I have always thought that surely women are intelligent enough to realise that models in both fashion and beauty are airbrushed in print and being stick-thin is not a natural state of being for most people. The reason that many models become models is because they are naturally very slender, tall and fine-boned, which is not a usual combination. But in reality, there are very, very few models whose natural state is thus. Most have to really work hard at keeping their weight down and anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows what a miserable state of existence living on the edge of hunger all the time is. If you are young and healthy, your body can sustain this level of semi-starvation for a while, so I would never worry initially about the health of a thin model in the short term and if they want to persue a notoriously short-spanned career being thin and wearing clothes, then so be it.
However, the coroner from the case mentioned made a statement that I find quite startling because it is a very clear link to the responsiblity magazines have to take in creating a weight hate culture. He says that ‘the prevalence of eating disorders in young people did not exist before the seventies’. His connection is that it was from that point in recent history that magazines began promoting thin figures, and guess what? Ever since, there has been a problem and it is escalating out of control. We live in a world where thin is the ultimate aspiration and some people are just not made to be thin. I might add that nobody is made to be obese either, but that is a different issue.
What you need to be is a healthy weight for your size and height. And not because it looks great, but because it keeps all of your organs functioning at its best. Everyone’s size and weight will differ but we are now in this hideous state of aspiring to be what our bodies were never meant to be. The pressure to be thin has never been greater than it is now. I’m a natural size 10/12, but I’ve also been as low as a size 6 and also a size 14. I’m quite short so really can’t carry a lot of extra weight and feel great on it. We are no more meant to be thin as slivers of cheese as we supposed to be obese. Neither is a good state and yet one is far more acceptable than another in the eyes of the media, and therefore in the minds of impressionable groups. I would never celebrate extreme obesity just as I would never celebrate extreme thinness.
Ideally, all magazines will follow Vogue’s footsteps and picture naturally shaped models; I don’t really expect them to start promoting overweight-ness (is that even a word?) but really, we should all want to see healthy bodies above all other considerations. If you are 14 and desperate to look like models and celebrities it’s unlikely you’ll have the understanding of airbrushing or the benefit of a chef and a personal trainer to keep you on the weight straight and narrow. Parents too are caught between a rock and hard place; you can’t tell your kids they’re too fat in case they get anorexia and you can’t tell your kids they are too thin in case they get body dysmorphia. While you are growing up your body goes through all kinds of permutations and you can be just right, a bit over and a bit under in a short space of time. It’s all about perspective and keeping a healthy mind about a healthy body. So, while it’s fine to aspire to a healthy weight, clear skin and shiny hair, all normal aspirations in my view, let’s take a leaf out of the past when bodies weren’t starved or stuffed and just accept bodies for what they are; individual and unique to everyone.
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At least part of the problem is how early childhood finishes these days. Before the 70s that poor girl who killed herself would have still be wearing ankle socks and thinking about ponies in her early teens instead of weight and looks. Anorexia certainly existed before the 70s (and is something quite distinct from just wanting to be thin in any case) but what didn’t was the pressure to look a certain way before you were legally an adult.
I have suffered in the past with image problems and perceptions. I’m a healthy weight for my height (5’2″) and a size 8/10 but I went through a stage in my teenage years where I thought I needed to be super skinny to succeed.
Images of being slim & beautiful often come hand in hand with an image of success. Therefore girls may see being thin as a way of being successful. Which of course is far from the truth!
At the same time I agree that the media should not promote images of being overweight as that is not healthy either.
Unfortunately it is part of growing up to learn to be comfortable in our own skin. I wish I could go back to may 17 year old self and tell her (from my now 30 year old point of view) not to worry about image and to learn to be happy inside yourself & make the most of what you have got.
Very true.. it did exist but certainly not to the extent that it does now.. like obesity it was not commonplace, and you are right.. childhood lasts a fraction of the time it used to which is very sad.
I totally agree with GreatSheElephant. I look at the clothes aimed and marketed by the high street at my 10 year old daughter and I despair.
C (my daughter) is naturally very slim, and always has been. We have that kind of metabolism, I’ve never dieted and we eat healthily at home. I thought we were ‘safe’ but what has really concerned me recently is that she’s come home saying that other girls in her class have asked how she ‘gets so skinny’. They’re 10.
I think it did exist back then although there wasnt social media like there is today so it was less heard about. I agree to an extent that magazines do little for a young womans confidence but on the other hand I do think that anorexia is a mental disorder too. If magazines were solely to blame then how comes not everyone that sees these women feels the need to stop eating. I understand there is an immense pressure to remain thin but I don’t think the media is the sole cause.
I agree media and fashion industry play a part, but isn’t the parents responsible as well? Should’t they be guiding their daughter from what’s real and not?
I think parents need to play a big part in shaping the way that young girls feel about their bodies. My parents encouraged me to exercise and to eat healthily, most importantly they made me aware of the fact that what I see in magazines doesn’t really exist in real life.
Eating disorders have been recorded since the 1600s. It really is a state of mind not a fashion statement.if it was so easy to get sucked in, it would be as easy to get back out.
