When are we going to start trusting girls?
Almost nine in 10 American teenage girls say they feel pressured by the fashion and media industries to be skinny and that an unrealistic, unattainable image of beauty has been created, a poll showed on Monday.
The online survey of 1,000 girls aged between 13 and 17 for the Girl Scouts of the USA found that three quarters said they would be more likely to buy clothes that they see on real-size models than on women who are skinny.
The article goes on to say that more than 80% of the girls surveyed would prefer to see un-retouched photos in magazines (who wouldn’t??) and that:
One in three girls said they have starved themselves or refused to eat in an effort to lose weight, while almost half said they knew someone their age who has forced themselves to throw up after eating. More than a third said they know someone who has been diagnosed with an eating disorder.
I’ll admit – when I was 13 to 17, I didn’t know anyone who had an eating disorder (diagnosed or not). I had been put on diets but I hadn’t ever restricted my own eating by choice (I just hated dieting that much). What I did know, though, was that I didn’t look like anyone in the fashion magazines I loved so much and that I felt excluded from a whole world of style simply because of the size my body had taken. I had a very clear notion that the bodies in the magazines were “right” and that mine was “wrong.” I didn’t feel allowed to trust the occasional “Hey, I’m okay” ideas that crossed my mind.
The slogan to a particular pro-choice group is “Trust Women,” which was the motto of Dr. George Tiller, the abortion doctor who was murdered last May. Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life (and I don’t intend for this post to address that issue), I think the motto “Trust Women” is powerful and could be expanded to include “Trust Girls.” The girls in this survey are telling us in no uncertain terms that their mental and physical well-being is being damaged by the fashion and media industries.
This comes as no surprise to those of us paying attention to these issues, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise when LOVE magazine puts together a photo layout of eight women “generally acknowledged as the most beautiful in the world,” intending to highlight a variety of beauty when, in fact, they are reinforcing a very specific, acceptable body shape. The editor-in-chief, Katie Grand, told Vogue.com:
“We did this to show how much they differed physically from one another, which is why we also printed their measurements…the point is that ‘perfection’ is not fixed, timeless or transcendent.”
Take a look at the pictures for yourself and try and find the physical differences Ms. Grand speaks of. I’m having a hard time finding many at all. To quote one of the article’s commenters: Epic Fail. I haven’t seen the magazine so I haven’t seen the printed measurements, but I’m left to wonder if the “differences” include an inch here and three pounds there. If this is what the fashion and beauty world sees as difference and variety, no wonder millions of teenage girls are developing eating disorders as they try to fit a specific mold, namely thin.
How about we Trust Girls? How can we expect girls (and boys and women and men) to eat intuitively when we don’t allow them to make their own judgments about what their bodies should look like? When we don’t provide them a true variety of body types as examples in magazines and on television and in films? Yes, entertainment is about suspension of disbelief and escapism, but what do we do when we can’t escape the reality they are trying to force upon us?