How does it make you feel when someone close to you tells you they feel fat?
As a woman in my mid-20s, this is something I experience every day – from my friends, family and others around me. And now, I have to see it on Facebook. Facebook encourages women to tell their friends just how much they hate their bodies, through ‘I feel fat’ statuses and emoticons.
I was 19 when I began using Facebook in 2007. Though I wanted to think the worst of my adolescent years of body insecurity were behind me, I found my insecurities heightened through this popular social media platform. One of the best things Facebook has provided is a sense of connection, a feeling of belonging and a way to experience events in the lives of those close to us. But with this comes the ability to look closely at other people’s lives, and equally have our own lives placed under the spotlight. We can often find ourselves drawing comparisons between our life, and the lives of those appearing in our daily newsfeeds.
But it’s not just about these personal experiences. As a counsellor in the field of eating disorders, I spend a lot of time talking to people about the way they feel about their bodies – how much they hate their bodies, how dissatisfied they are that they can’t look the way they want, how hard they are working and how much time they are spending trying to change their bodies, and how this is ruining their lives. I also spend a lot of time speaking to concerned loved ones, carers, teachers and health professionals who see the pain of disordered eating and body shame up close, yet can struggle to help.
Since 2013, Facebook has enabled users to choose ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ emoticons as part of the ‘feelings’ feature of status updates. Having these word choices normalises the use of derogatory descriptive terms in the place of real feelings. How can a person feel ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’ when these aren’t actually feelings? ‘Fat’ and ‘ugly’ are adjectives. Of course these adjectives are also judgements, placed on us by society to make women, (and increasingly men), feel negatively about their bodies. When someone says “I feel fat” what they’re really communicating is their feelings of unattractiveness, unhappiness, embarrassment and insecurity about their body. These feelings are most commonly a response to unrealistic, culturally promoted ideals of thinness and beauty.
Normalising this kind of language is especially harmful to young people. Body image is consistently rated as the biggest issue of concern for all young Australians. Research shows this kind of ‘fat talk’ increases body shame and disordered eating and lowers self-esteem –all risk factors for developing a clinical eating disorder. Facebook use is also associated with increased risk of developing an eating disorder, along with other risk factors including weight concern and anxiety.
As someone who has experienced the effects of this kind of language, both personally and professionally with clients, I’m asking you to rally with me in urging Facebook to remove the ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ emoticons and options from status updates.
Change petitions launched globally today
Rebecca and seven other young women across the globe have launched parallel change.org petitions today urging Facebook to remove ‘I feel fat’ statuses and emoticons.
The women represent Australia, Mexico, USA, UK, Ireland, Germany, Brazil and Argentina The petitions are supported by Endangered Bodies, an international initiative dedicated to challenging body hatred and promoting self-acceptance.
The women say Facebook must act because:
+ Body image is consistently rated as one of the biggest issues of concern for young Australians. It is well documented that fat talk perpetuates and normalises body shame rather than reducing it.
+ ‘Fat’ is an adjective, a descriptive word about a physical attribute. It is not a feeling. We all have fat, we all need fat. But saying ‘I feel fat’ is shorthand for feeling unattractive, unhappy with oneself, or for dissatisfaction.” (Shape Your Culture)
+ Fear of fat and idealisation of thinness is reflected in the form of weight stigma. This can have a serious impact on millions of individuals dealing with negative body image. Body shaming and weight stigma are associated with lower self-esteem and disordered eating, an issue that Facebook needs to take seriously.
At a time when many of us are working flat out to help young women avoid controlling, manipulative, emotionally and physically violent relationships, comes a film which presents these behaviours as romantic.
Fifty Shades of Grey, based on E.L James blockbuster book, hits the cinemas today for Valentine’s Day.
Sex shops report a roaring trade, hardware stores are stocking up on cable ties and rope, and everyone’s getting in on the act. Anti-violence men’s group White Ribbon was to be the beneficiary of a Fifty Shades screening until we pressured them enough to scrap it (unfortunately we haven’t yet had the same success getting Dr Ahmed Tanveer removed as an Ambassador for his Australian piece this week contradicting and undermining the White Ribbon cause, but watch this space). A Uniting Care pre-school was to benefit also from a fundraising screenings but Uniting Care was persuaded that that wasn’t such a good idea either and that idea was pulled.
But the juggernaut rolls on. The film is being advertised on bus shelters outside high schools and even in respite care centres for children.
Why say “I love you” with chocolate when you can say it with blood and bruises?
