for a person who is in the throes of it to see it even remotely related to some kind of parody. I do, however, think that this is less about the person suffering and more about the people who enable a culture where we don’t care about the mental health of women, so long as they are skinny enough to satisfy our desires. We pay lip service to the care and well being of ED sufferers, but we continue to perpetuate the same kind of unhealthy tropes that enable their pain. This particular article highlights the absurdity of this.

I suspect you weren’t the only person in your class to have this reaction, and I suspect that a large number of your classmates have either had this experience or WILL have it in the coming years.

I’d encourage you to go to websites like openpathcollective.org to check out low-cost resources to help you fight this privately, or – if you’re ready – reach out to a loved one who can provide support through this time for you. You’re totally worth the effort, and I believe in my heart that you can get to the other side of this. <3

Comments are closed.