We need change. We need it now. And we need your help to get it. Please join us in our crusade. We are in the midst of a public health crisis in Australia. Weight, eating and body image issues are rampant. The weight loss services industry has positioned itself as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, causing harm and confusion to Australians.
If you are a REGISTERED HEALTH PROFESSIONAL IN AUSTRALIA (eg psychologist, doctor, dietician) and you share our concern, please sign the petition for a Senate inquiry into the need for regulation of the weight loss services industry, namely the advertising and sale of dietary products and supplements. If you are not a health professional, please join Endangered Bodies Australia so we can keep you informed and let you know of the many ways you can be involved both now and in the future.
You can read the letter by clicking on the image below.
Girlfriend and Dolly can be commended this year for taking strong stands on alcohol and drugs. This issue of GF is no exception, with ‘The High Life’ exploring the harms of smoking marijuana. When celebs boast about it – such as Miley Cyrus posting a photo of herself smoking pot with the caption “High as f—“ and Rihanna posting a marijuana plant she received for Valentine’s Day, this celeb endorsement gives the drug a big tick. GF points out however that the drug is “more harmful than most people realise.” “Short-term marijuana usage increases your risk of heart attack by five times in the first hour of smoking it and the risk of impaired judgment can lead to impulsive decision making, injury, or even death,” says Jan Copeland, director of the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre. It also doubles your risk of having a car accident. Girls who have smoked the drug describe a lack of motivation to deal with what was stressing them out, which contributes to feeling more stressed later. Fifty percent of long-term users develop a dependency. Users are more likely to suffer from anxiety attacks, psychosis and schizophrenia as well as lower IQ’s.
‘Is someone else directing your life?’ encourages girls to take control of their destiny, rather than be driven by others. “…if you find yourself increasingly frustrated with your life and/or where you’re headed, or feeling jealous of someone else’s success, it may be that your people-pleasing habits are getting the best of you. You also haven’t been true to what you really want, deep down,” says psychologist Dr Pene Schmidt. You can tell if someone has too much influence over you by the way they make you feel. “If you find yourself feeling worried, anxious, uncomfortable, or resentful, these can be great warning signs to let us know that we need to stop and reassess the situation,” she says. If friends continue to dictate the terms of a relationship, then perhaps it’s time to find new ones Girls are also given advice on communicating with parents who may be putting them under pressure. “Assertive communication is one of the most valuable tools teens can use if they’re experiencing conflict with their parents”, says Dr Schmidt. All good, but perhaps could have done without the half page illustration of a mother shouting through a megaphone with the words ‘Bla’, ‘Bla’, ‘Bla’ coming out of it maybe implying mothers yell but have nothing important to say which may not facilitate the positive and calm communication encouraged in the article. (Yes, I know, I’m a mother). Read entire post here.
Cleo Magazine: Stop digitally altering images to change appearances #RealGirlsCleo
Following a US teenager’s successful petition calling on 17 Magazine to publish one unaltered photo spread per month, Melbourne woman Jessica Barlow has created a petition calling on Australian Cleo Magazine to do the same.
The petition reads:
Reality is beautiful. Stop using Photoshop to alter appearances.
In high school, not a day would go by without hearing another girl complain about her weight or appearance. I saw girls get severely bullied and excluded because they didn’t live up to the beauty ideals of women in magazines.And it made me want to doctor my own appearance even more.
My friends and I looked up to the models in Cleo magazine. It was one of the most popular among my classmates. But what I think many of us didn’t know is that Cleo was altering the images of women to make them skinny and blemish free.
The altered pictures make readers question their weight, appearance and self-worth. I know this much first hand. They teach us that to be “pretty” you have to be thin and have perfect skin. Studies now show that these damaging images can lead to eating disorders, dieting and depression.
Distorting and editing the appearances of models in magazines is distorting the mental health of girls who read magazines that engage in these practices.
Public pressure is building across the world for magazines to stop altering images of girls. In the US a teenager convinced Seventeen Magazine to publish one unaltered spread a month after thousands joined her petition. I think Cleo should do the same for their readers.
I want Cleo to stop selling images that hurt girls and break our self-esteem. Let us see real faces and real shapes in at least one photo spread a month — and always put a warning symbol on any image that has been altered.
It’s time to put an end to the digitally enhanced, unrealistic beauty we see in the pages of magazines. Please sign my petition to Cleo Magazine editors calling on them to give us images of real girls in their magazines.
And I’d love to hear your stories — if you’re on Twitter use #RealGirlsCleo hashtag.
