I'm scared. In this Saturday's Family section of The Guardian, Oliver James has written an article which speaks to my deepest fears. Based around a study of 500 16-year-old Fijian girls, he describes how television, and in particular social networking sites such as Facebook, are bad for girls' body image.
'At the most simple level, the cause is television. A definitive proof of this came from Fiji. Before 1995 there was no TV there and a full female figure was the preferred form. In that year, there were no cases of bulimia recorded, but within three years, dieting suddenly became widespread and 11% of young women were bulimic. The problem was three times more common in homes with a television.' - Oliver James
'However, further analysis showed that social networking was a considerably greater problem than TV, especially when combined with absorption in American culture.' - Oliver James
The researchers concluded that the consistent images of women who are happy (or who are skilled at appearing so) and who look tall, skinny, and gorgeous in that standardised way, eventually convince the subconscious minds of young girls and women that, if only they too could look more like that, they would be as happy as all these chirpy and elegant presenters, pop stars, actors, models, etc. But what they really become is bulimic.
Obviously not everyone is affected in this way, but enough are for it to be a serious problem, including the millions who never develop an eating disorder but still experience lower self-esteem because they can't match the airbrushed people. And I can't help but wonder if my gorgeous (in her wonderful non-standardised way) Ickle Pickle, who currently enjoys 'squidging' her healthy baby fat with me, will one day look at an equally healthy amount of fat on her body and feel depressed or disgusted or unworthy.
James calls for 'an independent body to prohibit the use of exceptionally good-looking models in all advertising', but despite all my fears I still balk at this. Wouldn't that infringe our 'freedom of the press'? I'm undecided.
In the course of having a similar debate on Facebook, I did discover that the adverts on the right all have a hidden 'x' in the top right corner. Clicking this allows you to report why you didn't like that advert. I'm on a mission to report all weight-loss ads as offensive and I'd love it if you joined me.
In happier news, although strangely related, my latest artwork is an exploration of shape and titled, 'Them and Us'. Here it is:
'Them and Us'
Brush pen mosaic on canvas
5" x 7"
What do you think about legislating to ensure more normal-looking models?
Do you have an insight into body image? Or the modeling business?
As ever, any thoughts on my art are appreciated.
And do remember to 'x' those Facebook ads if you want to report them.