Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Here we go again, blame the media

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HAVING just discovered from my daily tabloid that research has shown that in


the last year alone 8 people went to accident and emergency departments with


injuries caused by Blue Tack, with a further 1,000 reporting damage caused by


tissue paper - how?, why?, what? - I confess that I no longer believe


Cheap University Papers on Here we go again, blame the media

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everything I read in the newspapers. (Clearly, as this principle could also mean


that you shouldnt believe everything I write in this newspaper, I wouldnt want


it taken to extremes). This scepticism informs my response to research by the


British Medical Association into Eating disorders, body image and the media


which made the headlines this week.


Eating disorders? What about the Gorbals 50 years ago? Even to raise the


question is to know the answer. Of course not. These are disorders of western


affluence and are of recent origin. A serious pandemic such as that of the


influenza outbreak of the early Fifties - in which thousands in Britain died -


would probably re-focus young womens thinking on something other than the size


of their waists and body-fat ratios. In the absence of this admittedly radical


solution, women and young girls all over this great land can be found on hunger


strike, or with their fingers episodically, if secretly, poised to regurgitate


the remains of the days breakfast, lunch, tea, supper and illicit late-night


binge. Whatever you think is causing this, youd have to conclude its decadent.


This is not the assessment of the BMA, of course. Reflecting contemporary


mores which stress universal victimhood and downgrades human self-agency and


choice, the associations official view is that young women are being made ill


by a force outside of themselves, leaving them as vulnerable and open to


ravishment as a wheat-field in the flight path of locusts. I refer, of course,


to the media.


It seems that womens magazines, television and film are putting pressure on


girls to try for the impossible in terms of body image. Young girls try, it


seems, to emulate the very thin women they see on television and in adverts,


and its not possible without starving themselves. In pursuit of the ideal


female form being projected in the media - currently identified with extreme


skinniness on Posh Beckham lines - the young, I read, are seeking to reshape


themselves in ways both unachievable and biologically inappropriate.


Worse, these media-inspired pressures are coming at a time when models are


becoming thinner, women are becoming heavier and thus the gap between the ideal


body shape and the reality is wider, opines the BMA report. And the answer? The


media must promote- ahem - a more rounded picture of femininity and television


producers and advertisers should review their employment of very thin women.


In addition, the BMA sees schools as needing to redouble their efforts to


prevent children from being bullied or laughed at for being, shall we say,


non-standard. More, children should be educated to be more critical of food


advertisements.


The idea that there is some automatic link between media images and eating


disorders is undermined by the fact that some groups are more resistant to those


images than others. The reports own reference to this fact is limited to


calling for more research, the refuge of the intellectually bankrupt throughout


the ages.


What is nowhere mentioned is what is arguably a more fundamental problem in


the rise of eating disorders the collapse of physical fitness among young


females and the consequent rise in obesity. Surely, schools shouldnt be told to


educate pupils to be better critics of food advertising and gentler on their


un-Jodie Kidd-like peers. Rather, they should be told to teach children how to


buy, cook and serve healthy food and how running, swimming and generally moving


around produce a better body image in young women than starvation or stuffing


themselves. Its muscle-tone which is the best response to media pressures to


be more like Ms Moss - not pseudo-science and politically correct posturing from


the BMA.


This is not to say that the media has not perpetrated an ideal of womanhood


which influences young women; it does. The point is that it always has done this


and always will. Mass media universalises our sense of female beauty and in a


Darwinian fashion leads to a version of the survival of the fittest or indeed


the least fat. Lets be frank, overweight people such as myself may be of acute


attraction to obscure Papuan tribes, but it would be wrong to exaggerate their


charms to a wider audience. The epitome of female beauty historically may not be


as slim as todays ideal, but fat, aesthetically, has never buttered any


parsnips.


What has happened is not the tyranny of such imagery over the thought


processes of impressionable young women, as though such things were new in our


history. What is new is that when such pressures came on my mothers Hollywood


-influenced generation, keeping in shape did not require the finger down the


throat. It involved pulling their finger out at work or at play. My mother found


that working on the assembly line eight hours a day for 0 years and rambling


for miles at the weekend helped her body image considerably. Gainful employment


and an active life are the keys to healthier living not, as the BMA would


suggest, berating the media for reflecting popular prejudice.





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