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

essay writing service

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


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


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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