Sunday, January 24, 2021

When are we going to start trusting girls?

February 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Body Image

From Reuters:

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

“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?


No Responses to “When are we going to start trusting girls?”
  1. lissa10279 says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this post, Candice. Why DON’T marketers listen to what girls are saying? Shouldn’t consumer insight mean SOMETHING? It’s a sea change we want, but we’re only seeing ripples in the tide as of late.

    • CandiceBP says:

      I always think that in America, ideas should follow the money if you want something to get done so it only makes sense that the fashion and entertainment industries would go after this market, but they simply don’t seem to want to change, even if it means more money. We didn’t have Torrid when I was in high school, but I can only imagine how much of my babysitting money would have been spent there (like, uh, 100% lol).

      I don’t expect them to do it for the good of it (hello tobacco industry) and I just wonder what it will take to cause that sea change.

  2. WendyRG says:

    These eight women represent a “variety” of body types? PUH-LEEZE.

  3. Kat says:

    Its the same here back in Germany. People say “I’d love to see real-sized-women” and still the Media doesnt really do too much about it. Brigitte Magazine claims that they dont use professional Models anymore, and i heard from Spain that they measured “regular” Spanish women to resize their display dummies (obviously make them gain a few lbs.).

  4. julie says:

    I see the differences. Some have short hair, some long, some is slicked back, some is down. Some have larger boobs. I don’t think changes will be made without legislation, and I don’t legislation will happen anytime soon. I hear about it happening in other countries, and that gives me hope, but in the US, at least, it seems that women are expected to be pretty, thin, young, and silent, and nothing is going to be done that might give them other ideas.

    • CandiceBP says:

      I often think the same thing re: legislation and I often think of the tobacco trials that got warnings printed on cigarette boxes and stopped TV advertising. I wonder what it will take for this issue to be taken seriously. Models, girls, and women have died from the issue and that wasn’t enough yet.

      The inclusion of how women are to be “silent” is quite true. We often forget that part of the equation but it’s a big one. So I guess we fight it by speaking up more?

  5. wriggles says:

    You raise an interesting possibility about thinness making bodies appear more uniform than they really are. By keeping charateristics that tend to mark body types to a minimum.

    These women display the main physical types, apple pear and hour glass. It is their size that is almost the same.

    • CandiceBP says:

      Interesting point. I have to say, I’d be hard-pressed to find the three main physical shapes in those pictures and I wonder if it’s because they’re all thin and in high heels, which alter the appearance of your body shape due to how the pelvis is tilted. It seems more telling to me that they’re all thin and tall (even Kate Moss, at 5’7″ is taller than the average woman) and I believe six are white (going off memory without going back to check). It’s a narrow grouping for supposed diversity – but I’m intrigued by the idea that certain sizes make bodies appear more uniform. Very interesting.

  6. love2eatinpa says:

    great post! why wait until we are adults to start teaching us about loving out bodies the way they are, it really needs to start when girls are young and their minds are still forming. that is also a mother’s responsibility too as far in my opinion. we need to teach these values to our girls.

    • CandiceBP says:

      I would add to our boys, too. Somehow I plan to try and teach my son that women of all shapes, sizes, colors, nationalities, etc are beautiful, even if he happens to have a preference for a specific “type” when he grows up (and I let him start dating). I don’t know how I’ll do this, but I think that – just like with girls – it will come with leading by example, by being positive and happy about my appearance and not cutting down the appearance of other women, no matter their size or body type, etc. and having honest conversations about how the bodies we see on TV, video games, and in magazines aren’t always the norm and (in the case of mags and games) not necessarily “real” either.

  7. McLauren84 says:

    Wow..when I first read the description of the story, I was really hoping they’d actually included a variety of shapes and beauty ideals. Instead they showed eight women who couldn’t vary more from the Western ultra-thin beauty myth if they tried.

  8. Catgal says:

    WARNING: The images in this magazine are not typical and do not reflect the average American woman, man, child.

  9. msboho says:

    This is such an important post and I think that there are too many strong women out there for all these young girls to be making these mistakes. Hopefully, at least a couple will get to read this post.

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