Christian Grey, 28, in reality a sexual sociopath worthy of a restraining order, is depicted as handsome, alluring and exceedingly wealthy. Playboy Grey targets and grooms Anastasia (Ana) Steele, a virginal, klutzy, 21-year-old college student.
His obsessive and controlling behavior towards the naïve Ana is read as a sign of love and devotion. He loves her like no other.
In the advertising overdrive, the dangerous messages propagated by the Fifty Shades phenomenon should not be missed: stalking, aggression, sexual violence, threats, intimidation, manipulation and control are sexy.
If he stalks you he must really love you. If you say ‘no’, that’s just a come-on. And if you love a sadistic abuser he’ll change and you’ll live happily ever after in a really big house.
None of these behaviours are marketed as problematic but promoted as romantic. That’s why domestic violence groups internationally have launched a campaign called ’50 dollars not 50 shades’ calling for a boycott of the film and asking for donations to women’s shelters instead. They have seen too many real-life Anastasias.
But rather than walk away from the Christian Greys of the world, the genre tells women that if you love him and cop enough of his shit, eventually he’ll magically morph into the man you wanted.
Melbourne mental health profession Geoff Ahern agrees. “It’s fiction that glorifies fear, intimidation, stalking and violence against women. When I read extracts from the book I hear my clients telling the same stories and that is most certainly not fiction”.
Natalie Collins set up the campaign group, Fifty Shades Is Domestic Abuse. The Independent reports:
When Collins’ co-campaigner first read the books, she said she was “deeply disturbed by how it mirrored the abuse that she had experienced from an ex-partner…women are coming to us and saying, ‘We feel exploited, we feel that our stories and the abuse and trauma that we have suffered are being capitalised upon.’ We’re concerned especially how that’s reflecting and impacting young people.”
Men learn to be turned on by women in pain.
Grey calls Ana his ‘submissive’ and expects her to sign a contract outlining the ways he intends to control her.
“I’m going to fuck you now, Miss Steele… Hard.” And then he “rips through” her virginity, making her cry out. He then tells her he wants her to be “sore.”
Young women are growing up in a culture which grooms and socialises them to be subordinate. Fifty Shades reinforces that – with the expectation they should also find aggression sexy and desirable.
An analysis by Michigan State and Ohio State universities determined that Grey is a perpetrator who uses an ‘interlocking pattern’ of emotional abuse strategies to manipulate Ana and control the relationship, including, stalking, intimidation, isolation and humiliation. Physical and sexual violence are prevalent and Christian uses alcohol to impair Anastasia’s consent.
“Sexual violence is pervasive,” said the authors, citing Christian using alcohol to compromise Ana’s consent, intimidation, initiating sexual encounters when angry, dismissing Ana’s requests for boundaries, threatening her and humiliating her.
The authors noted Ana experiences reactions typical of abused women such as constant perceived threat, altered identity, stressful managing, engaging in behaviours to ‘keep the peace’ like withholding information to avoid Christian’s anger.
Researchers believed the popular book series had the power to influence attitudes and beliefs surrounding intimate partner violence, arguing “individuals regularly alter their real world beliefs and attitudes in response to fictional communication.”
The impact on Anastasia is consistent with that of other victims of intimate partner violence –constant perceived threat, managing and altering her behaviors to keep peace, lost identity, disempowerment and entrapment.
A 2013 Vic Health survey found a sizeable number of people believe there are circumstances in which violence can be excused.
We don’t need more myths about intimate partner violence being a reflection of true love. The last thing we need is the romanticisation of domestic abuse.
We can’t ignore the implications of depicting a man worthy of criminal charges as hot, sexy and desirable. The packaging of a story about an abusive relationship as ‘Romance’ perpetuates violence against women and undermines efforts to promote equal, respectful relationships.
Collective Shout responds to common pro-Fifty Shades arguments
Over the last few weeks, the campaign calling on supporters to boycott Fifty Shades of Grey and donate to a domestic violence shelter has escalated – and so too has the backlash from fans of the book series arguing that it was all just a bit of harmless, sexy fun.
We’ve prepared responses to some of the most common arguments we heard in support of the book series and film.
“It’s just fiction!”
Many Fifty Shades fans argue that it is just a book/film, a work of fiction, and as such the eroticized representations of violence against women have no power to influence thinking, attitudes or beliefs.
However, an analysis of the novel found sexual violence and emotional abuse were pervasive and the popular book series had the power to influence attitudes and beliefs surrounding intimate partner violence. The authors argued that “individuals regularly alter their real world beliefs and attitudes in response to fictional communication” and “stories are especially influential when readers become drawn into them and cognitive resources, emotions, and mental imagery faculties are engaged.”
