Can Social Media Combat Anorexia While Size Zero Models Remain the Norm?
While social media platforms are working to limit pro-anorexia content, the fashion industry continues to promote a body-ideal that is unattainable for 99 % of women. Despite acknowledging the effect of media imagery on female self-esteem, designers and magazines continue to feature models who look more like starving children than normal women.
Eating disorders are complicated. They are not caused by media alone, but media helps to trigger a propensity for anorexia and bulimia. Both conditions are more about control than beauty, but the desire for perfection revolves around thinness. Most of us see 3000 images a day or more, much of them sending the message that we're not pretty or thin enough. Bombarded with these messages, we are conditioned to harbor a negative body image. Besides eating disorders, a negative body image can lead to depression, anxiety, substances abuse and relationship problems.
Spain, Brazil, Italy and Israel have passed bills that prohibit models from working with a Body Mass Index below 18.5. But the average model weighs 110 at 5 feet ten inches. Vogue magazine took a stand by banning models under 16 years old. So far, these measures have done nothing to change the landscape of impossibly thin girls glaring at us on runways, editorials and fashion websites. The notion that they are "healthy" does little to console girls who now start dieting at seven and eight years old.
Knowing all this, I personally feel the pressure to be thin, in a way that never lets me feel okay with my shape and size. It's a constant struggle to remember that these models have nothing to do with me. I wear a size small, but compared to the models on premiere shopping sites, I am a sumo wrestler. Last night I was browsing at a high end fashion site where the average price for a pair of trousers is around $600. The models were painfully thin, and much too young to relate to, but the clothes were sophisticated and minimalist. I can't figure out who their market is. But I left the site feeling bad about being a beached whale.
No wonder pro-ana blogs are still flourishing! Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are working with the National Eating Disorder Association on tools that foster positive communities and make it easier to report posts that encourage extreme, unhealthy weight loss. But until there are broader societal changes, girls with eating disorders will seek acceptance and dieting advice online. Tumblr bloggers use special code words to evade censors, or make their accounts private. They feel the stigma but don't want to give up their eating disorders. They would rather starve than be "fat."
You can't ban eating disorders, but you can stop reading fashion magazines. A direct correlation between fashion magazines and eating disorders has been established in countless studies. The younger the girl, the more negative is the influence on her body image. We can try to protect ourselves and our daughters by limiting exposure to magazines and other media but education is important too. We can help each other to feel more comfortable about discussing disordered eating. We can strive to develop a healthy relationship to food and exercise.
Remember that corporations have a financial interest in making women hate their bodies. The more insecure we're made to feel, the more shit we will buy. A study from marketing firm PHD encourages brands to target women when they feel most insecure and vulnerable. Apparently, we feel most unattractive on Mondays, especially in the morning. It's a good time to "encourage the beauty product consumer to get going and feel beautiful again, so marketing messages should focus on feeling smart, instant beauty/fashion fixes, and dressing for success."
Yet another reason to hate Mondays! But don't hate yourself. Hate marketing and media instead. Hate the pressure to worry about your attractiveness, and to equate self-worth with thinness. Be assured that men who love women are turned on by flesh, not bones. Whatever Kate Moss says, you'll be happier if you allow yourself to enjoy eating. Take back your power and make friends with your body. It's your temple, not your enemy, even on Monday mornings.