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.
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.
Did you even know Australia had a Federal Children’s Commissioner? We don’t hear that much from her – so thought we would try to get her attention and involvement on this. Let her know you want her to act by signing the petition today!
Condemn & Take Action to Stop Exploitative Universal Royalty Child Beauty Pageant from coming to Australia
Universal Royalty’s Child Beauty Pageant is coming to Melbourne, Australia, despite clear evidence from experts that the practise is detrimental to the normal and healthy development of children.
Child beauty pageants are exploitation. Little girls are made to undergo unnecessary and painful beauty treatments such as waxing, tanning and even botox. They are adorned with make up, high heels, false eyelashes, acrylic nails, flippers (false teeth) and hairpieces. They are primped and styled to look and act like mini-adults, to flirt with the judges and to be sexy and alluring.
The pageants teach girls from a very early age that their worth is based on their appearance. Research shows that reinforcing an emphasis on looks and attractiveness leads to negative body image, disordered eating, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. There are now over a hundred global reports on the issue of sexualisation of children. This research has shown that sexualisation is harmful to children’s cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and beliefs.
A parliamentary report recently released in Western Australia by WA’s Joint Standing Committee on the Commissioner for Children and Young People called for child beauty pageants to be scrutinised as one of several ways to tackle the sexualisation of children.
Last year France outlawed child beauty pageants for children under 16 to protect them from being prematurely sexualised. Pageant organisers face jail time and substantial fines for harming children in this way.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists’ Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry said: ”Direct participation and competition for a beauty prize where infants and girls are objectified and judged against sexualised ideals can have significant mental health and developmental consequences that impact detrimentally on identity, self-esteem, and body perception.”
A 2005 study in The Journal of Treatment and Prevention reported ”a significant association between childhood beauty pageant participation and increased body dissatisfaction, difficulty trusting interpersonal relationships, and greater impulsive behaviours”.
Teaching little girls to preen and to strut, to look sexy for the judges, to emphasise sexualised behaviours is totally inappropriate for children. We want better for our girls and call on Megan Mitchell, the National Children’s Commissioner, to publicly condemn and take action to stop the Universal Royalty pageant from coming to Melbourne on August 2nd 2014.
Profound experiences with W.A students on my last roadtrip.
Last month I spoke 27 times in three and a half weeks in the ACT, Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales. I spoke on the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls in media and popular culture, the sexual world of the 21st century adolescent, pornography and young people, and the online life of girls to students, staff and parents at five schools, the Heads of Independent Co-Educational Schools conference, women’s events, a medical conference of 1000 medical professionals and at tour’s end a quick trip to the country to address the Upper Gwydir Landcare Association! (Was great to be out in the bush again, farmer’s daughter as I am).
There were many highlights – the privilege of delivering my message to thousands of people of course, along with runs along rugged coastlines and catching up with friends and colleagues – including Co-editor of Big Porn Inc, Abigail Bray who I hadn’t seen for two years. Every time I do these long trips, I’m reminded again what an honour it is to do this work and engage with so many people, especially young people. I wonder how I got so lucky. A 14-year-old just emailed me to say how much she was impacted by the message and that now she knew the career path she wanted to follow to make a difference in the lives of other girls. And this from a Deputy Head of School in NSW: “I just wanted to say what a profound effect you have had on me today… I intend to return in term three with a renewed determination to build the voice and the rights of our girls and deliver a consistent message to the boys that the values of respect and understanding are not lost.” Messages like these make it all worthwhile.
Possibly the most affecting experience was with students in W.A. I was moved by how openly they shared their struggles. Girls revealing mistreatment and pressure to adopt pornified roles and behaviours. The issue of girls being threatened with blackmail to send sexual images was raised with me a number of times. At one co-ed private school, girls didn’t want to leave the session, and continued to talk through recess and even the next period, insisting they needed longer to discuss the issues concerning them. (Thank you teachers to allowing them to do so). A group of 30 Yr 12 boys chose to skip lunch to talk longer – I’ve never seen boys voluntarily choose to do this before! They disclosed some of the pressures they felt in a culture that judges them for their appearance and trains them in callous behavior early on. One boy stood and cried as he shared his experience of being bullied and said he had no friends. It was difficult to keep a grip on my emotions when another boy moved from the front row to the back to comfort him. To see that boy put his arms around the one who was in pain…something else I rarely see, given how this world knocks the empathy out of boys from their earliest days.