The authors noted in their conclusion “our analysis adds to a growing body of literature noting dangerous violence standards being perpetuated in popular culture.” Read more
“It’s so popular!”
Fifty Shades of Grey is popular in large part because of the misleading way the the trilogy has been promoted. It has been marketed as “romance” and “porn for women” and defended as “playful fantasy encouraging women to become more daring in their sexuality.” If the story was promoted for what it is – a powerful sadistic man grooming a naive young woman for sexual violence and abuse – we doubt it would achieve the same success.
The popularity of Fifty Shades’ means it has even greater potential to perpetuate and reinforce damaging attitudes about abusive relationships.
Throughout history many there are many examples of oppression, violence and injustice that were popular or socially accepted in their time, but are now strongly rejected. Read more
“But he loves her so much!”
To accept this argument would be to believe that stalking, possessiveness, manipulation, jealousy, control and other elements of intimate partner violence are based in love – that abusive men hurt their female partners because they ‘love them so much’.
Perpetrators themselves like to say they acted out of love. This is false. Read more
So I was taking a toilet stop last year after running the Spit Track near Manly NSW last year and saw on the toilet door a poster advertising the Wild Women on Top Coastrek – an annual fund raiser for the Fred Hollows Foundation. Having long admired the amazing work of the late Fred Hollows – continued by his wife and daughters – I decided to take part. I then roped in my daughter Ariel and mates Talitha Stone (who has featured on my blog in other challenges and exploits) and Pepita March, another partner in adventure (including midnight soccer in the middle of nowhere).
This map shows the route we’ll be taking on the 55km endurance trek March 6. Our team is ‘Tribe 20 20’.
Our goal is to raise $2500 – we’re not there yet! Please visit my fundraising page and you’re your donation. Did you know that 4 out of 5 people who are blind and live in developing countries don’t need to be! Their sight can be restored with a mere $25!
$25, 25 minutes later – this 7 year old boy can now see!
Thank you Runners Shop for partnering with us!
Delighted to announce the Runners Shop in Canberra as our first official sponsor!
How lovely to meet store manager Emily –If there was a Phd in runners she’d have three of them – what she doesn’t know about running shoes isn’t worth knowing! And as a bonus, this hardcore athlete and body builder is a supporter of my work! Here’s me, Ariel and Emily on Friday and Ariel outside the store with her brand new Brookes runners, thanks to the Runners Shop.
A special offer from Spinifex
My publishers Spinifex Press are generously offering any title of your choice for a $50 donation to our team. For $100 you can have two titles. And for every $50 on top of this an extra title! Please make a donation then visit Spinifex website and let Spinifex know you’ve made a donation and which title/s you’d like to have sent. Email is email@example.com
It has been reported that the Australian Government has denied a visa to millionaire boxer and convicted domestic violence offender Floyd Mayweather. A petition started by Angela Burrows, a crisis worker with a domestic violence service and Collective Shout’s Townsville representative had amassed over 46,000 signatures when the announcement was made today.
THE world’s highest paid athlete Floyd Mayweather has been banned from Australia due to his history of domestic violence.
Mayweather was scheduled to arrive in Melbourne this week for a series of dinners and nightclub appearances on Thursday.
But Australian authorities denied Mayweather’s application for a visa.
Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash confirmed to the Herald Sun: “a visa has not been granted in this case”
Campaigners against domestic violence had lobbied to have the boxer barred from Australia as the American had served time in jail for assaulting a former partner in front of the couple’s children.
Domestic Violence Victoria CEO Fiona McCormack had also called for the boxer to be banned from the country. Mayweather’s publicist Max Markson had tried to divert attention from his crimes against women, by promising to donate money to charities benefiting the homeless and aboriginal children.
As recently as September 2014, Mayweather was making comments to the media denying guilt for his own criminal convictions saying “there are no pictures” and downplaying another high profile incident where a footballer knocked his partner unconscious. In response to this, one sports commentator described his attitude as that of a ‘serial abuser.’
Over 46000 people made their voices heard and have ensured that this serial abuser will not be held up as a role model for children in Australia.
This victory sends an important message not only to Floyd Mayweather but to Australia and the US – it doesn’t matter how wealthy and popular you are, domestic violence is inexcusable and we will not tolerate it.
Angela Burrows was interviewed for 3AW Melbourne’s Drive program with Tom Elliot.
