Sunday, 19 April 2009

Regaining Order from Disorder

I do not have a daughter. For most of the last 22 years, I have lived my life in the exclusive company of testosterone. It has been my hope, and certainly a life goal of mine, to raise men who are sensitive to the needs of the women in their lives and for them to see equality regardless of gender. As a result of not having daily contact with young girls, I have become slightly amnesiac as to some of their constant issues and problems. I have watched as my friends with teenage daughters have struggled through adolescent stuff, but always at a comfortable distance. Today, something happened that made me realize that it isn't always right or easy to stay silent. 

A young teenage relative posted the following item on her Facebook page. Basically, it was an inane quiz entitled "I prefer the term "Naturally Anorexic"... but yah..this note lies". The idea of this stupid test was to assign point values to all the various foods that the taker has eaten in the last week, total up the score and assign an offensive label to said score.  Under 16-you're anorexic or close to it, 17-50-you're normal, and 51 or over-sorry you're a big fat fatty! Now I am absolutely certain that my young buddy was only playing around and thought that the note in which she tagged a variety of her friends, was something amusing; a way to kill a few minutes on a boring Sunday afternoon. I saw it as something much more disturbing. I saw in the note the continual patterning of dangerous body imaging. 

Our young women are constantly bombarded with unrealistic body images every single day. Media, television, movies, magazines and newspapers are continually showing our daughters, nieces and friends the way society believes that they should look. They never show the airbrushing, eating disorders, illnesses and psychological damage. Scarlett Johansson has a wonderful blog piece on Huffington Post this weekend that describes her constant harassment by media types over her weight. Check out this hideous ad for a fitness firm in The Netherlands.
At a time when real-woman Susan Boyle has reminded the entire world that true talent is not measured by hair styles or the scale, I find it necessary to educate my young cousin on some of the real world facts about body image and eating disorders. These statistics come from The South Carolina Department of Mental Health.
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
  • One in 200 American women suffer from anorexia
  • 2-3 in 100 American women suffer from bulimia
  • The mortality rate associated with anorexia is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15-24 years old.
  • Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents.
  • 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25
  • 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight.
  • 80% of 13 year old girls have attempted to lose weight.
There is much more, but I am certain that the point is made. I understand the obsession with weight. I have spent a good portion of the last 30 years trying to lose 10-15 pounds. It is only recently that I saw the ridiculousness in my behaviour and chose to live a healthy lifestyle and let the scale fall wherever it may. If we are ever going to see ourselves as strong, independent and healthy women, we need to impress upon our daughters, nieces, cousins and young friends that the images that they are overwhelmed with every day are fallacies. They need to find comfort in who they are and discover where their strengths lie, and to understand that somewhere in the jokes, is real pain. In order to learn more about positive female imaging, I urge you to check out The Illusionists

1 comment:

  1. lol it was just a funny note, sorry that it caused you to feel uncomfortable. Although, the note was wrong, because it goes by the variety of food you eat not the quantity..