When addressing co-ed schools where I’m talking with the girls, then boys separately (which is my preference), I often ask female students what messages they’d like me to pass onto boys. My colleague, W.A Collective Shout co-ordinator, Caitlin Roper, recorded the following messages from the W.A girls in Yrs 9-12 to their male peers. I’m hoping these might become discussion points to kick start conversations in other schools. I found them moving, some even plaintive and sad. What emerged for me overall was that while girls are distressed by the treatment of many (not all) boys, they really wanted to have good relations with them. Many lamented that in a sexualized world, everything had come to have a sexual meaning: they feared healthy friendships with boys might be lost if something didn’t change soon. Here’s what they asked:
• If we reject your request to send a sexual image, please don’t stop talking to us.
• If we are hanging out, don’t expect it is sexual.
• If we say no, accept it, don’t try to persuade us.
• Catcalling/ yelling out of cars/street harassment is not a compliment.
• If we are angry, don’t assume we are on our period.
• Stop commenting on our appearance. Value us for something else.
• Rape jokes are never funny.
• Porn and sex are not the same.
• Feminism is not female domination.
• If we cut our hair short, it doesn’t mean we are lesbians.
• If we have a close female friend, it doesn’t mean we are lesbians.
• We don’t all have the perfect body.
• We weren’t put on the earth for your entertainment.
• Think with your head, not what’s in your pants.
• Respect us more.
• Treat us like humans.
• Stop stereotyping us.
• Be a gentleman.
• Respect our boundaries.
• Don’t call us prudes for saying ‘no’/sluts for saying ‘yes’.
• It is never the victim’s fault.
• Just because we don’t say no doesn’t mean we are saying yes.
• Girls weren’t born to be decorative objects.
• Sex before the age of consent is illegal.
• Don’t make sexual advances based on how we are dressed- sometimes it is hot and we want to wear shorts.
• Stop making ‘kitchen’ jokes.
• We understand the boys are under pressure too.
Briefing on sexualisation, harms of porn with W.A MPs
While in the West, I was invited by the Hon Nick Goiran, W.A Legislative Council Member for South Metropolitan, to address a briefing of interested colleagues on sexualisation and the harms of pornography, and what they as legislators could do about the issue. Also with me were Collective Shout’s W.A coordinator Caitlin Roper and Victorian board member Coralie Pittman. I asked the reason for the hold up in the release of the W.A Children Commissioner’s report into the sexualisation of children, completed 18 months earlier. A week after my visit, it was finally released and tabled. (we are still analyzing the document and will report soon).
In a speech to parliament, Hon Nick Goiran said:
“I feel confident in speaking on behalf of all those who attended to say that we were all impacted by what we were told…We have to recognize that none of us has done enough in this space, and I feel somewhat energized by the briefing today to redouble our efforts. I hope that members who attended this briefing will join in this effort because if we cannot get things right in respect of the children of this state, frankly, I suggest that we should all pack up and go home. There is no more vulnerable group in our society than our children, and they are being continually bombarded with this imagery, which so much research has confirmed is harmful to them. I cannot think of an issue more important.”
The miracle must-have fashion item that will change your life!
OK, it’s not up there with the atrocities being inflicted on women everywhere at the moment, but I couldn’t help but comment on a piece in the Sunday Telegraph this past weekend.
“This is the best dress a woman can own”, declared the Tele in an EXCLUSIVE (caps in original) by Prue Lewington which took up almost all of page 26. This burgundy frock will, states Lewington (and I’m not making this up) “change your life.”
This incredible scoop about the frock which will “jag you a man, land you a job and make you shed five kilos….” was secured by Lewington alone. Journos all over the country must be seething that she snagged the story first.