To help convince Cleo to get on board, I have launched the “Brainwash Project”, which involves the presentation of this petition along with edition one of a new magazine showing what young females want and need in their magazines. To complete it, I need as much help as I can get, please visit: http://pozible.com/brainwashproject and/or www.facebook.com/brainwashproject for more information.
In this guest post, Cleo reader Madeleine Rigelsford reveals the humiliating process she went through after the avowedly body positive magazine chose her for its Body Challenge feature before dumping her.
The latest edition of Cleo magazine features the Cleo Body Challenge – in which ordinary readers talk about their weight struggles and the magazine helps them get in shape by the end of it. I was nearly one of them.
I applied. It involved providing the participants with a trainer and a nutritionist – they would be followed on their journey across four-page spreads in three editions. They asked readers to write in, telling them their weight struggles and to provide photos. Read full article here.
This week, Seventeen magazine promised to publish un-photoshopped images of real girls, finally responding to 14-year-old SPARK activist Julia Bluhm’s campaign. Such pressure must continue argues author Laura Bates.
Last week, two editions of Now magazine appeared on newsstands in the UK. The weekly issue featured a dramatic photograph of model Abbey Crouch, emphasizing her prominent collarbones and hollow thighs. The headline read “Oh no! Scary Skinnies,” while a caption warned: “Girls starving to be like her.” Inside, a feature revealed that “worryingly, pro-anorexia sites are using her figure as a skinny role model.” The other magazine was the Now Celebrity Diet Special. Its cover was emblazoned with a photograph of the same model in a glamorous bikini, under the headline: “Bikini body secrets…stars’ diet and fitness tricks REVEALED.”
This is perhaps the most blatant example to date of a disturbing and growing trend of women’s magazines affecting a superficial stance of concern about issues that they themselves are often guilty of causing or exacerbating.
This week, the Women’s Media Center celebrated the success of a campaign by 14-year old SPARK activist Julia Bluhm, whose petition calling upon Seventeen magazine to publish one unaltered photo spread per month attracted over 84,000 signatures. But it was only after Bluhm’s campaign whipped up an international media storm that the magazine finally capitulated. When she visited their New York office in May, Julia’s petition already had over 25,000 signatures, yet Seventeen responded with a saccharine statement that neatly sidestepped any commitment, while loudly proclaiming their ethical standpoint on the issue: “Julia left understanding that Seventeen celebrates girls for being their authentic selves, and that’s how we present them.”
There is an undeniable disparity between the caring, concerned tone magazines adopt, and the actual pictures and features they continue to publish week-in, week-out. The recent “health initiative” launched by Vogue was much trumpeted by the magazine as its contribution to promoting positive body image. Yet nowhere in the 6-point agreement is there any commitment to promoting healthy physical ideals through the use of unaltered photographs or a greater range of model sizes. In fact, in terms of its impact on the magazines’ pages, the pact boils down to a commitment not to use underage models or those suffering from eating disorders, as the usual reams of endless thin legs and tiny waists in this month’s Vogue testify.
The same mixed messages are barely concealed across the pages of countless magazines. This month alone, New urges women to “show off their curves,” praising “womanly shapes,” whilst Glamour advises readers to “double up your workout,” “transform your body” and “lose 7 lb – instantly!” Last week’s Star praised Billie Faiers for having “boobs and loving her gorgeous curves,” but just seven days later their next issue proclaimed “Billie hates her big boobs” and “feels self-conscious in a bikini.” Star applauds Pink for being “in no rush to lose her baby weight,” but Now brands Abbey Crouch a “star body” because she “weighs less now than she did before she gave birth last March.” More awards Alexandra Burke “multiple medals for showing off her curves,” but Look badgers readers to “get your dream body in no time” with “calorie burning” hot pants and gym kit that “tones you up fast.” Many feature “curvy celebs” specials, raking thinner celebrities like LeAnn Rimes for “bones jutting out” and a “super-skinny figure,” yet many include celeb diet secrets, painstakingly listing entire daily meal plans.
Holli Rubin, a representative of global initiative Endangered Bodies and a psychotherapist specializing in body image, explains: “Once again, girls and women find themselves in a double bind of on the one hand aspiring to what they believe is the perfect body represented by the celebrities but at the same time, more recently, being told that they really should not want those bodies. Visually we are seeing the images of what girls and women think they should be, yet then the content of the articles berates women for aspiring to that. This makes for a very confusing message not only for girls but for all women and society at large.”