Listen to Angela Burrows discuss the petition on 30th January (Listen from 1:19:00 to hear Angela)
Listen to Angela Burrows on 4th February discussing the success of the petition (Listen from approx 1:43:30 to hear Angela)
It’s been a massive year of campaigning at Collective Shout this year- perhaps our best yet! As the year draws to a close, we reflect back on some of our wins and favourite memories from 2014. These successes could not have been accomplished without your participation and willingness to speak out against sexploitation. Together we are changing the world.
Activist Talitha Stone addressed Assistant Principals at a national conference who responded with a standing ovation being so inspired by her story and her passion.
Roxy changed their ways after we participated in a campaign led by surfing champion Cori Shumacher condemning Roxy for their ‘all sex no surf’ women’s surf competition trailer.
Collective Shout activists Talitha Stone and Caitlin Roper participated in a panel discussing the mainstreaming of pornography at the International Women’s Liberation Summit in Brisbane. Talitha spoke on a panel at the Online Hate Prevention‘s launch.
We came together with over 300 Human Rights organisations to support an open letter to Associated Press written by prostitution and trafficking survivor organisations, asking them to cease using terms like ‘sex work’ that legitimise and sanitise the human rights abuses committed against them.
We received international media attention on our campaign against CafePress for selling porn-themed and pro-rape merchandise and baby clothing, putting the pressure on CafePress to implement changes to their computer systems that allow users to create and sell these items.
We took down Julien Blanc as part of an international protest against the Pick Up Artist whose methods included choking women and pushing their heads onto his crotch. Blanc’s visa was subsequently cancelled.
Without your support this year, we would not be able to achieve such great successes. Know that your voice does matter, and when we stand together we can do great things. We look forward to your continued support and participation in the new year and wish you the very best for 2015.
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
“Intelligent, passionate, brilliant, fearless… I could not recommend her more highly”
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
“You continue to reset my shock meter…”
“As a teacher and parent I recommend all parents, in fact all people, to attend a talk by Melinda- it will open your eyes and awaken your subconscious.”
Heather Douglas – Parent – Pembroke School
“Melinda’s presentations to our parents, staff and full day workshops to students was inspirational, transforming the attitudes and thinking of all involved”
Paul Teys – Principal – Hunter Valley Grammar
“Melinda Tankard Reist’s presentation to Middle and Upper School students at Pymble Ladies’ College was absolutely brilliant!”
Justine Hodgson – English Faculty, Pymble Ladies’ College
“Melinda Tankard Reist has had a transformational affect on our school.”
Ms Stephanie McConnell, Principal – Turramurra High School
“As you read, be prepared to feel both grief and rage.” Robert Jensen
“These accounts are among the most unsettling you will ever read.” Steve Biddulph
“This powerful and humane book is a breakthrough…Big Porn Inc shows us we are poisoning our own spirits.” – Steve Biddulph
“A landmark publication” – Clive Hamilton
Purchase Big Porn Inc, Getting Real, Faking It, Men of Honour, Sexts Texts & Selfies, Raising Girls, Raising Boys, MTR DVD, Ruby Who? DVD & book, Girl Wise guide to friends, Girl Wise guide to being you, Girl Wise guide to life and Girl Wise guide to taking care of your body, and the new Wise Guys for the combined discounted price of $250.
‘The foremost authority in Australia cyber safety lays it on the line and challenges parents to find their digital spine.’ – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
Whether it is problems with friends, worrying about how you look or just feeling a bit down in the dumps – these books are written especially for you – to help you in your journey. Purchase all four together and save $18.50 on postage! Author: Sharon Witt
In this DVD, Melinda takes us on a visual tour of popular culture. “Melinda’s presentation leaves audiences reeling. She delivers her message with a clarity and commonsense without peer.” – Steve Biddulph, author, Raising Boys, Raising Girls
In this easy-to-read updated book, Steve Biddulph shares powerful stories and give practical advice about every aspect of boyhood.
“Overflowing with incisive understandings…a comprehensive and in-depth guide.” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychologist
Men of Honour -written by Glen Gerreyn- encourages and inspires young men to take up the challenge to be honourable. Whether at school, in sport, at work or in relationships, we must develp our character to achieve success and experience the thrills life has on offer.
Purchase the Ruby Who? DVD and book together for only $35 saving 10% off the individual price.
“Getting Real contains a treasure trove of information and should be mandatory reading for all workers with young people in health, education and welfare” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Adolescent Psychologist
Do you read women’s lifestyle magazines? Have you thought about how magazines might affect you when you read them? Faking It reflects the body of academic research on magazines, mass media, and the sexual objectification of women.
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Defiant Birth challenges widespread medical, and often social aversion to less than perfect pregnancies or genetically different babies. It also features women with disabilities who were discouraged from becoming pregnant at all.