The portrayal of women in the media is definitely a contributing factor to a lot of girls attitudes to weight but I do not believe that any girl would develop a life threatening disease over some photographs in a magazine.
I tweeted about this when I heard the story on the news yesterday.
Not sure where he got his facts from but eating disorders were around well before the seventies but not as ‘known’ and maybe not as prevalent for reasons that are much more complicated than what the media is publishing.
As an ex-anorexic I know that images of thin girls certainly don’t help the problem (and in most cases exacerbate it) but I refuse to believe images in a magazine have ever caused an eating disorder. The coroner seems to have forgotten that eating disorders are a mental health issue. Magazines don’t cause schizophrenia, and likewise they don’t cause anorexia.
While I agree that magazines are bad role models, it’s very important to remember that anorexia is a disease. If I were to read Associated papers (Daily Mail, Metro) I probably wouldn’t want to get out of bed every day, scare mongering is their forte!
I think to claim that magazines are to blame is simplistic at best, dangerous at worst. There are many reasons people develop anorexia but I do think that it is very difficult for girls these days to get an understanding of what a healthy body weight is. We are bombarded with images of women who are unnaturally thin and then any time a so-called celeb puts on a few pounds they’re publicly derided for letting them self go.
And if you look at clothes aimed at young girls and they’re so highly sexualised. There is makeup and pamper parties and nail polish all aimed at children who have never had a proper opportunity to be children. All this leads to children developing a distorted body image of how they should look.
So while the magazine images are not solely responsible for this girl’s death I do think the fashion industry needs to recognise it has a problem and start working to correct it.
I found this post very interesting and it was also very well written. In my opinion, magazines don’t CAUSE anorexia…it’s often born out of someone feeling like they have no control. Often the only thing they CAN control is their own weight so they become obsessed by it. However, I don’t think magazines help the issue by championing emaciated models who are quite obviously an unhealthy weight. Placing these models on a pedestal to young girls does not promote a healthy attitude to weight or eating habits. They need to start facing up to the fact that they are part of the problem!
I read about this case the other day and it is extremely tragic. Weight shouldn’t define a person.
– Keyta x
I think that you can’t always blame the media. If a child overhears its mother telling her friend that she’s on a diet in a bid to lose weight then they will naturally try to emulate them. I’ve been trying to emulate my female influences my whole life. As a teenager I tried my hardest to starve myself because my mother, who was permanently on a diet, and sister are both petite and slim whereas I am 6ft and built like my father who isn’t heavy set but isn’t a rake. Going to an all girls school didn’t help either.
I think there comes a point when every teenager accepts who they are regardless of peer pressure, media, society on general. It is SO sad that this case became fatal but the coroner is wrong. The media can’t be blamed. It was simply a heart-breaking case of mental health issues that spiralled out of control. Body dismorphia should be taught about and diagnosed in schools a helluva lot more than it is right now!
I sorta agree with Liparazzi. I think media does play a part but ultimately the person and if she’s a young girl, her parents, need to be responsible too. You can’t say just because others tell you being skinny is good, it’s totally their fault you are anorexic. You don’t just do what someone told you blindly without thinking. We all have to be responsible for our own actions. Just because other being are wrong doesn’t mean you have to be wrong too. I found nowadays there is a trend for people to blame others while something goes wrong in themselves, instead of thinking what have you yourself done wrong that you could have prevented.
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Really good post and very interesting. My daughter is 13 and naturally thin but is always getting comments at school about which diet she is on and a big topic is how much they weight!! I think magazines are responsible but I think a bigger worry is the music videos that they watch!
Very sad about this young girl and yes I think the judge is right to highlight the obsession people have with media images and perfect bodies. Great Post.
I think the research indicates it is worse than you think. Your subconscious registers and reacts to images even if your logical brain dismisses them.
I have written a blog post on the same subject that has a slightly different slant.
I have to ask, have you ever suffered from an eating disorder or body dysmorphia yourself?
The proliferation of images of thin models and celebs attempting to be thin has vastly increased over the past few years…and many models and celebs, and I’m talking female here, regardless how “talented” they are appear to be judged on their success at maintaining an airbrushed look even on an off-day. I work with teenagers who have MH problems, and I can honestly say that most of the girls that I nurse, regardless of their own mental illness, have an issue with food and their own body image. I also have 2 daughters; the eldest being 11 and it worries me as to what the hell are they going to be confronted with as the years pass and the pressure builds.
Annie, I have been many sizes during my life, with my lowest weight just under seven stone. Not good times 🙁
Colin has a good point. Even though we know the images are photoshopped we don’t know what the original image looked like, and it is the unattainably thin image that our brain sees and remembers.
It’s obscene when one thinks of it, really. Models have always been slimmer than the general population, but now they’re ridiculously thin. The idea of “real” women offends me, even as someone who’s overweight. Thin women are just as real – except when they’re not, as when they’ve been photoshopped to nothing at all.
Anorexia has always been around; the doctor said as much. But as women have become increasingly valued and measured by how good their body is, so, too, have the rates of incidence risen. -Seagulls