A recent UK government report revealed that “between one third and half of young girls fear becoming fat and engage in dieting or binge eating” and “over 60 percent of girls avoid certain activities because they feel bad about their looks.” It specifically cited media criticism of body weight combined with a lack of body diversity as a contributing factor. Helen Sharpe, a London-based researcher investigating eating disorders in secondary schools agrees: “Exposure to these magazines is robustly linked to body dissatisfaction. We also know that those people most unhappy and vulnerable to begin with are likely to be most affected by the images in a damaging way.”
It’s bad enough that the unrealistic, narrow ideals of female beauty and body prescribed by women’s magazines are so damaging to women’s body confidence and self-esteem. But when “3 out of 4 teenage girls feel depressed, guilty and shameful after spending three minutes leafing through a fashion magazine”; when a coroner last month held the fashion industry and “photographs of wafer thin girls” “directly responsible” for the death of 14-year old schoolgirl Fiona Geraghty; when “80% of 10 year old American girls have been on a diet,” it is time for women’s magazines to stop pretending to advocate for solutions and admit they are part of the problem.
Consider Julia Bluhm and Fiona Geraghty: both 14-year old girls, both already deeply affected by the fashion and magazine industry. Women’s magazines must pay attention to their legacy.
The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author alone and do not represent WMC. WMC is a 501(c)(3) organization and does not endorse candidates.
To support women journalists who are changing the conversation, donate to the WMC here.
“A woman will see this as a representative of herself and her self-worth”
Have come across some great blog posts on the stuff that matters here at MTR and I thought you should see them too. Opt 4 has perfectly captured the way objectification of women and girls is harful to them. And there’s some great action points at the end!
You’re flipping through your favorite magazine, newspaper, or just general rag that happens to be around. You’re focusing on 1-2 things per page, and if you asked most people they wouldn’t know half of what they saw while they were flipping the pages. You noticed a phone number here, a dress someone was wearing there, an interesting 100 word article that you skimmed, but nothing truly significant…and you put the mag down and (if you’re like most of us, like the majority of the people int he world) you’ll pick up another one and do something very similar.
What you don’t realize is that though you thought you were just flipping, your mind has allowed you to think that through the use of many many filters. If you consciously knew everything you saw, you’d go into brain overload.
SCARY PART – Your brain is imprinted with every single thing that crosses your eyes. It’s imprinted ont he main central control unit, or the CPU of your brain, the part of your brain that is in complete control of your thinking, your emotions, and how you live your life – your subconscious.
So in your 10 minutes of flipping, your brain was imprinted with every picture you saw.
Now, a lot of research has been done (by marketing and advertising agencies…this is no coincidence) as to what will catch your eye, what colors will entice and shock you, and what images and shapes will cause your eye to imprint onto your subconscious. The breadth of research is phenomenal…and it’s where a lot of our optical illusions come from. So everything that crosses your eyes’ path, is immediately imprinted on your main central influence section of your brain.
To begin this series we’ll start with Print media consumption.
So what are we looking at on a daily basis…here’s a group of print ads:
This blog has spoken about the problems of print media for years:
These are a very very very small example of ads that are seen throughout the fashion magazine, glamour magazines, and women magazine industries. Ads depicting women in brutal, abusive, object-like ways are churned out by the millions.
Most magazines are on average 60% advertising. Many of the fashion magazines ramp it up to 80-90% advertising if you add the captions that tell you the price and make of the things the models are wearing.
So let’s quickly do the numbers and see how far-reaching these images can be – Each magazine has about 800,000 subscribers (this is a very low number). There are 7 ads in each of our hypothetical magazines (the pictures above), that means these images were imprinted on 800,000 people. in a year, these people have each been imprinted with 84 images….that means 800,000 people have been accustomed and trained that images of violence against women are merely advertising and entertainment.
Now add this 800,000 to 10 different magazines for a total of 8,000,000 people! That is a country. That is a large cross-section of our Untied States. The sad part is that this is a low number.
With what we know of brain imprinting we know that these images were imprinted on the subconscious and then created into a thought and opinion. A woman will see this as a representative of herself and her self-worth. A man will see this as a Representative of women in general and is actively learning how to treat “her” through these images. When we see 1 million images a day and 1/2 of them depict violence against women and gender inequality – we have a very heavy imprinting on our brain to think 1 view and idea of women.
When we put all of the ads together we see only 1 thing:
When 1 gender is seen to be superior to another gender, the superior gender will react in violence towards that lesser gender. This has been seen in racism, ageism, and sexism!