The miracle fashion item which will give a woman all she could want in life, ticks all the boxes “according to experts in recruitment, dating and colour theory.” Wardrobe consultant at June Dally-Watkins, Dianne Cant, said it’s important not to “let any bits hang out”. The dress is perfect because it “highlights the good bits” and hides “the parts you don’t like.” And it’s modelled by a ‘plus size’ model (because God knows women over a size nothing need all the help they can get in the man stakes). Our so far unlucky-in-love purchaser discovers that if she forks out a mere $299 (budget cuts – what budget cuts?) on this love magnet apparel, she will be guaranteed to attract a man. (But what if you’ve already got a man? If you wear it does it mean you’ll end up with another man and have two men? Or what if you are perfectly happy single but like the dress? Will you end up swatting men away like flies?).
But what I really want to know is, if the dress is that good, will it also make dinner and do the washing up? Now that would be an exclusive.
Young women make short films to address youth concerns about body image.
Local young women launch new ABC body image program for Mental Illness Education ACT at the National Gallery of Australia, Monday 7th April, 10.30am to 12.00pm.
Young filmmaker Mary Quinlan and ACT’s Youth Ambassador, Molly Hodge-Meli together cut the ribbon to officially launch the new films and Any Body’s Cool program that works to prevent poor body image becoming a risk factor in the development of eating disorders in young women. They were joined by Dr Vivienne Lewis from the University of Canberra and event host, writer and advocate Melinda Tankard Reist.
“Eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness for young women” says Dr Vivienne Lewis body image specialist from the University of Canberra, “We know that body image is one of the top personal concerns reported by young people; supporting positive body image for young women is important work considering today’s cultural and social complexities”
The University of Canberra, key academic partners for the program’s redevelopment, will work with Mental Illness Education ACT to deliver the school program that works directly with young people and their teachers. The program shows how to role-model healthy behaviours and use body image friendly language to create safe and not stigmatising environments to encourage attitudes that support body diversity and reduce stigma based on a person’s body shape and size.
During the launch community members, teachers and students viewed local young filmmaker, Mary Quinlan’s, short film about her own struggle with body image – one of five films made by local young women for the new Any Body’s Cool Program. The program underwent significant redevelopment from a two-week-only theatrical season to permanent school-based program that is centred on real stories from local young women.
Location: National Gallery of Australia – Gandel Hall
Time: 10.30 am to 12.00 pm (official event 10.40 am to 11.15 followed by morning tea)
Media: All welcome. Interview and Image access: young filmmakers, guest speakers
(90 min feature followed by panel discussion with Melinda Tankard Reist, Calvin Taylor and others)
Where: Crossway Centre Main Auditorium
2 Vision Drive,
Burwood East, 3151
Cost: Gold coin donation at the door (all proceeds go to Collective Shout)
Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation (87 min; TV-14 DL) uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.
In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.
Stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics, like Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson and Gloria Steinem build momentum as Miss Representation accumulates startling facts and statistics that will leave the audience shaken and armed with a new perspective.
When pictures of the female players with full-forward breasts were splashed everywhere following Legends (aka Lingerie) Football League games in Sydney and Melbourne this month, it underscored what has been a losing year for women.
Little publicity is given to women’s sport in general. Did you even know there are female gridiron teams, where players wear full protective clothing like men? But attention wasn’t a problem in this case. ”It’s far better than watching netball,” wrote Aaron Langmaid in Melbourne’s Herald Sun.
The high ratio of photos to text online was significant. Camera angles captured bikini-topped flesh and skimpy undies in reports that failed to even mention the score. Women’s bodies were on display, treated as a spectacle.
There were few advances for women in other public areas either. Australia now has fewer women in cabinet than the government of Afghanistan.
The Human Rights Commission has shown that sexual harassment remains widespread in Australian workplaces and that attempts to address it have stalled. The Bureau of Statistics presents similar disturbing figures on the harassment and stalking of women.
Victims of sexual harassment and assault continue to be blamed for what is done to them. The Victorian parole board review found that deadly mistakes had been made in the release of women’s assailants, leaving them free to strike again with ferocity. Read more here.
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
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, for the combined discounted price of $240.
‘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.
“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 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.