Add another aspect to this: Remember what I said above: “A woman will see this as a representative of herself and her self-worth.” Not only are men seeing that women should be treated with violence and that they as men are superior, but women are being taught they deserve this violence and they are less than a man. When a group of people are taught to see themselves as less than another group – the downtrodden group accepts the violence that is put on them as deserved and “normal”.
By allowing our brains to consume these images and by allowing these images to exist, we are promoting and imprinting on our brains – inequality towards women and violence towards women.
opt 4 writing letters to every advertising agency and magazine to end this violent campaign against women.
Opt 4 eliminating this kind of consumption from our society.
Opt 4 ending the consumption of disrespectful print media
In last month’s Girlfriend Review, I outlined the disturbing findings of the magazine’s annual body image survey. Our young women still despise their bodies, despite GF’s own positive body image initiatives, which I’ve argued, never really went far enough.
So it was refreshing to see in May’s issue a strong case for exposing systems and structures which make girls feel bad about themselves – getting it off the individual girl and onto the zillion dollar global beautification industry which contributes to her feeling so damn awful.
In the piece titled ‘We’re all real women’ (‘Readers not models were used in this shoot’), journalist and blogger Rachel Hills writes:
“The real girl resurgency in recent years isn’t just a response to increasingly ‘un-real’ technologies used to create them…it’s about culture, politics and systems. And rather than taking that out on individual girls and women whose physical appearance might be more culturally celebrated than our own, we should direct our anger and activism at the systems that create those narrow images of beauty and privilege them over everything else.
“[the problem is] a culture that says girls who are all those things are cuter, cooler and more worthy of our attention than girls who aren’t – not to mention a culture that says even if you are all those things…you could still look ‘better’ if you had Photoshop to trim your waist, thicken your hair, enhance your breasts or straighten your nose…The point is, there is no ‘us’ verses ‘them’. Impossible beauty standards hurt us all, and the idea that the most important thing a girl can do is meet those standards hurts us even more.”
Of course, one article does not a revolution make, but it’s something. The cultural analysis approach is echoed in a separate piece examining ‘Sh*t girls say’ – looking at some of the negative things girls repeat, for example that they need bigger breasts. “Perhaps you should criticise the kinda society that says bigger busts is the key to happiness rather than actually supporting it”.
I would have liked to have seen this advice applied also to waxing of public hair in increasingly younger girls – in a section titled ‘Down low: The vagina’, removal of public hair is described merely as a “fashion choice” rather than something increasingly culturally mandated and part of the widespread shaming of women’s natural bodies.
And while we’re talking about ‘reality’, what’s with all the slang terms used to describe female body parts? With the trend toward genital surgery (thanks in good part to the influence of pornography) it’s good for girls to know “There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ vagina”. But can’t we avoid the porno terms (beaver, pussy, hole etc)? And the same for breasts. Tits, jubblies and tatas are the degrading terms used in lad’s mags – they don’t belong in mags aimed at building respect for girls and their bodies.
There’s a two page piece ‘Picture Perfect’ which explains photoshop and re-touching and where Girlfriend stands. “When we feature a retouched image, we’ll make you aware of it with a Self-Respect Reality Check”. Except you won’t see one of those on any ad, including the just-too-perfect faces for Rimmel, Maybelline and Veet, for example (don’t tell me that’s their natural skin). Girlfriend has talked tough against advertisers, but never really done anything to force them to change.
Despite evidence which just keeps growing on the harm of objectified and sexualized images on girls and women, the ‘Oh, Lola!’ Marc Jacobs perfume ad of a very young looking Dakota Fanning referencing Lolita in a girly soft pink spotted dress with the phallic perfume bottle between her legs appears here again.
We meet the finalists of Girlfriend of the Year. The photo shoot is somewhat one dimensional. Jamie Howell, 13, is profoundly deaf and wants to represent Australia as an Olympic track and field athlete. It would have been good to see an image of her training, especially given it’s what she seems to be doing almost 24 hours a day! Toni Daley, 17, is a horse lover and also wants to compete at international level. But there’s not a horse in sight. (She is wearing Sportsgirl shoes at $169.95 though). Sienna van Rossum,16, wants to help Aboriginal communities, (though it’s unlikely she will do so in the $149.95 dress she’s modelling). But these girls are doing great things and I hope that doesn’t get lost.
Important piece by Sarah Ayoub ‘I thought I was a fun party girl…But I had no sense of self-worth’ about how girls can self-sabotage through drink-driving, self-harming behaviours, violent relationships, unsafe sexual practices sex (chlamydia infection most prevalent in women 15-24) and drug abuse. “…risk-taking among teenage girls has hit an all-time high, prompting warnings from professionals who fear that girls just like you are damaging their health thanks to the reckless risks they’re taking”.
The article suggests other ways girls can experience the thrill of risk-taking, in less dangerous ways, e.g sport, rock climbing or taking on a socially risky cause which also takes bravery. “By chasing these highs, you’re learning new skills, developing talents, friendships and confidence, and preventing yourself from failing to a trap that you might eventually regret”. I’m hoping Ayoub will be given more space in Girlfriend’s pages in future.
I’m always pleased to see pieces by young non white/non Western women talking about surviving hardship most of us just cannot image. ‘Life with Kony’, tells the story of Grace Arach who at 12 was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. For the next six years she suffered every depravity and violation before escaping and finding protection with the World Vision Uganda Children of War Reception Centre. She is now involved with CAP Uganda (Children/Youth as Peacebuilders). “My dream is to help my friends who’ve been traumatised by the war so that they can become productive and live meaningful lives…”
‘I was never as happy or as sure of myself after that. It was just too big of a let-down, because it wasn’t a rejection from a high school bully, it was a rejection from ‘the experts’, from people with professional opinion, and it was a closing of doors in my face from a glamorous and revered industry’
Thank you for bringing the Dolly Model Reboot to my attention. I am disgusted and appalled. I’m sure you are already aware of the massive damage it can do. The fact that they have brought it back bothers me so much I wanted to share my story with you.
I was 15 when my mum entered me into the Dolly Model Competition. She told me it was to help me with my self-esteem which, at the time, was shockingly low. She said I was so beautiful there was no way I wouldn’t win. A mother’s naivety.
At first I was horrified because I had no respect for fashion models. I told mum that if I won, no one would ever respect me. I wanted more than to be a pretty face. I wanted to be a writer.
But she said, “What better way to get you noticed than to have everyone see your beautiful face?”
And it occurred to me that I would like to win.
I was bullied badly at school, long before I entered the competition. I had freckles and a flat chest and I was terribly shy, I wasn’t tall but I was very thin. You see, I barely ate. And I did think I had a pretty face. I’m part Native American, so I have very white skin with Indian eyes. I felt like it made me stand out.
I began to fantasise about winning the competition and not telling anybody, so they would all discover it when they saw the magazines and be sorry that they bullied me.
Of course, I didn’t win. I didn’t even make semi -finals, or get featured on the collage of entrants in the magazine. And I was crushed because I didn’t know why. The girl that won was pretty, but I just couldn’t see how I was different, or what made her, or all the other girls ‘better’ than me.
And I think the thing that is so painful is that they aren’t really better. They are all beautiful for different reasons, and for whatever reason they didn’t like the look of me.
But none of the entrants ever got to find out what was ‘wrong with us’. That’s what hurt the most. Not knowing why. All we got was the silent rejection of never having been called and knowing that for some reason we could never be told, we weren’t model pretty.
And because that was the whole point of the magazine’s message, that ‘successful’ was ‘pretty’ and ‘model’ was ‘most desired’, I started thinking that I would never really be successful because I wasn’t good enough, and that no matter how hard I worked, no one would ever pick me because I wasn’t pretty enough. The cold and silent rejection stung, and reinforced the message that I was not good enough, and that my bullies were right to pick on me.
It made me feel so worthless.
So 11 years later, after two sexually abusive ex-boyfriends, an eating disorder, an anxiety disorder that I’m still trying to control, and three suicide attempts, I have finally learned the value of myself and my life, and have clawed back some semblance of self-respect.
And I don’t blame the Dolly Model Competition for all of these things, but I do recognise it as a catalyst, and I know I was never as happy or as sure of myself after that. It was just too big of a let-down, because it wasn’t a rejection from a high school bully, it was a rejection from ‘the experts’, from people with professional opinion, and it was a closing of doors in my face from a glamorous and revered industry.
Teenage girls just are not equipped to deal with the conflicting messages, and they are not equipped to deal with damaging competition and rejection.
If I knew what I know now, I would never have accepted the competition in the first place. If people had been less fixated on my looks and more on my talents and interests, I might not have accepted a boyfriend that hurt me, I might not have tried to starve myself, I might not have tried to die.
Girls are worth more than how they look, and I cannot accept that, with teens feeling the way they do, magazines like Dolly are willing to exploit them.
The Dolly Model Competition is bad news. They have enough girls clamouring for stardom in the industry, without bringing the rest of us into it.
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
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